Answering Three Ecosophical Questions: Asceticism

  • Ron Welters
Part of the Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy book series (LOET, volume 37)


Sigmund Loland ends his Outline of an Ecosophy of Sport (1996), advanced in the previous chapter, by proposing three pivotal questions that have to be taken into account when it comes to the sport-ecosophical litmus-test.
  1. 1.

    What are the implications of the norm on ecosophical joy in my specific sport practice?

  2. 2.

    How should I, in my sport context, relate to norms for developing skills in width and depth, for playing to win and for applying only ecosophically sound sport technology?

  3. 3.

    What can be done to promote sport training and competition in closeness to nature?

As a practical philosopher and as a philosophical practitioner, I now will try to give provisional answers to these pivotal questions. I will do so from the perspective of (outdoor) endurance sports. To focus my thoughts, I will concentrate on running and particularly cycling, paved and unpaved, from elite athletes to dedicated age-groupers and joggers and weekend warriors.

Endurance sports do not fare well in celebrating the multitude of motor and physical skills that Loland seems to presuppose. They are about diligence, repetition and sticking to a program in order to be able to cover a certain distance or to complete a race. Fostering endurance is a continuum of work in diverse physical states, rather than practicing for a few moments of exhilarating joy. Also Loland acknowledges the benefits of a dedicated training regimen. Longer periods of hard and monotonous work can to some extent be ecosophically justified, Loland reasons, but just as an instrumental means to an end: “Work is acceptable as a means to increased joy and perfection” (p. 80).

Although they may seem fairly dull and repetitive indeed, sports that take a substantial effort are increasingly popular with the sedentary, urban and over-stimulated masses in the search for counterbalance, though. A certain physical constitution obviously is advantageous when it comes to endurance sports. Next to possessing basic health, a somewhat slim body may be helpful as a point of departure for fresh(wo)men in running and cycling. However, perseverance and stamina are far more important when it comes to cultivating staying power—and these ascetic virtues are within reach for most of us. Therefore endurance sports can more easily effect a change for the better than skill and agility demanding elite sports.

Because of this high potential for change, I now (in the tough spirit of endurance sport) will try to answer the three key questions Loland proposes as a guideline for ecosophically good sport. To strengthen my critical assessment of Loland’s sport-ecosophical blueprint, Peter Sloterdijk’s plea for a radical change of our lifestyle by means of a well-understood ‘ascetology’ will be put in position. If properly performed, this general training theory will result in metanoia, a radical personal change of an unsustainable life-style, or at the collective level even in a ‘renaissance’ of durable virtues.


Ecosophical questions Endurance sports Ascetology Durable virtues 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ron Welters
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Science in Society, Faculty of ScienceRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands

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