Embodiment on trial

a phenomenological investigation

Maxine Sheets-Johnstone

pp. 23-39

This paper considers dimensions of animate life that are readily "embodied" by phenomenologists and by other philosophy and science researchers as well. The paper demonstrates how the practice of "embodying" short-circuits veritable phenomenological accounts of experience through a neglect of attention to Husserl's basic conception of, and consistent concern with, animate organism. The paper specifies how in doing so, the practice muddies a clear distinction between the body "I have' and the body "I am', and a clear account of their lived conjunction in existential fit. In turn, the paper shows how the practice falls short of recognizing synergies of meaningful movement created by animate organisms; how it is tethered to talk of posture and sensation over kinesthesia and dynamics; and how, in general, the practice of embodying generates static rather than dynamic understandings of everyday life. The paper then critically considers how such liabilities preclude in-depth phenomenological insights into topics such as "ownership' and "agency,' and why inquiries into the nature of animate organisms require nothing less than fine-tuned attention to foundational experiences of animate life, including foundational ontogenetical experiences that undergird adult proficiencies and abilities, and hence fine-tuned attention to learning and to retaining what is learned in kinesthetic memory.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11007-014-9315-z

Full citation:

Sheets-Johnstone, M. (2015). Embodiment on trial: a phenomenological investigation. Continental Philosophy Review 48 (1), pp. 23-39.

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