Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Thinking on Your Feet

George Santayana (1863-1952), "The Philosophy of Travel," Virginia Quarterly Review 40.1 (Winter 1964) 1-10 (at 4-5):
[I]nstead of saying that the possession of hands has given man his superiority, it would go much deeper to say that man and all other animals owe their intelligence to their feet. No wonder, then, that a peripatetic philosophy should be the best. Thinking while you sit, or while you kneel with the eyes closed or fixed upon vacancy, the mind lapses into dreams; images of things remote and miscellaneous are merged in the haze of memory, in which facts and fancies roll together almost indistinguishably, and you revert to the vegetative state, voluminous and helpless. Thinking while you walk, on the contrary, keeps you alert; your thoughts, though following some single path through the labyrinth, review real things in their real order; you are keen for discovery, ready for novelties, laughing at every little surprise, even if it is a mishap; you are careful to choose the right road, and if you take the wrong one, you are anxious and able to correct your error. Meantime, the fumes of digestion are dissipated by the fresh air; the head is cleared and kept aloft, where it may survey the scene; attention is stimulated by the novel objects constantly appearing; a thousand hypotheses run to meet them in an amiable competition which the event soon solves without ambiguity; and the scene as a whole is found to change with the changed station of the traveler, revealing to him his separate existence and his always limited scope, together with the distinction (which is all wisdom in a nutshell) between how things look and what they are.
Related post: Walking and Thinking.

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