In these trying times, there is nothing more important to many people than their physical health.
The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has made many people hyper-aware of what they can do to keep themselves healthy, and especially to mitigate their risk of disease. For one UTM student, this renewed focus on health created the perfect backdrop to philosophize about physical health.
Marc Perrusquia, a junior History and Computer Science major from Memphis, gave a presentation and held a Q&A session on the topic of physical fitness as a moral virtue on Wednesday, Oct. 14 to a sizable Zoom audience facilitated by the UTM Philosophy Forum.
During his talk entitled “Do We Have an Ethical Duty to Practice Physical Fitness?”, Perrusquia laid out his moral case for why you should try to be physically fit.
First of all, Perrusquia pointed out that over half of adults are overweight or obese, a health category which increases their susceptibility and mortality rate in regard to Coronavirus.
But furthermore, Perrusquia advanced arguments rejecting the claim that people don’t have an obligation to practice fitness because it doesn’t affect other people. He defended his argument on the grounds of environmental impact.
“Unfortunately, you’re not just harming yourself,” Perrusquia said. “I would say a plurality, or even a majority of people would care to claim about the environment while simultaneously being overweight or obese. Now, these two things are at odds with one another.”
“Per Reuters, obesity contributes to global warming … Obese and overweight people require more fuel to transport the level of food they eat. Agriculture, especially animal agriculture, contributes to 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions.”
Perrusquia went on to detail how this environmental impact of obese and overweight people could cause widespread damage to property and make areas of the world, like the Middle East, largely uninhabitable. These claims are in keeping with claims that some climate scientists have made about global warming.
Perrusquia’s focus then shifted to the personal benefits of being healthy.
“Let’s close out on why you have a duty to yourself to become the best possible version of you. What is the crux or cornerstone of most philosophy? Agency. Self-determination.”
To demonstrate how becoming fit had improved his personal life, Perrusquia showed pictures of the health benefits that had accrued to him in the course of pursuing fitness as a moral good. He also shared a deeply personal story underscoring the focus on agency in his philosophical approach to the topic.
As the talk closed, Perrusquia fielded questions from several members of the Philosophy Forum as well as the faculty advisors and other members of the public. During his Q&A, Perrusquia spoke about the role of fitness in schools, tactics for healthy eating and controlling one’s weight, and what being overweight means in a moral sense. Throughout his talk, Perrusquia was clear that while being overweight is not a personal moral failing, it can have moral consequences for oneself and others.
“I can’t stress this enough,” Perrusquia said at one point. “You’re not a bad person if you’re overweight, but it isn’t good for you, or the environment.”
The next presentation from the UTM Philosophy Forum will take place on Nov. 11 over Zoom. The presentation is entitled “Does Embodied Teaching Still Matter?” and will be given by UTM lecturer, Merry Brown.
Photo Credit / The British Museum