A Philosophy of Walking

James Attlee in The Independent:

WalkingEvery action has an equal and opposite reaction, Isaac Newton told us long ago. As we enfold ourselves more and more in the digital world a contrary impulse has arisen, the desire for a direct re-engagement with the physical world through activity, whether it be mountaineering, potholing, cycling or walking. Walkers, and those who have written about walking, tend to fall into two camps: urban flâneurs, descendants of Baudelaire and the Situationists, and those striking out into the countryside in the footsteps of Rousseau, Thoreau and Edward Thomas. So far, so pedestrian. Several histories of walking and its relation to literature exist already and our bestseller lists are regularly topped by ambulatory writers repackaging their journeys for a sedentary audience. What then can Gros, a professor of philosophy from Paris, add to our understanding? Inevitably there is crossover in his selection of authors and philosophers from the past who have been advocates of walking with other such studies such as Rebecca Solnitt's Wanderlust.

However, his perspective does add something to Anglophone commentaries, for instance in his insight into new and old world attitudes to nature. For a European, he points out, a journey into the wilderness is a return to an ancient, ancestral home, while for a North American like Thoreau it represented the future. Gros is a practitioner as well as a theorist, by choice a member of the rural walking school, claiming that navigating the city on foot is “torture to the lover of long rambles in nature because it imposes…an interrupted, uneven rhythm”.

More here.