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43 4 Corporeal Experience Between Selfhood and Otherness Corporeality and alienness are intimately connected. Alienness presents itself in the flesh, as absence in flesh and bone (absence en chair et en os) in the formulation of Sartre, which alludes to Husserl’s presence in the flesh [leibhaftige Gegenwart] of the perceived object. In turn, a corporeal being is never entirely present to itself. The enigma of alienness is thus exacerbated in the enigma of the body, so that we again get entangled in the Cartesian and post-Cartesian adventures of modernity. 1. The Enigma of the Body The destiny of the modern era is marked deeply by the fact that the mathematization of nature and the supremacy of the ego arise together and reinforce each other. In this simultaneity, everything that pertains to our bodily existence is twice overshadowed, once by the subject’s autonomy and again by nature’s measure. There is no better evidence for this process than Descartes’ thought. Here it is the thinking ego that relates to things. In some of these things I recognize myself as a res cogitans. Some others appear as Others who think as I do, but most of them are merely physical examples of res extensa. But there remains the problem of justifying that a certain physical body stands out as my own body (corpus meum), proving there are other bodies animated by other minds. It is the irony of history that our body is simultaneously covered and discovered. Our bodies appear split off from ourselves, although they also belong to us to a certain extent, especially when they make us suffer. Cartesian dualism is undermined by a first revision, which brings in sense experience and linguistic expressions. Admittedly it is indeed I who refers to things, to myself, and to others, but I do so only by means of my body, which is constantly intervening. No manipulation is possible without me using my hands, no communication can occur without my mouth and ears, there is no feeling without blood pressure and heartbeat and so on. But this process of concretization stops halfway. It is 44 C H A P T E R 4 still presupposed that there is somebody or something that is incorporated and embodied without itself being a body through and through. Hence, there is a way out. So in the end, owing to the all-pervasive Spirit, why should I be prohibited from returning to myself and simultaneously reaching the totality of beings by internalizing what initially belonged to the exteriority of the body? In this way, I start from my limited self, and I end with an all-encompassing whole. It is not easy to say who departs further from the truth of the body, Descartes who takes the dualistic position, insisting on a gap between mind and body, or Hegel who, despite all dissipation, takes the monistic position, integrating the body into the totality of Spirit. Traces of these old debates reverberate today even in the domain of the human and life sciences. On the one hand, even neurophysiology insists on the distinction between first- and third-person perspectives. However, the utility of this distinction at the methodological and experimental levels notwithstanding, the question remains open as to how to determine the ominous X that is supposed to appear under the two different perspectives. On the other hand, in itself, every kind of monism, whether physical or biological, finds trouble when confronted with beings that are not only spoken about or seen by us, but for their own part also speak to us and look at us. However, there is another kind of revision which reaches deeper than this Cartesian or semi-Cartesian trouble. Is it not rather that in a certain sense I am my body and you are your body, as some phenomenologists claim? Do I only have pains or perceptions as if I were the owner of my experience? If we assume, as Helmuth Plessner does, that being-a-body and having-a-body are closely connected, we are faced with a difference that pertains to the sphere of our body, constituting its very being rather than undermining it. Our bodily experience would then by far exceed the experience of the body. The experience of our body would presuppose the corporeality of experience similar to the way our experience of time presupposes the temporality of experience, as conceived by Husserl. Nietzsche, a forerunner of the phenomenology of the body, extolled the body...


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