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Phenomenology of Embodiment

Lecturer: Felicity Joseph

Originally Taught: Summer School 2004

What is the body? How is this ‘I’ embodied? How can we describe the body?

‘…a thickening, a sclerosis…’
‘a system of possible actions, a virtual body’
‘phenomenal partner and counterpart to all perceptions of things’
‘it seems that my body literally devours me…’

These are just some of the descriptions of the body offered by phenomenologist philosophers. In this course we will consider four such philosophers on the topic of embodiment: Edmund Husserl, Edith Stein, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Gabriel Marcel, all of whom wrote and published in the first half of the 20th century. Over five lectures, we will explore some of the answers they offer and critically assess their characterisations of embodiment. We will also consider some of the charges laid against phenomenology by more recent philosophers concerning the difficulties of speaking and generalising about the body at all.

1. Philosophising the body: methods of phenomenology
2. The ‘Lived Body’: Edmund Husserl and Edith Stein on embodiment
3. Thinking the Body-Subject: Merleau-Ponty and the Prepersonal
4. Being or Having? Gabriel Marcel on embodiment
5. Speaking of the body: the language of embodiment