What is the Philosophy of Cycling?

Prof Clive Cazeaux will examine The Philosophy of Cycling. Photo: CTC member Doug Forrester
Julie Rand's picture

What is the Philosophy of Cycling?

What is cycling? Racing, commuting or mountain biking? Town planning and the environment? Or a state of being? CTC member Clive Cazeaux, Chair of Cardiff CTC and Professor of Aesthetics at Cardiff School of Art and Design, is giving a talk about The Philosophy of Cycling for Bike Week 2015.

Clive has been a CTC member since 1979 and a philosopher since… well, what defines a philosopher? He has been teaching the subject at university since 1992. That there is a philosophy of cycling, he is in no doubt. The fact that cycling can take so many forms means, straight away, that we meet one of the most philosophical questions possible: the ‘what is X?’ question. What is cycling? He tells us more about this fascinating topic:

"Is there a philosophy of cycling? When one tries to bring philosophy to cycling, one soon realises that cycling is hard to pin down. Which aspect of cycling is meant? Racing, commuting, touring, mountain biking, family, leisure, town planning, environmental considerations, social structures, the fact that it is not motoring, states of physical exhilaration? Although we have one word, ‘cycling’ in actual fact encompasses an extremely large number of ways of life and forms of being. This in itself is philosophically interesting, suggesting that if cycling is any one thing, it is perhaps first and foremost a set of questions that asks us to reflect on identity and the commitments we make in life.

‘Cycling’ in actual fact encompasses an extremely large number of ways of life and forms of being. This in itself is philosophically interesting, suggesting that if cycling is any one thing, it is perhaps first and foremost a set of questions that asks us to reflect on identity and the commitments we make in life."

Clive Cazeaux, Professor of Aesthetics at Cardiff School of Art and Design

One response might be to say that it is first and foremost a way of life, but this quickly opens up into all the various ways of life that can be asked about. Another response might be to trace the diversities of cycling back to the bicycle as a technology. This could meet disapproval from some quarters because it seems to reduce cycling to being a mere tool, a means of getting from A to B. But technology is much more than that.

On one definition, technology is a way of impacting upon or changing the world, of having an effect. I have some sympathies with this view. It is because the bicycle achieves a very special relationship with the human body and the human being’s interaction with others in an environment that cycling opens up so many possibilities. Part of my talk on Tuesday will show how recent philosophies of embodiment and technology help to support and articulate the impact of the bicycle on human being.

So is it all about the bike or not about the bike, to borrow two cycling book titles? Well, we don’t have to accept them as opposites. It starts with the bike but its effects cannot be contained because they reach out into so many aspects of how we orient ourselves in the world. This is the philosophical force of cycling."

The Philosophy of Cycling café event takes place from 8.00pm to 10.00 pm on Tuesday 16 June at The Gate Arts Centre, Keppoch Street, Cardiff, CF24 3JW. The event will start with a talk by Clive followed by discussion, all taking place in a café setting. The event is free, and all are welcome. 

UPDATE: This report into the event explains more about Clive's theory.

There are over 400 other Bike Week 2015 events running throughout the country. 

 

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