Awe and Humility in the Face of Things: Somatic Practice in East-Asian Philosophies

European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 4 (3):69--88 (2012)
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Abstract

Whereas the Platonic-Christian philosophical tradition in the West favours an ”ascent to theory’ and abstract reasoning, east-Asian philosophies tend to be rooted in somatic, or bodily, practice. In the philosophies of Confucius and Zhuangzi in China, and KÅ«kai and Dōgen in Japan, we can distinguish two different forms of somatic practice: developing physical skills, and what one might call ”realising relationships’. These practices improve our relations with others -- whether the ancestors or our contemporaries, the things with which we surround ourselves or the phenomena of nature -- by reducing egocentrism and increasing humility. Because they transform the practitioner’s experience, the major benefit of philosophies grounded in somatic practice is that they help close the gap between beliefs and behaviour, and between ideas and action.

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