Physical Training, for the Soul
December 13, 2017
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“He’ll work at physical exercises in order to arouse the spirited part of his nature, rather than to acquire the physical strength for which other athletes diet and labor.
It looks as though they [the wise] established both [higher studies, and physical training] for the sake of the soul.”
Plato, Republic

For Plato ‘education’ is whole-person formation. It should have a laser-like focus on the profound reality of a well turned-out human being. And it is life long.

Physical training, in some form, is an essential element for all of us. Things of the body have their importance from their relation to things of the soul. Always. So bodily training takes its primary measure from how it serves the highest aspects of the human vocation.

Physical exercise strengthens not only the body but also a part of us Plato calls the ‘spirited part.’ Properly formed this part is to be a key helper to our rational part in the project of life.

We might call it an interior toughness—a toughness that can be used for good or for ill. It is not an end in itself, but it can and should be cultivated in any holistic approach to personal formation.

Some form of this training is within reach of all of us–whether a more complete exercise program or just daily walking, or cold showers.

And by a deep magic those things that are good for our bodily health are also good for our ‘spirit’ in more than one way. Especially when pursued for the best reasons.

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Plato (427-347 B.C.), a student of Socrates, and teacher of Aristotle, is considered one of the greatest philosophers of all time. The Republic is one of the most widely read and influential of all books.

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2 comments

  1. That seems to me to hit the nail on the head. Any of the three forms of physical exertion mentioned above always awaken a certain liveliness required for the full flourishing of virtuous activity within the soul. It aligns the emotions with a newly acquired keenness and sharpness of the mind and breaks the dull circular pattern of the sleepiness and sluggishness caused by spiritual sloth.

    1. Thanks very much Tommy.