Art of walking course helps students discuss philosophy

The Art of Walking, an iconic CentreTerm course taught by H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of French and German Ken Keffer, is designed for students who are prepared to walk, but this year, three four-legged friends have joined the course—Rufus, Toby and Parker.

The three dogs he added to the course came courtesy of their owners and care-takers Ann Smith for Toby, Kathy Butterfield for Rufus and Yvonne Morely for Parker.

“The dogs showed up in the course and were handled by all my students,” he said. “The dogs brought us closer to our destination—the earth as ground. Finally, if there is an art of walking, the dogs have mastered it. They are most graceful on the path when we are least so.”

Keffer has taught this class during CentreTerm since 2002. He has also led the course during full-semester terms, as well as abroad in France, England and Germany.

The course consists of morning discussion of Martin Heidegger’s “Being and Time,” then afternoon walks around central Kentucky.

In his book, Heidegger gives humanity a new name—”Dasein”—and stresses the everday experience of this being, discussing topics like tools, group behavior and language. The second half of the text addresses Dasein’s everdayness in starker terms of death, authenticity and time. The walking aspect of the class offers a first-hand experience of these themes and an opportunity to discuss and contest them.

“The purpose of this course is for us to gain an adventurous and slightly tragic understanding of what we most take for granted: existence and walking,” Keffer said. “My end goal is that students take walking and existence as an art.”

There are several reasons why students would take this class, however, Jimmy Robinson ‘18, coordinator for community service and the Bonner Program, he took this course during his last CentreTerm for all the right reasons.

“One of them is that I have friends who have had Dr. Keffer for class before, and all of them said that they were enjoyable classes,” Robinson said. “Another is that I enjoy hiking and being outdoors, so that aspect of the course really appealed to me. Another is that I do enjoy reading philosophy, and I figured that ‘Being and Time’ would be an interesting read.”

Robinson said his favorite thing about the course was integrating the philosophy into the walks and trying to legitimately integrate some of Heidegger’s concepts into his life.

“Heidegger has this great way of talking about how people (Dasein) have a particular kind of being that allows them to encounter the things of the world and recognize the kind of being that they have,” Robinson explained. “I get this wonderful feeling while I am walking if I try to recognize everything around me as something distinct with its own qualities, characteristics, uses and ways in which I value them. Yet, each of these distinct things also simultaneously co-determine and impact one another and, in this way, come together to create a world that you are always ‘within.’”

Aside from walking, Robinson said there is a lot of focus in the course on using tools and understanding how to do things, like scything, for instance, which reinforces the concepts that Heidegger develops.

“I think Dr. Keffer does a great job of making the abstract practical and making experience a central part of the course,” he concluded.

by Kerry Steinhofer
January 31 2019

By |2019-02-01T15:11:54+00:00February 1st, 2019|CentreTerm, News|