Editor's Note: You may recall our new contributor Dylan Casey from our quantum physics and pragmatism episodes. He's a physics Ph.D. who teaches philosophy, literature, and other things at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, and I'm married to his sister. -ML
This article from "The Stone" (as in philosopher's stone) in the NYTimes argues that, properly understood, kung fu embodies a philosophical disposition that has important features in common with both Aristotelian virtue ethics and pragmatism (i.e., James, Dewey, Rorty, etc.).
Peimin Ni argues "... as the Shaolin monk pointed out, kung fu embodies much more than fighting. In fact any ability resulting from practice and cultivation could accurately be said to embody kung fu."
His linking of pragmatism and kung fu (and Aristotle for that matter) in terms of their focus on "practice and cultivation" rings right to me. I would especially contrast them with the common (Western?) hand-wringing over proper "foundations" for everything from ethics to ontology to epistemology. Both kung fu and pragmatism would seem to share the notion that philosophy is done from the inside out not the outside in.
Kyle Walton says
Oops. I meant to share this with you guys (especially since it seemed to be on topic) but it slipped my mind. Peimin Ni teaches at my university and the department made a big deal about the article. I fail.
Just now found this blog post. I had starting working on a project a couple years ago where I was teasing out the underlying philosophy from Bruce Lee’s “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do,” and “The Art of Expressing the Human Body.” I didn’t get very far, but this kind of motivates me to restart.
Lee always considered himself a philosopher, and there is a definite organized system of thought in his works. His philosophy is so pragmatic and directly applied to martial art, that it’s easy to miss that what he is saying is much more than just how to throw a punch and defend a kick. I would consider Bruce Lee an American Pragmatist whose ideas are as well developed as any traditional philosopher. It is is just that martial art is the medium he chose to express his philosophy.