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Phusiopoiesis and Ancient Arts of Training

This article examines connections between ancient training of the mind and body to delineate a concept of phusiopoiesis, the production of one’s nature. The category of nature (phusis) for the presocratics and sophists operates not as an essential and unchangeable state, but rather as a malleable disposition, one that can be altered through a process of production (poiesis). Such a configuration of phusis in pre-Socratic fragments, Hippocratic treatises, and philosophical discussions of the body, medicine, and training holds implications for ancient training practices, most especially challenging assumptions about the category of natural talent thought to be necessary for success as a rhetor or athlete. This bodily transformation entails at least three dynamics of phusiopoietic training: friendship, masochism, and erotics.

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