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New Saint Mary’s course explores philosophy in relation to walking

| Friday, September 29, 2017

Saint Mary’s philosophy professor Patricia Sayre has decided to think outside the classroom this semester with the introduction of her new course, The Philosophy of Walking.

This one-credit course takes a different approach to philosophy and requires that students simply walk during every class period. Sayre said she came up with the idea for the course after reading a book entitled “A Philosophy of Walking.

“It’s not something philosophers seem to talk about a lot,” Sayre said. “I read the book and I thought there was something I could build a course around here, but I don’t think I’d want to teach this as a straight academic course, because what’s the point in talking about walking if you’re not ever walking?”

Sayre said she connects philosophical readings to every walk she and the students go on as a class.

“We go on a different path every time, and it’s key to the reading in some way,” Sayre said. “One week the readings were about escaping — using walking to escape [from] ordinary life — so for this I decided we were going to go off campus. Each person got to lead for a little bit.”

Sayre said she always is surprised by the walks with her students, and she is even more surprised at their responses to the walks.

“Walks are unpredictable, and that’s part of the joy of it,” she said. “And even though I will do the walk in advance to plan it, it never goes the way I thought it would go. And so the responses are terribly interesting that I get in the written work.”

Hanna Makowski, a senior in the class, said she appreciates this approach to philosophy because it allows room for individual thought. Makowski said she likes how the class differs from other classes.

“In most classes you analyze and dissect the work of others, but in this class we are given the chance to create our own work based on our own philosophy of walking,” she said in an email.

The unconventional approach to the class about more than just walking, Sayre said, and the course is about creating connections to the larger world.

“We’re doing philosophy in a somewhat different way,” she said. “It’s more like thinking symbolically about what you’re doing, what you’re seeing and how, in many ways, it might be a metaphor for other existential problems you might have in life.”

Sayre said one of the best things about her course is how free walking makes her feel. For her and her students, she said, this time is a time to get away from the stress of the responsibilities of everyday life.

“It’s like this little window of time when you are free from all of that,” Sayre said. “When you’re walking you simply can’t do those other things, you have time to yourself, your mind is free.”

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