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UNIT # 7: The Age of Science and the Enlightenment
Historical & Philosophical Bases of Physical Education and Sport
Adapted from lecture notes by Mechikoff & Estes (1998)
¹Unit 7's outlines is in part a reproduction and in part a modification and expansion of original lecture notes by Dr. Steve Estes, California State University, Fullerton.

Mechikoff, R., & Estes, S. (1998). A history and philosophy of sport and physical education: From the ancient Greeks to the present (2nd ed.). Madison, WI: Brown & Benchmark.
Chapter Outline
The Age of Science and Enlightenment
A. The Age of Science and Enlightenment was the outcome of a cultural and political storm caused by the friction between the Renaissance and the Reformation.
B. Science promotes inductive thought over traditional deductive reasoning.
As science takes the front seat the Western world's metaphysical views are transformed:
a. The now and here material takes precedence over the ideal, spiritual world
b. Enjoying one's life on earth is more important than the life after death
C. Politics is less concerned with religion, more concerned with the lives of people
D. Medicine, science, and technology improve
E. The development of Scientific instruments (microscopes, telescopes, thermometers, barometers, hydrometers, more accurate watches, and finer scales) vastly improved the capacity for objective and rliable data collection from the material universe.
F. Scientists view themselves as philosophers while they are careful to dishtinguish their discipline from philosophy
1. the goal of science was to improve the human condition as opposed to the medieval view of "suffer now in exchange of eternal life after death (asceticism)."
II. Common man becomes the main theme of politics
A. Indivial citizen's rights are no longer preceded by rights of kings, religion, or the state. Education now becomes a citizen's right rather than a privilege. The idea that citizens must be educated is reinforced by the fact that the work force is in need of an educated citizentry.
III. Despite vast changes recreational and sporting activities are still popular.
A. The new found value of the material life legitimizes play and recreation, but the lasting effects of the past are still holding it back
No more is there a need to appologize about play and/or exercise. The arguments supporting physical education and sport that were used in the Age of Science and the Enlightenment are still valid today.
IV. English Civil War precipitated by the Declaration of Sport
A. In 1618 King James issued the Declaration of Sport against the wishes of politicians and clergy. B. In 1631 King James' son Charles I reissued the Declaration of Sport.
The Declaration of Sport
Sports activities are allowed on Sundays after church services.
Sporting activities after church were strongly protested by Puritans who argued that Sundays should be spent in worship.
This Puritan idea known as " Sabbatarianism"
"Blue Laws"
The Blue Laws (Printed on blue paper? Not really...) were decrees that prohibited sport activities, drinking, hunting, dancing, and other "ungodly" activities. In America a number of Blue Laws were still in effect in the early 1930s.
The Declaration of Sport highlighted the devide among:
Catholics and Protestants
  • Nobility and bourgeoisie
  • King and parliament
  • Sport and physical education were more easily justified as Science and Enlightment Age philosophers came to accept the material world and the place our bodies occupy in it.
    V. Historical highlights of the Science and Enlightment Age
    A. Large scale economic downturn in the 17th century.
    B. Spain was losing its political influence with her loss of control of the South Atlantic, silver supply.
    C. Depression from 1619 to 1622
    1. Trade dropped off, unemployment increased
    2. Pool of mercenaries was created, fights in religious wars
    a. Thirty-Years-War (1618-1648) in Germany
    b. Civil Wars (1642-1648) in England
    c. Two religious wars in France of 1562 and 1594.
    d. American Revolution (1776)
    e. French Revolution (1789)
    D. The Black Death: Bubonic Plague
    1. France from 1630-1632 and 1647-1649
    2. England 1665.

    E. Little Ice Age

    E. " Little Ice Age" (Window to the Universe)
    Little Ice Age" by Michael E Mann, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA (2002)"
    F. The philosophies that were developed during this century reflect these historical conditions.
    G. Philosophers of the Age of Science and the Enlightenment
    1. Jean Jacques Rousseau, author of Emile: or On education
    2. Francois Voltaire (Francois Marie Arouet (1694 - 1778) Dictionnaire Philosophique
    3. Jacques Diderot, encyclopedist
    H. Historical documents
    1. Declaration of Independence
    2. Articles of Confederation
    3. Constitution
    4. Bill of Rights
    5. Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (Approved by the National Assembly of France, August 26, 1789)
    VI. The Scientists
    A. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
    1. Italian astronomer and physicist
    2. The Copernican view of the universe places the sun at center of the solar system and replaces the Aristotlean and Ptolemaic view of earth as being at the center of the solar system.
    3. Social impact of this theory significant
    a. Humanity no longer the center of the universe
    b. Humanity is considered insignificant relative to the cosmos
    c. This view undermines the authority of the Christian church
    d. The Inquisition disagrees with Galileo: The view that the sun stands motionless at the center of the universe is foolish, philosophically false, and utterly heretical, because (it is) contrary to Holy Scripture. The view that the earth is not the center of the universe and even has a daily rotation is philosophically false, and at least an erroneous belief.
    e. Under pressure from the Inquisition, in 1633 Galileo repudiated the Copernican theory (for an example of the continuing clash between contemporary Science and Religion read "Plantinga's Defense of Special Creation" by McMullin, E. (1991, September). Christian Scholars Review, XXI(1), 55-79. (University of Notre Dame)
    f. Galileo died in seclusion in 1642
    g. 1835 works of Galileo removed from the Catholic church's Index of Prohibited Books.
    B. Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
    1. Chancellor in England ruled in the absence of the King
    2. Contributor to the philosophy of science
    3. Argued that governments use science to improve the general welfare of its people
    4. Called for the support of colleges, libraries, laboratories, biological gardens, museums of science and industry, for the better payment of teachers and researchers, and for the funding of scientific experiments.
    5. Developed an organizational scheme of science of what could be learned.
    6. Similar to the division of kinesiology into the subdisciplines like exercise physiology, sport history, motor learning, etc.
    C. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
    1. English mathematician and physicist
    2. Newton's mechanical theory argued that the universe is a perfect machine.
    3. Physicists had to discover the laws that govern the machine.
    4. Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, or Principia, published in 1687.
    5. Newton's "Laws of Motion":
    Newton's First Law: Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right (i.e., straight) line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.
    Newton's Second Law: The change of motion is proportional to the motive force impressed; and is made in the direction of the right line in which that force is impressed.
    Newton's Third Law: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction; or, the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.
    VII. The Philosophers
    A. Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
    1. Epitomized the dualistic approach of mind and body.
    a. Argues that knowledge can be created from simple ideas and developed into more complex ideas
    b. knowledge is not valid unless we are absolutely certain of its authenticity.
    c. "building block theory of knowledge," where complex theories rest on simpler, previous theories.
    2. Descartes argued that what the only "true" knowledge is intellectual since we cannot trust our body or our senses.
    3. Important to education a. Implies that the body is less important than the mind as a way of knowing anything.
    B. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
    1. Applies Newton to the nature of being.
    2. Religious critics branded Hobbes a heretic.
    3. States that humans are composed of only one thing: the body.
    4. Criticized for being deterministic
    5. Philosophy that supports the psychology of Behaviorism
    C. Michel de Montaigne (1553-1592)
    1. Preceded Descartes and Hobbes
    2. Strongly influenced by the humanist movement
    3. Argued for the well rounded individual.
    4. A monist: Montaigne argued that the body… has such a tight brotherly bond with the body that it abandons me at every turn to follow the body in its need. I take (the mind) aside and flatter it, I work on it, all for nothing. In vain I try to turn (the mind) aside from this bond...There is no sprightliness in (the mind's) productions if there is none in the body at the same time.

    Social realist for his emphasis on the development of character, right habits, manners, morals, and citizenship.
    Advocated "manly exercise,"
    a. child experienced rougher life in the outdoors. " It is not enough to fortify his soul; you must also make his muscles strong... It is not the mind, it is not the body we are training; it is the man and we must not divide him into two parts. Plato says we should not fashion one without the other, but make them draw together like two horses harnessed to a coach. By this saying would it not indicate that he would rather give more care to the body, believing that the mind is benefited at the same time?"

    VII. The Educators: Realism
    A. Accepted the idea that the human body is a natural and important part of a person.
    1. Advocate the study of the "real" things of life
    2. Humanist realists used Latin, Greek, and classical literature as a basis for their educational curriculum (also see Patti Whaley essay about the relationship between human rights and religion religious humanists
    a. add physical education as a means of creating a well rounded individual
    3. Social realists add social graces and political affairs
    4. Common Sense Realists most radically different
    a. argued that students should be taught in their own language
    b. should learn useful arts and sciences that are based on scientifically sound principles
    B. Francois Rabelais (1483-1553)
    1. Humanist realist because of his emphasis on the development of the whole person.
    a. The Life of Gargantua contrasts Renaissance with revolutionary ideas of his times.
    b. called for a program that would facilitate the social, moral, spiritual, and physical aspects of life.
    c. physical activities ranged from horsemanship, martial arts, and hunting to ball playing, running, and swimming.
    C. John Milton (1608-1674)
    1. English poet and wrote Paradise Lost
    a. strongly influenced by the English Civil War, sided with the Puritans and argued against play.
    b. believed that the martial arts should be practiced in school because they were useful in a time of war
    E. John Locke (1632-1704)

    John Locke was trained as a physician and argued for the health of the student through proper diet and exercise. A social realist, Locke held the Platonic view of "a sound mind in a sound body" (Latin: "Anima Sana In Corpore Sano").

    "Man of Business, a Carriage suitable to his Rank and to be eminent and useful to his Country, according to his Station."

    F. Richard Mulcaster (1530-1611)
    1. English schoolmaster, commom sense realist.
    2. All people should have an education.
    3. Experience was more important than studying or reading
    4. Learn one's native language with Greek or Latin
    5. The teaching process should be adapted to the learner
    6. Emphasize the student rather than the subject
    7. Author of Positions Concerning the Training Up of Children (1581), which specifically addressed physical education.
    a. indoor activities he recommended reading and speaking out loud, talking, laughing, weeping, holding one's breath, dancing, wrestling, fencing, and climbing.
    b. outdoor activities walking, running, leaping, swimming, riding, hunting, shooting, and playing ball.
    8. May be the father of the modern educational practice of including sport in the schools.
    G. John Comenius (1592-1671)
    " A Moravian educator and pastor who held that students should take part in their own education; that subject matters should be connected; that language should be taught through conversation and cooperative work; that universal education was prelude to social reform and social justice." (Source: Dictionary of Critical Sociology -- -- 2-21-04)
    • Held similar ideas to those of Mulcaster, but did not include knightly sports as a means of physical development or recreation.
    • Comenius was a common sense realists. He believed that exercise served as a rest from other parts of the learning process.
    VIII. The Education of Women
    A. Common sense realists were particularly interested in educating girls, although most of the realists were interested as well.
    1. Educational opportunities for girls limited
    a. Many believed that women would never have an opportunity to use the skills they would develop.
    b. women were considered inferior
    c. some debate as to whether or not girls could be educated at all.
    D. Realists laid the foundation for the public education of girls and women during a time when women were educated only in the home or in the convent

    Daniel Frankl, Ph.D., Professor
    School of Kinesiology and Nutritional Science
    California State University, Los Angeles

    5151 State University Drive
    Los Angeles, CA 90032-8162
    Phone: (323) 343-4662
    Fax: (323) 343-6482