According to Wittgenstein, "The human body is the best picture of the soul."
For Wittgenstein, "Certainty" is grounded in the certainty of the body and its actions.
"If you can say, Here is one hand , we'll grant you all the rest."
In what sense can I say that I have a body? Or should I say I am a body? Should I describe myself as my body experienced from the inside out? "Leib bin ich und Seele -- so redet das Kind. Und warum sollte man nicht wie die Kinder reden? Aber der Erwachte, der Wissende sagt: Leib bin ich ganz und gar, und nichts ausserdem: und Seele ist nur ein Wort für ein Etwas am Leibe." Nietzsche.
Samuel Johnson's answer to Bishop Berkeley's doubt in the reality of objects was to kick a stone.
"Bah, Thus I refute it." Having just bruised my shin as I lie down on my bed, with food and drink in hand, to start working on this section on the body, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of the subject.(see pain)
Is this is the cost of Bishop Berkeley's refutation: Did he stub his toe?
Aristotle distinguished between the body and the soul. The latter referred not only to the principle of life, but to the form of a particular living body. Thus the soul is the organization of the body. (cf. organism) Aristotle rejected the doctrine of the Pythogoreans, according to which the soul can clothe itself in different bodies. (see clothing/garment ) Instead, a particular soul is the entelechy, or formative force of a particular body, and the individuality of a particular man. Thus every particular soul requires a connection to a particular organic whole. At the same time, he upheld a division between matter and form which describes, for example, the relation between the eye and sight. When the power of sight is absent, the eye is no longer an eye in the proper sense. After taking the position that "..there seems to be no case in which the soul can act or be acted on without involving the body," Aristotle goes on to suggest that thinking is the one specific activity of the human soul which is capable of separate and independent existence from any connection to the body. (see also subject )
In Descartes' dualism, all phenomena could be explained in terms of two distinct and irreducible principles, mind and matter (res cogitans and ....), their only connection being the intervention of God. But for Julien Offray de la Mettrie, if "all the faculties of the soul depend to such a degree on the proper organization of the brain and the whole body, that apparently they are but this organization itself, the soul is clearly an enlightened machine." De la Mettrie rejected Descartes' dualism of mind and matter by accepting Descartes' identification of animals and machines, but he denied any fundamental difference between animals and men. In L'homme machine (1748), La Mettrie did not merely extend Cartesian mechanistic analysis to the human mind, but reconstructed the very idea of matter. According to La Mettrie, matter harbored active properties of motion and sensation, which were expressed when it became organized in living beings. This new conception of matter allowed La Mettrie to refer intricate and complex behaviors to a medium plastic enough to produce them, but to still maintain the ideal of simple, natural principles of explanation.
For Henri Bergson: "Our body is nothing but that part of our representation which is ever being born again, the part always present, or rather that which, at each moment, is just past. (p.151) The body is a special image, which persists in the midst of the others, and constitutes at every moment, a transversal section of the universal becoming. (Matter and Memory, p.151) "It is then the place of passage of the movements received and thrown back, a hyphen , a connecting link between the things which act upon me and the things upon which I act." (see Bergson's distinction between habit and memory)For Bergson, there is only one image that I know from within by affections, rather than from without, by perceptions: it is my body. According to Bergson, "My body...is a center of actions; it cannot give birth to a representation. It is a priveleged image, which occupies the center: the "office" of the images, the world of consiousness. For Bergson, the nervous system, interposed between the objects which affect my body and those which I can influence, is a mere conductor, transmitting, sending back or inhibiting movement (p.45) The distinction between my body and other bodies is the source of the notion of interior and exterior.
Alfred North Whitehead describes his theory of the organic conception of nature as based on "self-knowledge of our bodily event." This total bodily event is on the same level as all other events, except for an unusual complexity and stability of inherent pattern. (Science and the Modern World, p. 73)
Within the philosophical tradition, the body is subordinate to the mind, just as the feminine as subordinate to the masculine. The body has thus become a site for feminist critique.. One of the principal themes of the theorization of the body is its relation to the subject. The body, in Elizabeth Grosz' words, is the "stuff" of subjectivity. The body is "mine", and a politics of the body seems primarily an assertion of the link between our Bodies and our Selves . For contemporary feminists, such as Rosi Braidotti and Elizabeth Grosz, the body is neither a biological nor a sociological category, but rather a point of overlap between physical, symbolic, and material conditions. They deny a separate existence of either the "real", material body, on the one hand, or its various cultural and historical representations on the other. For feminism, there is no (essential) body as such; there are only bodies. How bodies are conceived seems to be based largely on prevailing social conceptions of the relations between the sexes. Differences of bodies frame the discourses about race and gender. Feminism is defined as "the political practice of sexual difference." (Rosi Braidotti)
Another set of feminist writers, like Luce Iragaray, Judith Butler, and Jane Gallop, are concerned with the lived body, the "body politic." They are wary of the sex / gender opposition because it participates in dualisms such as biology /social construction, between the "real" precultural body and its ideological representations. The "lived body" is a link to the phenomenological tradition and the account of a world-body-as-me relation. For Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the body was primary because of its natural complicity with the material world. Thus, "The perceiving mind is an incarnated body." It is "that by which there are objects." (see proprioceptive) (see also body image ) "The theory of the body is already a theory of perception." (Phenomenology of Perception, p.203) "To seek the essence of perception is to declare that perception is, not presumed true, but defined as access to truth."(ppx,xvi) However, for Merleau-Ponty the body, while remaining concrete and material, is not a "universal" foundation of knowledge, although it is the means of access to the world. Nonetheless, the world can be both ambiguous and polymorphic, and although Merleau did not live to develop the idea, he noted that perception itself relates to cultural contexts and can exhibit a polymorphic quality.
In his study of posture, John Schumacher quotes James Gibson: "The optical information to specify the self, including the head, body, arms, and hands, accompanies the optical information to specify the environment. The two sources of information coexist. The one could not exist without the other. When a man sees the world, he sees his nose at the same time; or rather, the world and his nose are both specified and his awareness can shift....The supposedly separate realms of the subjective and objective are actually only poles of attention." (The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, p 116) For Shumacher the conditions for modern inquiry arise when the world and the nose stand apart, the former constituting the far side, and the latter constituting the near side. (pp76-77) To this order of visuality, he opposes an order of sensuality, of "natural movement." This order of sensuality is an order of "co-making", based on trust and touch, that creates consensus between. (see haptic / optic )
Aestheticians who integrated ideas of empathy in the experience of art focussed on experiences mediated by the organization of the body. For example, Heinrich Wolfflin related proportions to the rate of breathing. For him, the Greek Doric temple, with its harmony of upward and downward forces, is experienced as a broad and slow-measured breathing. With the Ionic, there is already a quicker movement, while the narrow proportions of Gothic architecture produce the impression of an almost breathless and hurried upward striving. ("Prologomena to a Psychology of Architecture, pp169-170) For Wolfflin, harmony is "the vital and animated unity of a clearly distinguished multiplicity." It is best defined in morphology by the concept of the organism -- a unified community in which all parts work together for a single purpose (unity)."
Rituals and technologies are links between bodies and societies. Ceremonies of naming and tonsure, scarification and segregation, circumcision and deprivation are complex social techniques for the inscription of locality into bodies. (see incorporating practices ) For André Leroi-Gourhan, the process of technological development is an exteriorization of the functions of the body, a transference from the physical body, which changes only on the scale of geological time, to a rapidly evolving social body. Gourhan describes gesture as the manual creation of an extracorporeal material culture, with its "operational sequences." He traces the development of the tool in relation to the hand and to corresponding developments in the nervous system that enable the construction of a social memory. (cf. prosthesis) For Paul Virilio, The now immaterial environment is connected to the "terminal" body of men and women with interactive prostheses who become the virtual equivalent of the well-equipped invalid. (see embodiment as a human-technological relationship)
It was Michel Foucault who most radically explored the ambiguities and polymorphisms of a "body" which is both material and cultural. Foucault traced a genealogy of the body transformed by technologies and subject to the effects of a rhetoric of technical reason. In Discipline and Punish, he documented the shift in the techniques of punishment away from the body , "from an art of unbearable sensations" to "an economy of suspended rights." For Foucault, it is not just an issue of dehumanization (as Heidegger saw it) but the transformation of the body and of subjectivities. (cf. punishment as "political technology" whose history is a genealogy) (see also biopower)
In the " nomadic thought" of Deleuze and Guattari, the "body" is a discontinuous and non-totalized series of processes, organs, flows, energies, corporeal substances and incorporeal events, intensities and durations. The body is not an essence, let alone a biological substance. It is a play of forces, a surface of intensities: pure simulacra without originals. "We know nothing about a body until we know what it can do, in other words, what its affects are, how they can or cannot enter into composition with other affects, with the affects of another body..." (1000 plateaux, p. 257)
Should we think of these surfaces of intensities as erotogenic zones? Central to Freud's developmental account of terms of sexual aim is the concept of an erotogenic zone of the body. An erotogenic zone comes to be established when the pleasure associated with a somatic function (of mouth or anus, for example) becomes the basis for another instinct, on to which an object is "soldered" as a later accretion. (the analytic term for this process is Ahnlehnung or anaclitic) According to Jean Laplanche, " Sexuality in its entirety is the slight deviation, the clinamen from the function. It is the clinamen insofar as the latter results in an autoerotic internalization." (p.22)
In the "weird science" section of this document some very contradictory attitudes towards the body are at work. In A-life, for example, a bias against the body seems to underly the study of life as a set of formal relations. It is precisely its dematerialization, the dissociation of life from the "meat machine" which enables the cooncept of A-life and receives some of its most extreme formulations in Hans Moravec's Mind Children. Moravec's dream of downloading the information stored in the human brain and transferring it into computers celebrates the possiblity of leaving the human body behind. (Moravec, Hans: Mind Children, The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1988.) But one man's dream is another woman's nightmare: In "The Seductions of Cyberspace", N. Katherine Hayles sees this fantasy of leaving the body behind and reconstituting it as a a technical object under human control as both a desire for perfect knowledge and total power and at the same time as a way of escape. "In some contexts, leaving the body behind equates to the belief that if the problems won't go away from us, perhaps we can go away from the problems" (p. 163) For Hayles, this is a masculinist desire. (see virtuality)
In the practice of designing robots, however, the bottom up approach has also resulted in the reembodiment of intelligence, in the legs of Rodney Brooks' cockroach-like mobots for example.
For the relation of consciousness to the body is see mind/brain.
Michel Serres: "My body (I cannot help it) is not plunged into a single, specified space. It works in Euclidean space, but it only works there. It sees in a projective space; it touches, caresses, and feels in a topological space; it suffers in another; hears and communicates in a third; and so forth, as far as one wishes to go. Euclidean space was chosen in our work-oriented cultures because it is the space of work -- of the mason, the surveyor, or the architect...My body lives in as many spaces as the society, the group, or the collectivity have formed: the Euclidean house, the street and its network, the open and closed garden...Consequently my body is not plunged into one space but into the intersection or the junctions of this multiplicity." (Hermes, pp 44-45) see psycho-sexual space.
For the artist Hans Bellmer desire is a multiplier of objects. The body becomes an anagram, producing the reciprocal pleasure of the parts. He is, in Alain Jouffroy's words the "téchnicien de l'impossible" who explored the what Bellmer called the "physical unconscious" -- the body's underlying awareness of itself. Through the perceptual inversions of the masculine and the feminine along the body's "axis of reversibility," Bellmer explored the unconscious rebellion that exists in every individual, a rebellion also acted out by the Marquis de Sade in La Philosophie dans le Boudoir "La force du surréalisme, c'est d'avoir inscrit dans ses prémisses que l'art, comme la révolution, est une violence, un rapt et une métamorphose douloureuse du corps" Surréalisme et Sexualité, p. 67