"Being able to do" and "understanding"

In terms of the body and knowledge in school education, we observed the situation of the so-called tsumekomi kyoiku (rot learning), particularly of intellectual subjects. It would be, however, also probable in the subject of physical education, which has a close relation to the body, because the reason for physical education activities — such as a feetfirst somersault hanging from the horizontal bar, which is a quite popular technique for primary school students in Japan — could be questioned. In other words, a serious consideration of physical education, music, or the plastic arts rather than the main subjects would not be sufficient for the elimination of tsumekomi kyoiku. However, the so-called technical subjects, such as physical education, music, or the plastic arts, have the particular characteristic of being concerned with “skill.” Specifically, being able to do something directly becomes an issue in these subjects, which is another moment of the body-ness of knowledge.

It is sometimes said that even if you practice swimming on a tatami mat or on dry' land, you will not be able to swim. In the old days, children may have practiced swimming by following a senior outright in the water of a river or in the sea. Children learn swimming at school nowadays, where they understand the instructions from the teacher well and practice by following the instructions. First, children have to understand the teacher’s explanation in words. Even if they could understand it, however, they would not be able to swim immediately. This is a situation of “understanding” without “being able to do,” which is commonly observed in various places in life. Generally' speaking, this “understanding” relates to knowledge and “being able to do” is regarded as a skill. The strangeness and problematics of tsumekomi kyoiku in intellectual subjects mentioned earlier could be analogized to the educational situation of students practicing swimming on a tatami mat, where students only listened to a teacher’s instructions and took notes but did not jump into the swimming pool to practice. Students would lack the reason behind their learning. In fact, the value of “understanding” at the level of knowledge has augmented to the extent that people believe that it is the only' valuable matter.

On the contrary', in some cases, the existence of “understanding” is only' possible by' means of “being able to do” through skill. Swimming is a typical example, as already' suggested. A true “understanding” of how to pull one’s arm in the water taught by the teacher would only' be possible when “being able to do” happened. In some case, “understanding” without “being able to do” could be possible, as in “I cannot do it, but I have knowledge about it.” However, thiswould be completely different from “understanding” through “being able to do,” as in “I could understand it only when I could do it.”

Practical knowledge as bodily knowing

If we call the knowledge acquired in bodily practice “practical knowledge,” then skill is a master}' with practical knowledge. It is a sort of knowledge gathered by means of die body (i.e., bodily knowing). We cannot do tilings without knowing something in our experience. A skilled performer knows various diings in his or her own practice even if he or she is not able to verbalize them. Therefore, a skilled performer can teach learners something about the matter concerned even without learning a particular teaching method because he or she could utilize die knowledge gained during practice. The transmission of a mastery of skills would become possible in such a way. When practical knowledge is provided with an explicit linguistic expression, it becomes technique — a rational, efficient way to solve a particular task, by which an objective mutual understanding regarding the practice would become possible. We can call this technical knowledge, which becomes theoretical knowledge in its systematization.

A practice with which the skill is directly concerned makes explicit the link between practical knowledge, technical knowledge, and theoretical knowledge. As what is usually called science signifies theoretical knowledge, school education concerned with science has attached importance to this theoretical knowledge. Learning science (i.e., learning theoretical knowledge as it is) also gives us pleasure, where the somaesthetic plays a part as well, as already considered. In this regard, learning science could be regarded as a practice.

Another issue that we should consider here is the possibility of a kind of practical knowledge, the content of which corresponds with theoretical knowledge. In other w'ords, we should try to think about the “practice” of theoretical knowledge in science. Since almost all of the sciences begin their research from real-life issues of society, daily life, or concrete human nature, we would be able to consider the practice through some bodily act of “being able to do.”

Although this might be a possibility, it is also true that there are various limitations in terms of the actual problems of time and space in our current system of school education. The “how to” aspect is cut off and the correspondence with the theme coming from the w'orld of life is abstracted in learning in school education. Thinking of major limitation especially in primary and secondary schools, we should first consider the possibility at universities.

Let us take a look at Shusterman’s somaesthetics as an example. He attempted to break an orthodox manner of the class of philosophy. He asked what philosophy was for. While the tradition of philosophy as a discipline remained important, it was only a function of the discipline, he said. According to Shustcrman, a larger perspective of philosophy was the consideration and pursuit of human happiness, as in ancient philosophy.10 Shusterman’s attempt to practice philosophy in a class at a university became a practice of the art of bodily movement to intensify the awareness of one’s own body. It was a practice of

Somaesthetics and learning 77 the unification of “philosophy” and “physical education,” which has remained tar from common sense.


  • 1 Shusterman, R, “Somaesthetics and Education” Bulletin of the Graduate School of Education, Hiroshima University, Part I, 51, 2002, p. 22.
  • 2 Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary, The electronic book version, 2003.
  • 3 Ujiie, S. “Is Exam necessary?” in Numata, H. and Masubuchi, Y. (Eds.) “Toi” toshiteno kyouikugaku [Pedagogy as “Question”], Tokyo: Fukumura Publishers, 1997, p. 150.
  • 4 Kuwako, T. Kansei no tetsugaku [Philosophy of Kansei (Sensibility)], Tokvo: NHK, 2001, p. 32.
  • 5 Gebauer, G. and Wulf, C. trans. English by Reneau, D. Mimesis: Culture, Art, Society, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
  • 6 Sato, M. Manabi no kairaku [Pleasure of Learning], Tokvo: Seorishobo, 1999, pp. 29, 59-62.
  • 7 Ibid., p. 60.
  • 8 Goodman, N. trans. Japanese by Sugano, T. Ways of Worldmaking [Sekai seisaku no hoho], Tokyo: Chikumashobo, 2008.
  • 9 Higuchi, S. “Ethical Learning and the Problem of Body” in Marsal, E. and others (Eds.) Ethische Reflexionskompetenz im Grundschulalter, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2007, pp. 193-204.
  • 10 Shusterman, R. Practicing Philosophy: Pragmatism and the Philosophical Life, New York: Routledge, 1997.
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