Sunday, September 02, 2007

I am a Real, Sensuous Being

Ludwig Feuerbach proclaims, "I am a real, sensuous being. My body belongs to my being; indeed, my body in its entirety is my ego, my being itself" (Ich bin ein wirkliches, ein sinnliches Wesen: der Leib gehört zu meinem Wesen; ja der Leib in siener Totalität ist mein Ich, mein Wesen selber, Grundsätze der Philosophie der Zukunft, § 37 (§ 36 in Hanfi's translation)). Hiroshi Kojima credits Feuerbach's thesis for laying the ground for three philosophical movements: Marxism, vitalism, and existentialism (Monad and Thou, p. 127). I won't fully recapitulate Kojima's review of Occidental thinking about the body. Instead I will touch on those points that give texture to his idea of the somatic ego.

When Feuerbach says that "The human being thinks, not the ego, not reason" (Der Mensch denkt, nicht das Ich, nicht die Vernunft, § 51 (§50 in Hanfi's translation)), Kojima takes this to mean that not only is Feuerbach rejecting the equation of the ego with reason, but also the proposition that the somatic ego thinks solipistically, "because who thinks as a human being is the specific cosubject 'I and Thou' in Feuerbach's sense" (Monad and Thou, p. 128). This appears to be a contradiction because for Kojima the somatic ego is the agent of transcendental reflection, which might reasonably be understood to mean that the somatic ego thinks. However, Kojima says, interpreting Feuerbach, that the "subject of rational thinking would not be a single somatic ego but rather the cosubject 'I-Thou,' which is a specific dialogical relationship and can never be deduced from any social relations of plural somatic egos" (p. 129). Is his somatic ego sufficiently different from what Feuerbach meant by "ego" that we should give him a pass? Or does he mean not to accept the meaning he has given to "the human being thinks"? What is the sense of the somatic Kojima is working with, and how will he overcome the charge of solipsism?

Kojima's interprets Henri Bergson's thinking about the body (in Matter and Memory) in phenomenological terms. He examines Bergson's distinction between imaginative memory and repetitive memory, with respect to their temporal and spatial aspects. "[R]epetitive memory as kinesthetic structure," he summarizes, "constitutes the tip where all consciousness (which for Bergson means all imaginative memory) contacts the body (especially the brain) as the central image and penetrates it from the past" (p. 132). In Kojima's reading, Bergson leaves no room for the generation of imaginative memory, and he would need a concept of a consciousness acting passively in the present to grasp perceptive presentation (which for Kojima takes place not in the material world, but the phenomenal). There is thus no conscious stream moving from the present to the past. He suggests a "return of imaginative memory to perspectival horizontal intentionality and of repetitive memory to the vertical temporal intentionality," and says this will mean "that the spatiality of the body is not only a present section of life-time, but also a historical embodiment of life into a definite form through the intersubjective coupling (Paarung) of vertical intentionalities" (p. 133).

For Kojima, the somatic ego is a double subjectivity, but its doubleness does not exactly correspond to the two intentionalities, horizontal and vertical. He examines Max Scheler's idea of a body-feeling, and sees a dialectical synthesis that takes the form of a body-surface-consciousness.

The body-surface-consciousness, which spreads all over the surface of my body as the clothing of my life, looks around the world through the whole surface of my body (including the back or the tips of the toes) as a horizon-intentionality, and looks at the object "by becoming the thing" (Nishida), grasping the whole surface of a thing with the corresponding whole surface of my body as an object-intentionality. In other words, my perceptive consciousness looks at the world or objects only through and in accordance with my physical body, which my life wears as its nonpositional clothing. In addition, the same surface-consciousness, as incarnated by life (Leib), gives an ambiguous character to all the kinesthetic sensations of my body, which are extensive and external to each other, though not posited in space and time, as Max Scheler has shown. This consciousness can also be aptly called "the kinesthetic body-apperception."

In this way, when we are freed from the prejudice of life philosophy, there emerges before us at last the figure of a somatic ego that consists of double subjectivity: a perceptive body-surface-consciousness and a self-projective imaginative Will to live.

(pp. 136-137)

This recognition of a double subjectivity of the somatic ego leads Kojima to an interesting critique of existentialism.

In contrast to life philosophy, which grasps the ego simply as a vital phenomenon as a result of its inclination toward the dimension of life, existential philosophy clearly anticipates the irreducibly double structure of the body. Unfortunately, however, it divides this duality into two independent moments and allots each of them two different ways of human life. We already find in Kierkegaard's scheme of the "mass" and "the single" (der Einzelne) the predecessor of this division, but in Heidegger's dichotomy of "authentic" and "inauthentic," or of "anticipatory resoluteness" and "das Man" we find its epitome. Here two subjectivities that orginally belong to a single body appear as centers of two separate incompatible areas.

(p. 137)

At this point I will stop and question what Kojima has accomplished so far, and what use can be made of his concept of a somatic ego. In his insistence on the egological dimension of the body, Kojima is out of step with recent European philosophy. He is, nevertheless, an original thinker. He brings a sophisitication to the problem of embodiment that, if not as elegant, is similar to Merleau-Ponty's, whom Kojima says he is closest to philosophically. He doesn't consider the work of Michel Henry, Jan Patočka or Renaud Barbaras, phenomenologists who have each made a contribution to the problem of embodiment. On the other hand, he does consider Japanese philosophers who are often ignored in European phenomenological works. Yet for all his sophistication, his philosophy still feels a little uncomfortable. I can say "I am a real, sensuous being" much more easily than I can say "I am a somatic ego" or "I am a monad." At some point I reckon I will come to terms with my ego, or what it means to be me, and then I will be in a better position to evaluate what Kojima is offering. At the moment, my sense of the somatic ego is a little up in the air.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:18 AM.


Anonymous John said...

Yes you really are a sensuous being.

In his various works this author points out that we are essentially a thoughless feeling and that it is possible to freely feel to infinity, beyond any and every seeming limitation.


Plus please read this description of the infinitely expanded state of Free Feeling that He Always Already IS.

"Through the bodily eyes, I can look into the room, but I am literally seeing everywhere. It is an extraordinary process beyond ordinary human comprehension.

My Consciousness is not local, not bound by "point of view". My sensitivity is a Spiritual sensitivity, and it is universalized. I am extended literally everywhere. Reality Itself is not a "point of view". Therefore, the Realization of the Condition of Reality Itself is Non-local, and It Outshines the body-mind and the world.

This is not a matter of belief, but it is known to be so if you heart-recognize Me and experience Me. Heart-reconition of Me is about knowledge, not belief. In heart-Communion with Me, a am known in this non-localized sense."

September 10, 2007 8:42 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

What do you think of Nancy's thinking about his body in "L'Intrus"? What do make of the phenomenon of heart transplants in general?

September 11, 2007 8:38 AM  

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