• NOS4A2
    1.1k
    When we think of mind, knowledge, consciousness, logic, language, identity, we are in some way thinking of topics related to the human body. Language, mathematics, science, politics, ethics are performed and applied by human bodies, while mind and consciousness and identity are ideas of which the human body is the object.

    I don’t think the body holds much value in philosophy, unless it is repudiated or doubted in favor of dualism, consciousness or the transmigration of souls. But it seems to me prudent to argue in defence of the human body, not only because the totality of artifacts in the universe were born in a body, but also because if we value the human body we necessarily value each other.

    Is anyone aware of any philosophy of the body?
  • Pfhorrest
    159
    Inasmuch as cognitive science overlaps with philosophy of mind, there are a number of topics in that field concerning embodiment.

    I'm not really aware of a field of philosophy specifically about the body, though. Mostly just mind-body relations, not all of which are about repudiation or doubt; plenty of philosophers emphasize the unity of mind and body.
  • Tzeentch
    415
    Yes, if you are interested in esoteric philosophy.
  • StreetlightX
    4.2k
    There is so much out there about the body if you're willing to look for it! The most obvious place to look is Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception, which gives primacy to the body in a way that we still have yet to appreciate. If you're interested in sociological aspects of the body - which any good philosopher ought to be - Chris Shilling's The Body and Social Theory is a classic that covers some of the most important theorizing on the body in contemporary research (I just saw that he also recently wrote one of those 'Very Short Introduction' guides to the body, which might be a useful first foray into theories of the body).

    The body also figures massively in feminist, disability, and race studies, many of which, by bringing out the specificity of gendered, racialized, and disabled bodies, aim to contest the implicit universality of alot of prior philosophical work (see, as exemplary instances of each: Iris Marion Young - Throwing Like a Girl; Franz Fanon - Black Skin, White Masks; Tom Shakespeare - Disability Rights and Wrongs).

    And of course the body plays a massive role in understandings of cognition more generally (as pointed out by @Pfhorrest), where you can look to works like George Lakoff and Mark Johnston's Philosophy in the Flesh, Evan Thompson's Mind In Life, or one of my favourites, Maxine Sheets-Johnston's The Primacy of Movement. Alot of contemporary Spinozist's have also placed a great deal of focus on the body and it's role in thinking ethics - an example here being something like Heidi Ravven's The Self Beyond Itself.

    This is all just a tiny, tiny snippet of philosophical work that focuses on the body, and there's heaps to look into if you're interested.
  • NOS4A2
    1.1k


    Thanks for the primer. I’ve read Philosophy in the Flesh and Metaphors We live By, by Lakoff. I am very interested in the others you mentioned. I’ll take a look, thanks again.
  • NOS4A2
    1.1k


    I'm not really aware of a field of philosophy specifically about the body, though. Mostly just mind-body relations, not all of which are about repudiation or doubt; plenty of philosophers emphasize the unity of mind and body.

    I’ve read much of embodied cognition. Thanks for your thoughts.
  • petrichor
    226


    Some of Alva Noë's work is pretty interesting and deals largely with consciousness as something that involves the body and the environment in ways traditionally poorly appreciated. I recommend his Out of Our Heads. He has been influenced by Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger, among others, probably Varela.

    I am quite interested in how we experience the world more than we realize as modes of bodily access or as projections of possibilities for future bodily action. As a rock climber, this has become very apparent to me in how I "read" or in fact see a cliff face and its features as ways of orienting my body and its mass and momentum in relation to further features. I see things in a cliff face that a non-climber simply doesn't see, especially ways of gaining purchase by various kinds of oppositions of pressure. I see my body up there. I see my center of gravity in relation to the holds. What it is for the features to be what they are to me is how my body can fit and navigate them under the pull of gravity using Newton's laws (bodily-intuitively understood). And the joy of climbing largely concerns the exercise of a kind of body-environment intelligence, grace and efficiency being absolutely essential.

    When we see a doorknob, implicit in our understanding of it is our possibility of turning it with a hand to open the door. We see it as something that fits the hand. We see the doorway as a way through for our body. I think this goes deeper and has to do even with the most basic features of the world as we experience it, like the phenomenology of space and its contents.

    I find it interesting as well how much our language reflects bodily relations to things. This is a rich field for exploration. We understand many things (maybe most?) in analogy to basic body-environment relations. Mull over such ideas as freedom.


    The body shows up quite a bit in Foucalt's Discipline and Punish.

    I'd like to see more done concerning the role of our bodies in identity and social interaction. We encounter the world as bodies not only in such things as forest paths, but also the social world. The bodily aspect of it is huge. Consider violence and its ever-present possibility and how this shapes how we interact and understand interaction.

    Much of what goes on in the world is really a kind of processing of bodily encounter and all the possibilities it entails.

    Traditional philosophy is maybe too stuck in the head and even consciously tries to transcend the body altogether. But most of our concepts, if analyzed in the right way, might reveal themselves as being of the body and its relation to its world.
  • NOS4A2
    1.1k


    Good thinking.

    Yes, I love the embodied idea of language and mind. Simple ideas like “inside” and “outside”, “up” and “down”, would be impossible if we were not in some way a finite, human body, situated in the world.

    I believe if there were more philosophies that convinced us to value the human body (not only our own but each human body) as an original, a one-of-kind, it has the potential to become sacred, holy, something to revere and protect. To oppress it would be awful.
  • StreetlightX
    4.2k
    "To the despisers of the body will I speak my word. Not so that they may learn or teach differently but simply so that they may say farewell to their own bodies— and thus fall silent. "I am a body and a soul"— thus speaks a child. And why should one not speak like children? But the awakened, the enlightened man says: "I am only body and nothing more; and soul is merely a word for something in the body." The body is a great intelligence, a multiplicity with one sense, a war and a peace, a flock and a shepherd.

    ...Even in your folly and despising, you despisers of the body, you serve your Self. I say to you: your Self wants to die and turns away from life. No longer is it capable of doing that which it desires the most— to create beyond itself. That is what it desires the most; that is its entire passion. But now it has become too late for that— so your Self wishes to die, you despisers of the body. Your Self wishes to die, and therefore you have become despisers of the body! For you are no longer able to create beyond yourselves. And that is why you now angry with life and with the earth. There is an unconcious envy lurking beneath the grimaces of your despite. I will not walk your path, you despisers of the body! You are no bridges for me to the Superman! — Thus spoke Zarathustra."

    - Nietzsche, "The Despisers of the Body", TSZ.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    I would mention EMBODIMENT by James B. Nelson, which is a book about the theology of being flesh and blood. Since its publication in 1978, we might have made some progress in accepting the enormous significance of being physical beings. It may seem obvious that we are creatures of flesh and blood--meat--but there is a strong tendency (coming out of Christian theology among other sources) to view the really important aspect of our humanity as non physical--spirit, soul, psyche, all that.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    As a rock climber, this has become very apparent to me in how I "read" or in fact see a cliff face and its features as ways of orienting my body and its mass and momentum in relation to further features. I see things in a cliff face that a non-climber simply doesn't see, especially ways of gaining purchase by various kinds of oppositions of pressure. I see my body up there. I see my center of gravity in relation to the holds. What it is for the features to be what they are to me is how my body can fit and navigate them under the pull of gravity using Newton's laws (bodily-intuitively understood).petrichor

    This is an excellent example of what embodiment means -- a physical body relating to the physical world in actions.

    While rock climbing is not something I do -- and something I won't do -- the bad experiences in attempting to climb rocks were a vivid demonstration of how I (body) do not relate well to basic physical facts, like height, weight, gravity, and ledges that were not exactly where I thought they were. It isn't that I am risk averse -- I have taken plenty of risks in urban settings, where I am comfortably embodied.

    Per @StreetlightX Nietzsche's quote, overcoming despising the body has been a long project for me.
  • NOS4A2
    1.1k


    I would mention EMBODIMENT by James B. Nelson, which is a book about the theology of being flesh and blood. Since its publication in 1978, we might have made some progress in accepting the enormous significance of being physical beings. It may seem obvious that we are creatures of flesh and blood--meat--but there is a strong tendency (coming out of Christian theology among other sources) to view the really important aspect of our humanity as non physical--spirit, soul, psyche, all that.

    Thanks, I’ll check it out.

    The body seems to me be the obvious—almost too obvious—heuristic principle of many questions regarding bodily phenomena, ie, consciousness, mind, life after death, language, etc. It’s just odd how little was spoken about it.

    Someone mentioned Nietzsche earlier, and I think he was particularity defensive of the body, which is odd knowing of his maladies,

    “It is decisive for the lot of a people and of humanity that culture should begin in the right place not in the “soul” (as was the fateful superstition of the priests and half-priests): the right place is the body, the gesture, the diet, physiology; the rest follow from that. Therefore the Greeks remain the first cultural event in history: they knew, they did, what was needed; and Christianity, which despised the body, has been the greatest misfortune of humanity so far.”

    - Twilight of the Idols.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.3k
    Is anyone aware of any philosophy of the body?NOS4A2

    Mind is a bodily process - no different than your breathing or digesting is. Philosophy of mind would fall under the category of philosophy of body, which is really a scientific, not a philosophical, matter.

    As a matter of fact, philosophy is a science.
  • NOS4A2
    1.1k


    Mind is a bodily process - no different than your breathing or digesting is. Philosophy of mind would fall under the category of philosophy of body, which is really a scientific, not a philosophical, matter.

    As a matter of fact, philosophy is a science.

    Philosophy of mind and neuroscience tends to do away with the body, focussing instead on abstracted parts of the body, ie. brains and nervous systems, as if mind or consciousness ends and begins where the brain and nervous system does. This seems like a sort of Cartesian materialism, or materialist dualism.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.3k
    Philosophy of mind and neuroscience tends to do away with the body, focussing instead on abstracted parts of the body, ie. brains and nervous systems,NOS4A2
    This is a contradiction.

    as if mind or consciousness ends and begins where the brain and nervous system does. This seems like a sort of Cartesian materialism, or materialist dualism.NOS4A2
    But that was my point - that mind is a process. I never mentioned the incoherent dichotomy of materialism/idealism, physical/mental, etc. That would indeed be dualism. I am proposing a monistic view of the body and mind - a scientific view.
  • NOS4A2
    1.1k


    This is a contradiction.

    True, but what I meant was the rest of the body, ie, not the brain. A body is more than a brain and nervous system.

    But that was my point - that mind is a process. I never mentioned the incoherent dichotomy of materialism/idealism, physical/mental, etc. That would indeed be dualism. I am proposing a monistic view of the body and mind - a scientific view.

    I am speaking about the idea that mind or consciousness is localized in the brain, rather than extending throughout the entirety of the organism.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartesian_materialism
  • Harry Hindu
    2.3k
    True, but what I meant was the rest of the body, ie, not the brain. A body is more than a brain and nervous system.NOS4A2
    But the brain is part of the body, so in studying the brain, you are studying the body.

    I am not aware that neuroscience is at odds with biology or the theory of natural selection. I would be interested in seeing the source you have for that.

    The thing i that neuroscience and biology shouldn't be at odds, just as philosophy and science shouldn't be at odds. We should be integrating our knowledge from all domains of investigation into a consistent whole.

    I am speaking about the idea that mind or consciousness is localized in the brain, rather than extending throughout the entirety of the organism.NOS4A2
    I feel that it is localized in the nervous system, not just the brain. The nervous system runs through the whole body. I feel the extended aspect of my mind when I focus on the feelings in my extremities. When I stub my toe, I feel it in my toe, not my brain.
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