I offer training in both philosophy and boxing. Over the years, some of my colleagues have groused that my work is a contradiction, building minds and cultivating rational discourse while teaching violence and helping to remove brain cells. Truth be told, I think philosophers with this gripe should give some thought to what really counts as violence. I would rather take a punch in the nose any day than be subjected to some of the attacks that I have witnessed in philosophy colloquia. However, I have a more positive case for including boxing in my curriculum for sentimental education.
The unmindful attitude towards the body so prevalent in the West blinkers us to profound truths that the skin, muscles and breath can deliver like a punch.
Western philosophy, even before Descartes’ influential case for a mind-body dualism, has been dismissive of the body. Plato — even though he competed as a wrestler — and most of the sages who followed him, taught us to think of our arms and legs as nothing but a poor carriage for the mind. In “Phaedo,” Plato presents his teacher Socrates on his deathbed as a sort of Mr. Spock yearning to be free from the shackles of the flesh so he can really begin thinking seriously. In this account, the body gives rise to desires that will not listen to reason and that becloud our ability to think clearly.