Corporality as a basis for educational system

Dr.Sc.Philos., Professor A.G. Egorov1
PhD, Associate Professor V.A. Pegov2
1Smolensk State University, Smolensk
2Smolensk State Academy of Physical Culture, Sports and Tourism, Smolensk


Keywords: body, corporality, educational system, corporal education.


Introduction. The fundamental basis of this study is the identification of corporality as the basis of an educational system. The problems in modern education are formulated due to what is put as the basis of the educational system. The wrong initial impulses do not allow to fully implement excellent educational principles and methods of upbringing and education. Then problems of two different kinds, which are interconnected with each other, appear. Firstly, this is the problem of education quality. Secondly, comes the problem of children’s health. In educational practice this makes children and their parents face a false dilemma – either education, or health. Our hypothesis consists in the fact that correct theoretical and methodological foundation must solve both problems – high quality education and children’s health.

Limited methodological approach leads to “limited pedagogy (educational system)”. Speaking of the educational system the question of its basic grounds should be considered. At present it must be obvious what was obvious 150 years ago when K.D. Ushinsky was conducting his key study A Human Being as an Object of Education. Experience of Pedagogical Anthropology. Thus he wrote “If pedagogy is aimed at upbringing a human being in all aspects it must first study him in all aspects” (8, Vol. 8, p.23). “In all aspects” is the first condition. The second condition is connected with the fact that a human being is “developing (not static)”. In other words, “all aspects” should be viewed dynamically taking into account the source of the impulse for development. Then it is clear that it is corporality in all its aspects and relations with other sides of human organization that should be put at the basis of pedagogical systems – integral in its basic assumptions and many-sided in its concrete realization. Ignoring corporality leads to ignoring spiritual aspect. We get the generation which is physically weak and spiritually deficient, focused on finding a good psychotherapist and efficient antidepressant. We find first premonitions of this as far back as 1892 in The Twilight of the Enlightenment by V.V. Rosanov who had a experience in children education. “All are conscious, and for a long time, of strange lifelessness of new generations” (6, p.9).

Our work supports corporality and corporal upbringing or, more generally, educational system, based on corporality. We mean not a new physical training system, but an integral upbringing and education of a human being in which conscientious work with corporality is the starting point of a healthy human individuality.

Methods and research organization. Analysis and synthesis of philosophical, psychological-pedagogical and sport scientific literature.

Results and discussion. From time to time we observe attempts of self-reflection of the object of “physical training theory”, “sports theory”, etc. This is due to two things. Firstly, it comes from philosophers and methodologists. Critical analysis of the first abovementioned approach shows that it mostly focuses on two spheres: philosophical estimation of sports as a modern civilization phenomenon and philosophy of the body. The first sphere mostly deals with sports in connection with the distinctive features of modern civilization. Analysis of the approaches, suggested in them, reveals one serious problem. Sports, with inherent aggressiveness, carries out expansion into living space of different kinds of motor and corporal experience. The notion “sports” in the same way carries out the expansion of semantic space of “corporal” and “motor” notions. In practice this means that sports can be used to denote actually ever kind of motor activity of a person, all movements of his body including chasing antelope, depicted in pictures 6-8 000 years old. But “… modern sport is the child of industrial society, technogenic civilization. Actually here comparison is possible to the earlier (2-3 centuries ago) European science as global international phenomenon, which together with technology radically changed the world” (4, p. 58).

The second direction is body philosophy, which making broad generalization, pays little attention to the “theories” of sports and physical culture.

Secondly, it happens very seldom among the specialists in sports and physical education. In this case a big share of doctorial dissertations is devoted to the “training” aspect of what is denoted as physical education and sports.

The theories, created within the framework of “physical-sporting community” developed in three different ways:


“Perfection and modernization” by V.K. Bal’sevich (1), L.I. Lubysheva (5) et al. who in our opinion have come to the idea of “sportization” of physical education in the country.


Criticism of different approaches and conclusions. The main idea was to introduce changes to increase “humanization” (V.I. Stolyarov (7), A.G. Egorov (4), et al.).


Invention of new practices to remove the shortcomings of the present day school lessons of physical education, in sports sessions, etc. This originated so-called “Spartian movement” and “Olympic upbringing”, “ethnic sports”, etc.

Frequently it is not necessary to create new words for new notions. The notions themselves may be revived, when their meaning broadens and reflects the phenomena they denote better thus becoming more and more congruent. New understanding of the notions “body”, “corporality” “sports” and the predicate “physical” is a serious challenge for “theory of physical education and sports”. Still now one can only see the “novelty” which consists in recombination of old notions. It should be mentioned that attempts to rethink the notions referring to physical education and sports have been made before, e.g. of the notion “body”. Thus I.M. Bykhovskaya using the axiological approach, states the following argumentation for the existence of the following two notions. “The difference of the notions “body” and “corporality” is due … to the fact that the first is mostly associated with a fixed, relatively static anatomical physiological object. The term “corporality” due to its lower rigidity can be used not only to characterize the body, but also introduce into it additional sense of dynamic characteristic of the body – its activity” (2, p.26). We believe, the approach according to which the differentiation of the body is revealed due to the distinction which exists in the world objectively will be more fruitful. This is because the world itself is differentiated and each its step is characterized by its own systematically important features. In a physical body – physical and chemical patterns, organizing matter in its peculiar and final forms. In a living body – life organization which is not reduced to the total of physical and chemical processes. In a spiritual body – psychic pattern, producing subjectivity and private activity. In an individual body – the principle of a human “I”, leading us to self-reflection and self-awareness.

 This objectively existing differentiation leads to the necessity to use two notions in order to describe corporality. The notion “body” is used in this paper to designate the reality which connects it with the material and vegetation spheres of the world. The body in case of people, vegetation or animals is always a living body, possessing a passive activity which is called “growth”. The notion “corporality” depicts another component of human reality having relations to his subjectivity and individuality. This notion embraces bodily activities through which human psyche and “I” are expressed.

Briefly, let us dwell on the problem of the predicate “physical”. At the beginning of the New Age we observe transition from the former form of human mentality, which could experience the world necessarily in its essence to modern alert consciousness awoken thanks to intensive experiencing material matter. It is physicists who collocate the word “body” and the predicate “physical”. Historical sources clearly show that “physical” eventually replaced “corporal”.

Greek civilization demonstrated integral vision of a human being and of children upbringing in accordance with the following ideal: “if you want to be healthy – run, if you want to be beautiful – run, if you want to be wise – run”. Starting from ancient Rome we see a more limited variant of the understanding of a human being. In the Middle Ages Catholic Church forcefully introduces the ideas of “sinfulness and wickedness of flesh”. Then the science of the New Age in its methodology of reduction reduces a living animate and individual human body to the level of physical body. Finally at end of the 19th – the beginning of the 20th centuries a certain type of aspiration for upbringing of integral (holistic) man but already based on achievements of reasoning and consciousness of the New Age came to life. On the one hand, since this historical time a certain part of scientists is trying to consciously build up a new type of pedagogy. On the other hand, in mass culture and mass educational systems one can find surrogates to satisfy subconscious aspiration for human integrity. Thus well-known sociologist B. Dubin made an interesting remark about the career of A. Schwarzenegger as an example of the life path built on the basis of the body: “… having emigrated from Austria to the USA he formed his body of a bodybuilder for public demonstrations and expanded his popularity with the help of global mass media by starring in films built on the basic plots of modern national American cinema mythology…, and then he used this modern super resource, finances and connections in political elite to win the governor elections” (3, p.60). These three stages of his career – bodybuilder-actor-politician – reflect the triality of a human being in his development: at first – power of will and bodybuilding, then – feelings and spiritual organization (Hollywood), and finally – mentality (intellectual elite, political establishment). But this is a deformed reflection of both individual and social sides. This is actually a reversal of Greek idea of an ideal man – athlete-poet-philosopher. It should be also noted that the Greek trinity “athlete-poet-philosopher” is at the same time an ideal for education and a method of reaching it: through cooperation (co-participation) in athletic actions at the stadium; through co-empathy (co-sympathy) in poetic-orator action in the theatre; through co-thinking in Philosophic actions in temple groves.

According to modern demands we consider building corporality to be the initial and decisive basis for creating a pedagogical system. This presupposes the following strategic steps:

1) Change of the paradigm of notions. Transition from the predicate “physical” to the predicate “corporal”. The notions “body” and “corporality” (integral manifestation of a body comprising all aspects of humanity) must become the key subjects in those fields of human knowledge and activities which were designated earlier with the help of notions “physical culture”, “physical education”, etc.

2) Conscious and purposeful recognition of corporality as a systematically important principle in pedagogical system both for the whole of the system and its separate elements.



  1. Bal'sevich V.K. Sportivny vektor fizicheskogo vospitaniya v rossiyskoy shkole [Sports vector of physical education at Russian school]. Moscow: Teoriya i praktika fiz. kultury i sporta publ., 2006, 112 p.

  2. Bykhovskaya I. M. Fizicheskaya kultura kak prakticheskaya aksiologiya chelovecheskogo tela: metodologicheskie osnovaniya analiza problemy [Physical education as practical axiology of human body: methodological foundations of problem analysis]. Fizicheskaya kultura: vospitanie, obrazovanie, trenirovka, 1996, no. 2, pp. 19-27.

  3. Dubin B. Sport v sovremennykh obschestvakh: primer Rossii [Sport in modern societies: Russia as an example]. Journal of Public Opinion, 2004, no. 2 (70), pp. 70-80.

  4. Egorov A. Sport i tsivilizatsiya. Krugly stol [Sport and civilization. Round table]. Teoriya i praktika fiz. kultury, 2004, no. 5, pp. 58-63.

  5. Lubysheva L. I. Sportizatsiya v obscheobrazovatelnoy shkole [Sportization at secondary school]. Moscow: Teoriya i praktika fiz. kultury i sporta publ., 2009, 168 p.

  6. Rozanov V.V. Sumerki prosvescheniya [Twilight of Enlightenment]. Moscow: Pedagogika publ., 1990, 624 p.

  7. Stolyarov V. I. Novoe massovoe kulturno-sportivnoe dvizhenie «SpArt» (Dukhovnost. Sport. Iskusstvo) [New mass cultural and sports movement "Spart" (Spirituality, Sport, Art)]. Moscow: Physical Culture Committee RF, Spart Center publ., 1994, 64 p.

  8. Ushinsky K. Sobranie sochineniy [Collected Works]. In 11 vol.. Moscow, 1948–1952.


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The study analyzes the body and corporality related aspects in the general education context. The underestimation of these aspects is believed to be largely due to the genuine limitations of the methods traditional for the natural sciences since the early New Age giving an excessive priority to the physicality and sports related aspects on the one hand and psychology domination in the modern educational service on the other hand, with the relevant psychological theories (genuinely limited in their origins and models) forming fundamentals for one or another educational system. This tradition has resulted in the bodily and corporeal aspects and elements of the human nature being marginalized in the general education and physical education specialist training services. The modern education science needs to rethink the meanings of body and corporality and their benefits for the initiatives to rethink and revise the priorities and notions of the physical education and sport system in particular and new educational system on the whole. An educational system cannot be consistent enough unless a due priority is given to the conscientious corporality-focused educational efforts as required by the modern challenges to facilitate progress of a healthy human individuality. Such new educational policies will secure new quality for the children’s education by putting it on a new healthy foundation. This process will be designed to critically reconsider the now-popular sports-prioritizing (sportizated) policies of the school physical education system in view of the serious problems faced by the modern global sports.