18 Socrates at the
HEATHER L. REID
Even those familiar with both America's favorite pastime and Greece's famed philosopher must find this an odd combination. Socrates and baseball?
To many, baseball and Socratic philosophy seem to be diametrically opposed. And this is not a prejudice based on ignorance. Socrates and his student Plato are largely responsible for the beliefs that human minds and bodies are distinct sorts of things, and that the mind (or soul) and not the body, should be the focus of our attentions. As Socrates says in his Apology, “I go around doing nothing but persuading both young and old among you not to care for your body or your wealth in preference to or as strongly as the best possible state of your soul.”1 This emphasis on the soul seems to exclude Socrates from the ballpark. Aren't bodies and wealth precisely the two things baseball players value most? Don't philosophers disdain all physical activity, preferring to stare off into space with chin planted on fist like Rodin's statue The Thinker? And isn't philosophy incapable of straight answers on anything?
The answer to all three questions is a resounding, No!
Athletes of all stripes (including pinstripes) know from experience that performance in sport is as much a matter of soul as
1The Trial and Death of Socrates, translated by G.M.A. Grube (Indianapolis: Hackett,