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The Necessity of Philosophy in the Exercise Sciences

Department of Kinesiology, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS 39759, USA
Philosophies 2019, 4(3), 45;
Received: 2 May 2019 / Revised: 26 July 2019 / Accepted: 29 July 2019 / Published: 7 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Philosophical Issues in Sport Science)
The pervasive and often uncritical acceptance of materialistic philosophical commitments within exercise science is deeply problematic. This commitment to materialism is wrong for several reasons. Among the most important are that it ushers in fallacious metaphysical assumptions regarding the nature of causation and the nature of human beings. These mistaken philosophical commitments are key because the belief that only matter is real severely impedes the exercise scientist’s ability to accurately understand or deal with human beings, whether as subjects of study or as data points to be interpreted. One example of materialist metaphysics is the assertion that all causation is physical- one lever moving another lever, one atom striking another atom, one brain state leading to another (Kretchmer, 2005). In such a world, human life is reduced to action and reaction, stimulus and response and as a result, the human being disappears. As such, a deterministic philosophy is detrimental to kinesiologists’ attempts to interpret and understand human behavior, for a materialistic philosophy, must ignore or explain away human motivation, human freedom and ultimately culture itself. In showing how mistaken these philosophic commitments are, I will focus on the sub-discipline of sport psychology for most examples, as that is the field of exercise science of which I am paradigmatically most familiar. It is also the field, when rightly understood that straddles the “two cultures” in kinesiology (i.e., the sciences and the humanities). In referencing the dangers of the materialistic conception of human beings for sport psychology, I will propose, that the materialist’s account of the natural world, causation and human beings stems from the unjustified and unnecessary rejection by the founders of modern science of the Aristotelian picture of the world (Feser, 2012). One reason that this mechanistic point of view, concerning human reality has gained ground in kinesiology is as a result of a previous philosophic commitment to quantification. As philosopher Doug Anderson (2002) has pointed out, many kinesiologists believe that shifting the discipline in the direction of mathematics and science would result in enhanced academic credibility. Moreover, given the dominance of the scientific narrative in our culture it makes it very difficult for us not to conform to it. That is, as Twietmeyer (2015) argued, kinesiologists do not just reject non-materialistic philosophic conceptions of the field, we are oblivious to their possibility. Therefore, I will propose two things; first, Aristotelian philosophy is a viable alternative to materialistic accounts of nature and causation and second, that Aristotle’s holistic anthropology is an important way to wake kinesiologists from their self-imposed philosophic slumber. View Full-Text
Keywords: exercise science; philosophy; sport psychology; materialism; Aristotle; causation and nature exercise science; philosophy; sport psychology; materialism; Aristotle; causation and nature
MDPI and ACS Style

Hickson, M. The Necessity of Philosophy in the Exercise Sciences. Philosophies 2019, 4, 45.

AMA Style

Hickson M. The Necessity of Philosophy in the Exercise Sciences. Philosophies. 2019; 4(3):45.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Hickson, Matthew. 2019. "The Necessity of Philosophy in the Exercise Sciences" Philosophies 4, no. 3: 45.

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