Bodily Subjectivity and the Mind-Body Problem

Philosophia Christi 15 (1):149-172 (2013)
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Abstract

In this essay I argue that the traditional mind-body problem, which seems intractable in its own terms, could be helpfully reconfigured by drawing on insights from the Phenomenological tradition concerning the “body-subject” or “lived body.” Rather than attempting to explain how consciousness relates to the body as understood by the natural sciences, the Phenomenologists concentrate on elucidating the first-person sense that we have of our own bodies in ordinary, prescientific existence. After surveying the traditional mind-body problem in section 1, I introduce the Phenomenological account of embodied subjectivity in section 2. In the remainder of the essay I discuss two important issues raised by this account. First, in section 3, I consider how we can relate our everyday sense of ourselves as embodied subjects to the scientific understanding of the human body—what we might call the “body-body problem.” I argue that, in any case, the latter understanding cannot coherently be supposed to undermine or debunk the former. Secondly, in section 4, I consider whether the Phenomenological stress on the bodily nature of subjectivity allows any room for the notion of disembodied existence.

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Anthony Rudd
St. Olaf College

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