Higher Meaning

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What if the usual mouth-breathers pontificating at the campfire morphed into keen-witted philosophers who could articulate and deconstruct the paradigms around which so much of our ethical and “why climb” discourse takes place? And what if, by doing so, they exposed the largely unexamined fallacies in stale truisms like “chipping is bad,” “soloing is selfish,” “ratings are subjective,” and “climbing sets you free”? The collection of 17 essays in Climbing— Philosophy for Everyone: Because It’s There ($19.95, wiley.com), edited by Stephen E. Schmid as part of the Philosophy for Everyone series, does exactly this. The authors are both climbers and academics (almost all in philosophy), so the essays ring with rigor and authenticity. Some themes may appeal more than others, but the authors tend to hook you with specific climbs and climbers that substantiate their arguments: Herman Buhl’s solo up Nanga Parbat, John Bachar’s steady-headed foray on the virgin Bachar-Yerian, Sonnie Trotter wedding the sport and trad ethos on The Path. Read carefully within the four themed sections; the essays provoke an intellectual frisson rarely elicited by modern climbing literature. —Matt Samet