Monday, July 8, 2013

I and the Body

Which is the more correct picture?

I have a body.
I am a body.

It seems obvious to me that saying "I have a body" creates too inadequate a picture. I have a car, and if you were to take a sledgehammer to it that would make it terribly difficult for me to get to work tomorrow, but my inner life would remain the same. If you took a sledgehammer to my body, however, you might change the fundamental nature world. Right now I experience the world, in part, through the sense of touch in my right hand; if you were to smash my right hand and destroy the nerve endings I would now have a world void of sensations as they appear to the sensitive right hand. Let alone the possibility that you could do damage to my brain - possibly producing someone who experiences anger at different rates, is unable to empathize with the feelings of others, or even someone who can no longer make decisions.

My body is my world. Therefore it appears correct to say "I am a body."

Yet, this seems inadequate to me as well. The inadequacy is different in this case, though. In the former case, the inadequacy was so great that I would imagine anyone holding such a picture to be constantly wracked by doubt as the world regularly presented him with phenomena that could not fit comfortably with the picture. In this case I think one could live life according to this picture, but it would have an intuitive wrongness to it. One would live according to this picture only if one had a prior commitment: presumably materialism.

The intuitive wrongness lies in the fact that the motions of my own body are experienced differently than the motions of another body. If someone runs I see their legs lift, I hear their pants rub together, if I were close and creepy enough I would smell sweat, and if I placed my hand on their thigh I would feel the muscle tighten under their skin. If I run, I might have these same experiences, but I would have the sensation of muscles reluctant to move and the shortness of breath that comes with exertion. I might observe this in the other runner, but I experience it in myself.

It may be that the motions of my body and the motions of the other body are identical. Yet I experience mine and I observe theirs. The mere motions of my body are inadequate, there is something emergent in the relation between I and Body. The subjective. The experience. The perception.

One can live without regarding perception as something otherworldly. This does not mean that it is not still inadequate when compared to how we really experience the world.

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