Over the course of several previous articles, I have argued for a comprehensive ethical theory that incorporates virtues of fitness alongside the more commonly recognized moral virtues. I proposed three ethical precepts of human movement, postulated a two-tier hierarchy of virtues based on the principle of scalability, and demonstrated the relationship between the secondary and primary virtues with an emphasis on physical fitness. All told, this a project spanned the better part of three years. At this point, I would like to go beyond the ethical theory and say a bit about what an actual human life should look like under the guidelines of KineSophy.
I will begin with a distinction I first encountered when applying to colleges. In order to maximize their higher education prospects, high school students are encouraged to be either well-rounded or well-obliqued. Well-rounded means the student demonstrates strong academic performance over a variety of subjects and participates in several extracurricular activities within varying disciplines. Well-obliqued means the student shows extraordinary academic proficiency in a particular academic subject or deep commitment to a particular extracurricular activity. A student with a 3.5 GPA distributed evenly over all subjects and who plays the lead in the school play and is the captain of the soccer team is well-rounded; a student who gets straight As in advanced mathematics classes and has led the school to state championships in engineering competitions is well-obliqued.
A similar distinction applies when weighing the different domains of virtues that make up an ethical theory. The common view of ethics is well-obliqued; people like Mother Teresa, who devote their entire lives to helping others, are generally considered the most ethical individuals. Alternatively, since we also consider intelligence a virtue, an ethical theory which prized this quality might hold Stephen Hawking as one of its exemplars. In contrast, the ethical theory I have developed in KineSophy is well-rounded. It considers virtues in physical, intellectual, personal and moral domains to all be important. I don’t intend to argue that a well-rounded ethical theory is superior to a well-obliqued one, but it is worth noting that adhering to a well-rounded ethical theory does not detract in principle from any particular domain of virtues. In contrast, as I have shown in previous articles, a pursuit of physical virtues is actually complementary to the pursuit of other virtues (and vice versa). But if you want to devote your life solely to giving to the poor or unlocking the secrets of the universe, more power to you. If you want to pursue a good life of movement, learning and live-and-let-live morality, go right ahead.
In particular, I have advocated for three ethical precepts of human movement:
1. A human being should be able to lift an object equal in weight to his or her own body off the ground.
2. A human being should be able enjoy a meal or use the toilet while squatting instead of sitting.
3. A human being should be able to travel 5,000 meters (roughly the average distance to the nearest hospital in the United States) on foot in thirty-six minutes.
Based on the principle of scalability, I have argued for a distinction between secondary virtues like physical fitness, intelligence, courage and honesty, and a primary ethical concern, according to which it is always wrong to violate the personhood of another human being through murder, torture or rape. Secondary virtues are scalable for relevant considerations of age, capability, circumstance and psychological state, whereas the primary concern of human inviolability is not. Furthermore, the practice of secondary virtues, including those related to physical fitness, support one another and help develop the primary ethical concern. So under the ethical theory I have promoted in KineSophy, a person should pursue fitness, intelligence, bravery, honesty, justice, kindness and other moral virtues while respecting the inviolable personhood of others. Finally, the KineSophy ethical theory requires continued effort. In the words of psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley “The climbing man or animal must use force and purpose to ascend or to maintain himself at a given height. To fall or slide downhill he need only cease his efforts and let go.”Every sphere of virtue demands persistent striving to maintain the standards of that virtue. Those who do not maintain their strength, mobility, speed and endurance will not continue to meet the minimum standards of human movement, just as those who do not actively guard against harming others or do not continue to develop their cognitive abilities will fall short of ethical standards in these domains. Yet the KineSophy theory does not encourage mere maintenance of minimum standards, but impels individuals to continually surpass themselves and expand their physical abilities in conjunction with their other virtues. In future articles, I will point to real people who exemplify these values, who have found a balance between physical and all other virtues.
Cleckley, Hervey. The Mask of Sanity. Third Edition. St. Louis: The C.V. Mosby Company, 1955.