These processes involve the kind of motor resonance often described in the mirror neuron literature; but Merleau-Ponty emphasizes the dynamic interchange that one finds in the affective attunement that occurs between interacting agents. The best way to see the details of this kind of embodied intersubjectivity is by looking at developmental studies. The interaction theory of social cognition draws on the work of the phenomenologists, but also the developmental studies of primary and secondary intersubjectivity Trevarthen, ; also see Rochat, ; Hobson, ; Reddy, Primary intersubjectivity involves the sensory—motor capacities that shape our interactions with others from the very beginning.
Just after birth, for example, infants are capable of interacting with others, as evidenced in experiments on neonatal imitation Meltzoff and Moore, Throughout the first year of life, infants develop an enactive perceptual access to the emotional and intentional states of others. At 2 months, for example, second-person interaction with others is evidenced by the timing of their movements and emotional responses.
Further evidence for this is provided by still face experiments Tronick et al. The concept of secondary intersubjectivity Trevarthen and Hubley, is associated with the advent of joint attention during the first year. Infants start to notice how others pragmatically engage with the world and they begin to co-constitute the meaning of the world through interactions with others in joint actions. Pragmatic and social contexts start to matter and they enter into situations of participatory sense-making De Jaegher and Di Paolo, The important point made by interaction theory is that both primary and secondary intersubjectivity are not only early developing, characterizing our existence from infancy, but they remain essential aspects of our continued adult existence with others.
Moreover, in processes of primary intersubjectivity we develop and continue to sustain a relational sense of self. That is, a sense of self that is intricately coupled to others. Neisser called this the interpersonal aspect of the self. We are, as Guenther puts it, relationally constituted. All of these intersubjective dimensions are reflected later in the way we start to form our self-narratives, and our own narrative self. These developmental facts suggest the importance of the role played by narratives in our understanding of self and others — and they continue to be important throughout our adult life.
Behavioral analyses of social interactions in joint actions and shared activities, in working together, in communicative practices, and so on, show that adult agents unconsciously coordinate their movements, gestures, and speech acts Kendon, ; Issartel et al. In communicative practices we coordinate our perception—action sequences; our movements and gestures are coupled with changes in velocity, direction and intonation in the movements, gestures and utterances of the other speaker.
Furthermore, the social interaction which characterizes primary and secondary intersubjectivity goes beyond each participant; it results in something the creation of meaning that goes beyond what each individual qua individual can bring to the process De Jaegher et al. One can think of dance or the tango as a metaphor for the kind of dynamic production of meaning involved in interaction.
In the tango something dynamic is created that neither individual could create alone. These interactive practices shape who we are; our identities; our meaningful experiences of the world; and what we take to be valuable or not so valuable. Hobson summarizes the conditions in these orphanages:.
Children from these orphanages tended to lack the reciprocal to and fro of social exchange, they showed limited social awareness and empathy, they found it difficult to maintain social interaction, and they would rarely turn to their adoptive parents for security and comfort Hobson, Studies by Rutter et al. A variety of studies found severe problems with social relationships and communication involving.
Rutter et al. Hobson is less tentative: the circumstances of these institutions led to a form of induced autism. By looking at studies of naturally occurring autism we can be more specific about the embodied aspects involved in generating social deficits. There is extensive evidence to suggest that autism involves problems with basic sensory—motor processes that support primary intersubjectivity.
Long-standing research based on the analysis of videos of infants younger than 1 year and later diagnosed with autism shows asymmetries or unusual sequencing in crawling and walking, as well as problems and delayed development in lying, righting, sitting Teitelbaum et al. Recent studies by Elizabeth Torres et al. From an early age, this feedback supports volitional control and fluid, flexible transitions between intentional and spontaneous behaviors.
Torres shows that across the entire autistic spectrum there is a disruption in the maturation of this form of proprioception, accompanied by behavioral variability in motor control. In clear contrast to typically developing individuals, the normalized peak micro-movement velocity and noise-to-signal ratios of all participants with ASD, including adolescents 14—16 years old and young adults 18—25 years old , across different ages and across verbal or non-verbal status remained in the region corresponding to younger typically developing children.
In the motor system, noise overpowers signal in ASD. Proprioceptive input was random unpredictable , noisy unreliable , and non-diversified, and autistic subjects had difficulty distinguishing goal-directed from goal-less motions in most tasks Torres et al. To be clear, my appeal to the data on motor problems in ASD is not meant to suggest an equivalency between individuals with ASD and those that have a form of induced or quasi-autism. Rather, the point is simply that some of the same motor difficulties that correlate with problems in social or intersubjective experience can be found in both groups.
Furthermore, both of these groups are, or come to be, embedded in socially rich environments, and this clearly differentiates them from prisoners in solitary confinement who may develop similar motor problems see below. In contrast, children who show signs of quasi-autism often improve once they are introduced into social and caring environments; likewise, some individuals with ASD who engage in social interactions improve their social performance and achieve a high level of intersubjective activity.
Edmund Husserl (1859—1938)
The important point, in the context of this paper, is that motor problems that can undermine social interaction can be induced by social and physical privation. Prisoners who are subjected to solitary confinement show symptoms and describe a phenomenology that is not equivalent to either autism or induced autism, but reflect similar motor problems, and often times more extensive and serious disruptions of experience.
There is a long list of experiences associated with solitary confinement: anxiety, fatigue, confusion, paranoia, depression, hallucinations, headaches, insomnia, trembling, apathy, stomach and muscle pains, oversensitivity to stimuli, feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, withdrawal, isolation, rage, anger, and aggression, difficulty in concentrating, dizziness, distortion of the sense of time, severe boredom, and impaired memory Smith, He documents high rates of mental illness resulting from solitary confinement, starting in the nineteenth century.
Hearing about new practices of solitary confinement in American prisons, delegates from Europe came to learn about it. One prisoner reported the following experience:. I went to a standstill psychologically once — lapse of memory. Melting: Everything in the cell starts moving; everything gets darker, you feel you are losing your vision Grassian, , Memory is going. You feel you are losing something you might not get back. A systematic review of the phenomenology of solitary confinement reveals symptoms that involve serious bodily and motor problems, derealization, and self-dissolution or depersonalization.
The observed symptoms do seem similar: poverty of eye-to-eye gaze and gestures in social exchanges; limited language and to-and-fro conversation; a variety of sensory-motor problems.
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One also finds, correlatively, reports from prisoners in solitary confinement reflecting a derealization — undermining their relation to the world. Thus, the experience of object boundaries becomes uncertain. It becomes difficult to tell what is real and what is only my imagination playing tricks on me…. Guenther, , p. As Guenther suggests, in solitary confinement the transcendental intersubjective basis of the experience of the world as real and objective is structurally undermined , p.
It completely closes down the possibility of secondary intersubjectivity and therefore of participatory sense making, undermining the capacity to sustain meaning. These problems with derealization, and with sensory-motor processes, correlate with depersonalization and the dissolution of the self. It is important, however, to specify precisely what aspects of self are at stake in such a statement.
Guenther , p. For this to be possible, there must be more to selfhood than individuality …. Such a proposal reflects a traditional concept of self as an isolated individual substance or soul that benefits from introspection. If, in contrast, the self is relational, then solitary confinement, by undermining intersubjective relationality, leads to a destruction of the self. Stripping away the possibility of primary intersubjectivity — leading to the experience of depersonalization — goes to the very basic level of the minimal embodied self.
It also affects the narrative self. Self-narrative depends on having something to narrate, and having someone to whom to narrate.
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In addition, self-narrative practices require four distinct capacities Gallagher, :. This involves two aspects of temporality.
The self who narrates about past things from a present perspective A-series , for example, needs to be able to enact a serial order in the narrated events B-series. To begin to form a self-narrative one must be able to refer to oneself by using the first-person pronoun. Without the basic and basically embodied and agentive sense of differentiation between self and non-self I would not be able to refer to myself with any specification, and self-narrative would have no starting point. The minimal sense of self, closely tied to embodied existence, is what gets extended and enhanced in the self-narrative.
Both the capacity for temporal ordering and the capacity for minimal self-reference are necessary for the proper working of episodic and autobiographical memory, which involves the recollection of a past event and when it took place, and self-attribution, the specification that the past event involves the person who is remembering it. Whatever degree of unity my life has, it is the product of an interpretation of my past actions and of events in the past that happened to me, all of which constitute my life history Ricoeur, If I am unable to form or access memories of my life history, then I have nothing to interpret, nothing to narrate that would be sufficient for the continuity of self-identity.
The process of interpretation that ordinarily shapes episodic memories into a narrative structure depends on this capacity. A life event is not meaningful in itself; rather it depends on a narrative structure that lends it context and sees in it significance that goes beyond the event itself. As it turns out, all four capacities are under threat in the context of solitary confinement. Among the commonly reported symptoms that result from solitary confinement are distortions in the sense of time, which can clearly affect the capacity for temporal ordering; basic disruptions in bodily integrity, so that differentiation between self and non-self is compromised Guenther, , p.
One can understand the self as a pattern of various aspects Gallagher, , some of which we have named as minimal embodied aspects, relational aspects, and narratival aspects. On the pattern theory of self, what we call self consists of a complex pattern of a sufficient number of contributories, none of which on their own is necessary or essential to any particular self. Taken together, a certain pattern of characteristic features constitutes an individual self. Such patterns may change over time, taking on different weights and values for the individual they define, and for others, who normally have an influence on how the pattern unfolds.
Extended aspects include those things that an individual has invested in or considers his own, as James , p. Situational aspects include aspects that play some major or minor role in shaping who we are, including the kind of family structure and environment where we grew up; cultural and normative practices that define our way of living, but even the physical surroundings that offer affordances or disaffordances for action.
The evidence reviewed above suggests that solitary confinement negatively affects all of these aspects. Reports from prisoners, medical personnel, psychologists, and psychiatrists suggest serious problems with minimal embodied aspects e. A breakdown in some significant number of these aspects would be sufficient to alter, or even eradicate the pattern that constitutes self in any particular case.
The American interpretation, in contrast, focused on identifying cruel methods and specifically torturous methods of punishment see e. Georgia U. When the severity is degrading to human dignity including torture. Unlike the first principle, principles 2, 3, and 4 are easier to measure or define. Justice Brennan thus suggests that these principles need to be applied in a convergent fashion.
Brennan, , p. Without dismissing the other three principles, I want to suggest that the phenomenology of solitary confinement provides a clearer interpretation of the concept of cruelty or degrading of human dignity, one that on its own should be sufficient for disqualifying solitary confinement as an acceptable punishment 5. The concept of self or person that the liberal tradition sets up as having dignity and demanding respect is a standard that treats the self as a stand-alone individual capable of autonomous deliberation and decision see e.
Both phenomenology and science shows this to be an abstraction that fails to recognize the relational nature of the self with embodied, experiential, and affective dimensions, complicated by narrative, extended and situated aspects of human existence. Solitary confinement morally degrades human dignity by literally degrading if not destroying the human self in all of these aspects, starting with the deeply relational dimension. Ethically and practically speaking, this multi-dimensional, relational self is the only viable concept of self that the liberal tradition should use to measure its own practices pertaining to dignity, respect, and justice.
If we destroy the self in its full pattern, or in a sufficient number of its aspects, it would be difficult to argue that we are respecting the person in any moral sense and not degrading the dignity of the human being. The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
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Further, it bears especially on the manner of bodily self - experience of the subject. Current research has often underlined the structural character of racism, which, as it seems, can be abolished neither through a social critique nor through the intensified combat against ideological forms of prejudices and discriminations. Of course, we could picture the social transformation of these practices.
Yet, the question remains to which level these practices effectively reach. Rather, I am thinking of the humanistic universalism , which demands the abolishment of such particularizing identifications and which, in doing so, fixes the selective normativity of its position, i. To conclude, the performative magic of racism is not only embedded into the meaningful constitution of the social world , i.
To show this, however, would be the task of another study. In addition to an anonymous reviewer at Continental Philosophy Review, I would like to thank Alina Vaisfeld for her accurate translation of this text as well as George Berguno and Joseph Lemelin for their critical remarks and help. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author s and source are credited.
Where it is taken to occur at all, it is considered as socially anomalous, as un usual, an individual aberration or institutional hangover placed in check as soon as its occurrence is noticed.
The representatives of society defend themselves, refusing even answers to their enemies. For a more detailed account on the selective and exclusionary functions of order, see Bauman and Waldenfels For an excellent overview, see Garner Amongst the first ones to clearly state this idea, Omi and Winant , pp. In this article, I will not touch upon the crucial question whether these distinctions result in a conceptual inflation of the concept of racism. Ingraham As regards collective violence, I provide an account of this process of desensibilization in Staudigl The works of Marc Richir offer a systematic meditation on this potential of phenomenological research see esp.
Richir ; Tengelyi My body is utilized and known by the Other: this is its second dimension. But insofar as I am for others , the Other is revealed to me as the subject for whom I am an object. Even there the question […] is of my fundamental relation with the Other. I exist therefore for myself as known by the Other—in particular in my very facticity. I exist for myself as a body known by the Other.
This is the third ontological dimension of my body. As the gaze is not the only means to mediate oppression and social violence, skin colour is, of course, not the only anchoring point for bodily stigmatization. On the psychoanalytic motif of projection, see Fanon , chapter 6 ; a systematic explication can be found in Kearney Concerning the discussion of this passage I rely on various insights provided by Ahmed The rest is nothingness and silence.
See on this issue also Berry and Williams National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Continental Philosophy Review. Cont Philos Rev. Published online Dec Michael Staudigl. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Michael Staudigl, Email: ta.
Corresponding author. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract This paper addresses racism from a phenomenological viewpoint. Introduction We had better courageously face the fact that prejudices are themselves elements of the interpretation of the social world and even one of the mainsprings that make it tick. It amused me. Conclusion Current research has often underlined the structural character of racism, which, as it seems, can be abolished neither through a social critique nor through the intensified combat against ideological forms of prejudices and discriminations.
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author s and source are credited. Footnotes 1 Schutz , p. References Ahmed Sara.
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Edmund Husserl (1859—1938)
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