The Mystery of the Mirror

In Jason Holt (ed.), The Philosophy of Leonard Cohen: Various Positions. Open Court. pp. 101-112 (2014)
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Leonard Cohen’s celebrated song “Suzanne” exhibits a certain conception of self-awareness and intersubjectivity that is embraced by phenomenologists and some psychologists. A key element of this conception is that we have pre-reflective self-awareness, including and especially bodily self-awareness. We are tacitly and pre-reflectively aware of ourselves in experience. A second, related element concerns reflective functioning. Reflective functioning is the ability to appreciate oneself and others as being “minded,” that is to say, as having beliefs, desires, and emotions with intentional content. Reflective functioning develops in the context of social relations. In particular, it is part of a maturational process that is activated in the context of parent-child relationships in which the adult “mirrors” the developing child’s experiences and feelings. In this essay, I consider how pre-reflective bodily awareness and reflective functioning, in combination with an appreciation of the epistemic value of love, can help us to comprehend what it is to “touch a perfect body with a mind.” I also explain why, even if we come to fully understand the workings of reflective functioning, the mirror will retain its mystery.



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Lisa Warenski
University of Connecticut

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