At the most basic level, KineSophy is concerned with ethical arguments, that is, arguments about what we should do and how we should live, particularly in regards to physical health and fitness. The most effective arguments apply to both the general and particular. If you have an argument for why one should not lie, that argument should support honesty in general and it should explain why you should not lie when the Nazis come to your door looking for the Jewish family hiding in your attic. Reason and logic provide the force behind any good argument, but abstract statements about right and wrong often seem impracticable. Conversely, examples may help illuminate the application of an argument, but they do not replace reason in supporting a valid conclusion.
For the better part of three years, KineSophy served as the home for my search for a particular concept of ethics that incorporates physical virtues. From 2013 through 2015, I presented a series of general arguments for the relationship between physical fitness, cognitive performance and a host of moral virtues. This year, I shifted my focus to depictions of how people follow the ethics of KineSophy in real life and how we can apply this theory to real-world ethical questions. This approach included new perspectives from the realms of health, fitness, movement and lifestyle, the first entrants in a Hall of Fame of KineSophy exemplars, and different applications of the KineSophy theory to related issues in health, society, fitness and philosophy. The following is a brief summary of KineSophy in 2016.
2016 saw inputs from three new voices to KineSophy. In February, fitness coach, writer and Olympic weightlifter Preston Sprimont argued for a lifestyle of thriving over merely surviving: “Thriving is an exploration and pursuit of what the body and mind are capable of. It is embracing human existence and seeing what we can achieve. It is constantly seeking self-improvement.” Examples of thriving include eating fresh food, getting quality sleep, being active, enjoying time with loved ones and taking the time to relax.
In April, yoga guru, corrective exercise pioneer and The Roll Model author Jill Miller emphasized the importance of self-guided self-care in achieving relaxation, range of motion improvement and a better understanding of one’s own body. In her KineSophy interview, she stressed that “we all have a body and nervous system that can be positively manipulated,” and encouraged readers to assess and creatively address their unique difficulties using the tools she provides. Clark Depue, a CrossFit athlete, coach and author of Meditative Fitness, echoed this personal approach to physical and mental well-being. In a May interview, he explained his method for combining meditation and physical training “to take ownership of your inner world and what you are creating for yourself, to be the most happy and fulfilled person you can be.” Depue believes each individual can apply his own personal beliefs to a meditative fitness practice to help overcome stress, anxiety, depression and anger, along with making gains in physical health.
In March, I said more about what the KineSophy ethical theory looks like in practice. Unlike much of contemporary ethics, the KineSophy theory is well-rounded, combining physical virtues with intelligence, bravery, honesty, justice, kindness and other moral virtues, all while maintaining respect for the inviolable personhood of others. July saw the first example of this theory in real life, with the induction of the Greek philosopher Aristotle into the KineSophy Hall of Fame. Aristotle made significant contributions to agriculture, astronomy, biology, botany, cosmology, dance, ethics, history of philosophy, logic, mathematics, medicine, metaphysics, music, philosophy, physics, political history, political theory, psychology, rhetoric, theater and theology. In particular, his ethical theory explicitly recognized physical virtues like strength and speed, and he was even known to hold lectures and discourses while walking around the academy where he taught.
In August, tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams joined Aristotle in the KineSophy Hall of Fame. The Williams sisters have combined to win twenty-nine Grand Slam singles titles and eight Olympic gold medals. Venus was the driving force in persuading the Wimbledon tournament to award men and women equal prize money. In recent years, Serena has been an especial target of racist and misogynist criticism, yet her continued on-court success and off-court courage expose the maliciousness of her detractors. Both sisters serve as strong, independent, socially conscious African-American female role models.
2016 also afforded me the opportunity to apply some of the ideas of KineSophy to other realms of thought. In June, I explained how my research for a new fictional work on mass shootings has led me to believe that most killers don’t just snap, but harbor grudges over a long period of time because they lack the basic resilience to overcome life’s setbacks. I hypothesized that because physical training teaches individuals to fail and move past those failures in a relatively low-stakes environment, it could have significant benefit in helping violent individuals better channel their reactions to hardships.
In October, I followed up on my previous performance-based dietary self-experimentation with an investigation of how our food choices affect the organisms and environment around us. This Complete Guide to Sustainable Protein looks at diets from an ethical, rather than experimental, perspective and breaks down protein sources for vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians and omnivores in terms of protein density, monetary cost, greenhouse gas emissions, water footprint and energy use. Last month, I dissected arguments against attaching a moral stigma to food choices and obesity with reference to previous KineSophy articles on hedonism and movement standards. Though dietary, health and fitness decisions are (most immediately) non-moral (self-directed) decisions, a person’s physical health may impinge on moral (other-directed) actions, as when one person must be strong enough to move a second incapacitated person to safety.
I have built KineSophy over four-plus years now, laying most of the foundation in the first three years and growing and extending the edifice these past twelve months. A continued progression lies in store for 2017. I look forward to new voices and perspectives, new ideas on which to test the theories of KineSophy, and new exemplars of a life well-lived—physically, mentally, spiritually and morally.