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Showing posts from September, 2012

Philosophy, Running, and Life Beyond Justification

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The question "what is philosophy?" is perhaps most expressive of the temperament and ambitions of philosophers. We are simultaneously proud of our ability to ask this question and ashamed that we have to ask it. We are proud of the question because it shows that we take critical inquiry so seriously that we apply it even to the very task of critical inquiry. And we are ashamed of the question because it implies that we don't really know what the heck we are doing, that philosophy is simply an expression of confusion. Which, of course, it is.

Like most questions, this one has many different answers. Speaking personally, I love reading and engaging in philosophy because it gives me a chance to think newly and differently. So, I tend to think of the task of philosophy as primarily imaginative and speculative. My favorite philosophers challenge ordinary ways of seeing, and give us new ways of approaching problems. This has probably been apparent in my writings on this blog.

On Running and Habit

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"The greatest thing, in all education, is to make the nervous system our ally instead of our enemy. ... For this we must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can, and guard against the growing into ways that are likely to be disadvantageous to us, as we should guard against the plague." --William James, Principles of Psychology, "Habit"


Runners are creatures of habit. What looks like tremendous willpower to the non-runner is (we secretly know) simply routine for us. We get ourselves caught up in the rhythm of training, and all of the habits we have set up carry us almost inexorably towards our goals. The difficulty of training is always only beginning and maintaining -- once we are out the door, we are guided by habit. In this sense, habit is the runner's best friend, especially as we embark on a project toward goals. To become a runner means establishing habits.

On the other hand, habit is the runner's worst enemy…

Paul Ryan's Marathon Lie -- Should We Care?

This blog is predicated on the idea that there is some bleed-over between the values and practices of running and the values and practices of life. This bleed-over has now caught the nation's attention with the whole Paul Ryan marathon controversy. Even Nobel-Laureate and (let's face it) Democratic party shill Paul Krugman, who I doubt has much experience with running, has weighed in with his opinion.

All of my readers will be familiar by now with Paul Ryan's lopping an hour off of his marathon time. Runners don't like this, especially because Ryan laid claim to the holy grail of recreational running -- the three hour marathon. We know what it takes to run under three hours in the marathon. It's a pretty sacred line to cross as flippantly as Ryan did.

Whether Ryan was oblivious to the sacredness of that line or whether he chose to say he ran in the 2:50s because of that sacredness is something we will never know for sure.

But here's the question that's been…