How the body in action shapes the self

Journal of Consciousness Studies 18 (7-8):117-143 (2011)
In the present paper we address the issue of the role of the body in shaping our basic self-awareness. It is generally taken for granted that basic bodily self-awareness has primarily to do with proprioception. Here we challenge this assumption by arguing from both a phenomenological and a neurophysiological point of view that our body is primarily given to us as a manifold of action possibilities that cannot be reduced to any form of proprioceptive awareness. By discussing the notion of affordance and the spatiality of the body we show that both have to be construed in terms of the varying range of our power for action. Finally, we posit that the motor roots of our bodily self-awareness shed new light on both the common ground for and the distinguishing criterium between self and other. The properties of the mirror mechanism indicate that the same action possibilities constituting our bodily self also allow us to make sense of other bodily selves inasmuch as their action possibilities can be mapped onto our own ones. Our proposal may pave the way towards a general deconstruction of the different layers at the core of our full-fledged sense of self and others.
Keywords Bodily Self  Mirro Mechanism  Motor Cognition
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