An empirical-phenomenological critique of the social construction of infancy

Human Studies 19 (1):1 - 16 (1996)
Abstract
Developmental and clinical psychological findings on infancy over the past twenty years and more refute in striking ways both Piaget's and Lacan's negative characterizations of infants. Piaget's thesis is that the infant has an undifferentiated sense of self; Lacan's thesis is that the infant is no more than a fragmented piece of goods — a corps morcelé. Through an examination of recent and notable analyses of infancy by infant psychiatrist Daniel Stern, this paper highlights important features within the radically different accounts. In particular, it examines Stern's account of self-agency —a facet of the core self. In doing so, the paper brings to light corporeal matters of fact and shows :how recent developmental-clinical data on infants accord with facets of bodily life described by Husserl. The paper contrasts these corporeal matters of fact and facets of bodily life with Piaget's and Lacan's notion of an infant as incompetent and deficient. On the basis of its empirical-phenomenological findings, the paper underscores the need to recognize the richness of nonverbal life and to give movement and the tactile-kinesthetic body their conceptual due.
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