Climbing - Philosophy for Everyone: Because It's There
August 2010, Wiley-Blackwell
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Climbing—Philosophy for Everyone: Because It’s There
“Now I see the secret of making the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”—Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass
Both climbing and philosophy are serious endeavors. However, if you make a mistake while engaging in philosophy, it may be ego-bruising, but it won’t kill you. Climbing is a challenging sport, requiring extreme skill and expertise, and a willingness to travel to the far corners of the earth and mind, facing fear with courageous determination. In mountain and rock climbing, even the simplest error in judgment can be life threatening. That said, it can also be a life-confirming activity, and the practice of philosophy draws out these parallels like no other discipline. Climbing: Because It's There (August 2010 North America; September 2010 UK/Rest of World) presents a thought-provoking collection of new essays that not only address the issue of why climbers engage in such an intrinsically risky pursuit, but also plunge into the philosophical void to consider such intellectually stimulating topics as the character traits needed to become a climbing expert, the ethics of climbing styles, the environmental impact of climbing, and climbing culture.
As Hans Florine (holder of the speed climb world record on El Cap’s The Nose) remarks in the foreword, “Climbers often claim, that it is about the journey, not the summit. I suggest that the joy in philosophy is about pursuing the answers, not necessarily finding them.” As urban climbing gains new popularity, and children and adults alike are seeking the activity as a fear-fighting and muscle building sport, new climbers are discovering its benefits for both body and mind.
Climbing: Because It's There reveals that climbing is more than just a challenging and risky activity, and the essays explore the payoffs involved in this life-threatening and liberating sport. As Florine states, climbing is a “great break from the ‘other world'," which explains why the sport is so appealing to lawyers, accountants, supermodels, and others in addition to the climbing "dirt bags" found at the local crags.
The essays presented in this volume are the first to explore philosophical topics to be of interest to both novice climbers and seasoned mountaineers, such as character building, risk, climbing ethics, the environment, and freedom. Building off of the philosophies of Aristotle, Zen Buddhism, Stoicism, Nietzsche and others, as well as referencing climbing’s heroes such as George Mallory, Hermann Buhl, Yvon Chouinard, and Tom Frost, the contributors open up a wide vista of philosophical thought on the joys and challenges of climbing. The essays explore the philosophical epiphanies that come when “tying in,” climbing solo, dangling off of a cliff, “chipping a hold,” or faced with a breathtaking view from above. The volume includes a glossary of climbing terms such as “bail,” (yes, to give up due to weather difficulties and such), “disco leg,” (tired or uncontrollable muscles), and “gumby” (a novice climber).
The four parts each focus on different aspects of climbing or a philosophical line of inquiry. Part one, “Tying In: Why Risk Climbing,” addresses what, for many, is the most obvious aspect of climbing—the risk. Given the inherent risks in most climbing games, why risk tying in? What does the risk bring? Given the risks, are we ever justified in tying in? And, why do so many non–climbers find the risks inherent in climbing so unacceptable? The authors of this section’s essays address each of these questions in turn. Part Two, “Quest for the Summit: Cultivating the Climber,” discusses what it takes to be a successful climber, and the character traits that can help you or harm you in this quest, pulling from Aristotelian ,Hegelian, and Zen perspectives. Part Three, “Cutting the Rope: Climbing Ethics,” plunges into the moral realm with essays examining climbing ethics , including the manufacturing of climbing holds, free solo climbing, and climbing’s impact on the environment. Part Four, “Mixed Climbing: Philosophy on Varied Terrain” explores a variety of topics ranging from the gift culture of climbing, the subjectivity the climber’s personal experience, and climbing aesthetics.