Abstracts

What do bodies do when they do language? What is happening between them, within them, through them? Apart from general constraints on how we use language and how language changes, it seems that decades of research in embodied cognition have yet to provide an understanding of languaging as a bodily form of human sense-making. The reason, I propose, is that until now we have not acknowledged the massive categorical gap that separates talk about embodiment, sensorimotor loops, enactive perception, lived experience, etc., and the concepts we use to describe and try to understand language.

I will sketch parts of a forthcoming book (Linguistic Bodies, 2018, MIT Press, coauthored with Elena Cuffari and Hanne De Jaegher) where we offer a fully embodied and fully social treatment of human language. The project is to generate the missing categories, or at least to disentangle the sedimented layers of phenomena that are entailed every time we engage in the act of producing or understanding an utterance, in whatever form. We present an overarching theory that connects dynamical explanations of action and perception and accounts of precarious material individuation, through different kinds of participatory sense-making, to linguistic agency. Expanding and deepening enactive theory, we propose a constitutive account of language and the co-emergent phenomena of personhood, reflexivity, social normativity, and ideality. For this we adopt a dialectical method and draw on the resources of Gilbert Simondon’s ontology of individuation, Merleau-Ponty’s account of expression and sedimentation, and Evald Ilyenkov’s approach to the circularities between material practices and ideality.

Language, in the enactive view, is not another skill we add to a range of existing cognitive capacities but a new way of being embodied. 

Linguistic bodies are a new form of agency in ongoing becoming, one that bears a displaced mode of existence with respect to our sensorimotor and organic bodies, a product of sociomaterial history.

Each of us is a linguistic body in a community of other linguistic bodies. I will briefly describe some of the engagements that this new concept affords with questions regarding language development, autism, grammar, and enactive symbols.

After a review of the history of this disease and its interesting connections with some essential features of modernity and post modernity, the author tries to describe the relationship of the anorectic patient with her body. Then he compares – in an attempt of differential phenomenology – her way of living her body with the ways dysmorphophobic, depressive and schizophrenic patients do it. The result of this investigation can be summarized in the following points: 1. There is an extreme splitting between the subject-body (der Leib) and the object-body (der Körper). 2. The anorectic treats her body as an object, as a fetish which can be modeled at will and at the same time giving it any appearance. This goes long beyond the loss of weight, since what she tries to do is to control the structure of her body and to submit it to her will of manufacturing design and production. 3. The anorectic patient searches to exercise an absolute power over her body and its needs. Thus, she does not respect hunger, or rest, or the appeal of sex. This fascination for the dominion and control of everything (body, persons, world) comes to the extreme that she feels real pleasure in realizing transgressing behaviors, such as robbery. 4. Beyond abusing with her body, the anorectic patient feels repugnance for it, for its flesh, for its volume. Her aspiration goes much further than having the body of a model. What she wants is being permanently losing weight, not having volume, not occupying space. 5. She lives her body as something obscene, as a degrading show of her intimacy in the public space. Every protuberance, every roundness is lived as an exposition over the scene (ob-scene) of her own personal intimacy. 6. All these characteristics lead the anorectic patient to a deep feeling of abandonment and hopelessness, which nobody has described better than Ludwig Binswanger in relation to his famous case, Ellen West. So, her body and consequently, her world, have ceased being a dwelling.


Nach einem kurzen Hinweis auf die Geschichte dieser Erkrankung und auf die interessanten Verbindungen zu einigen wesentlichen Merkmalen der Moderne und der Postmoderne, beschreibt der Verfasser die Beziehung der anorektischen Patienten zu ihrem Leib. Danach entwickelt er eine Differentialphänomenologie zwischen der Leiblichkeit der Anorexia und der bei Dysmorphobie, Melancholie und Schizophrenie. Die Ergebnisse dieser Forschungen können wie folgt zusammengefasst werden: 1. In der Pubertätsmagersucht ergibt es sich eine extreme Spaltung zwischen Leib und Körper, im Unterschied zur Melancholie, bei der der Leib im Körper aufgeht. 2. Die anorektische Patientin behandelt ihren Körper als einen bloßen Gegenstand, als einen Fetisch, der eigenwillig modelliert werden kann. 3. Die anorektische Patientin versucht, absolute Macht über ihren Körper und dessen Bedürfnisse auszuüben. So respektiert sie weder Hunger, Ruhebedürfnis noch sexuelle Triebhaftigkeit. Ihre Faszination an der Kontrolle von Körper, Mitmenschen und ihrer Lebenswelt reicht bis zum Extrem, dass sie es buchstäblich „geniesst“, Normen zu übertreten, wie etwa zu lügen und zu stehlen. 4. Jenseits der Neigung, ihren Körper zu missbrauchen, empfindet sie ihm gegenüber ein echtes Ekelgefühl, einen Ekel gegen sein Fleisch, sein Volumen und seine Formen. Sie beabsichtigt, ihr Gewicht soweit zu verlieren, dass sie keinen Raum mehr einnimmt. 5. Sie erlebt ihren Körper als etwas Obszönes, als würde er ihre Intimität im öffentlichen Raum erniedrigend zur Schau stellen. Jede Rundung ihres Körpers wird zu einer Darstellung ihrer eigenen Innerlichkeit als öffentliche Szene (ob-szön). 6. Alle diese Umstände führen die anorektische Patientin in ein Gefühl des Verlassenseins, der Hoffnungslosigkeit und des existentiellen Selbstverlusts, Phänomene, die Binswanger für den Fall der Ellen West meisterhaft beschrieben hat. Letztlich ist ihr Körper, ihr Leib und ihre Welt kein Aufenthaltsort mehr, nichts, was für sie noch bewohnbar wäre.

According to the phenomenological tradition the minimal self is constituted in the recursive dynamics of the self-temporalizing of time consciousness. Contemporary phenomenological accounts of schizophrenia have employed this traditional analysis and characterized it as essentially a disorder of the minimal self. In this talk I will make use of the dynamical systems approach to cognitive science to highlight a distinction that has largely remained implicit in these accounts, namely between structural and affective self-constitution. I will argue that the disorder can be more fruitfully approached as a disorder of the latter rather than of the former. Many symptoms do not seem structurally pathological from the perspective of systems theory. Instead they seem to be caused by an unstable sense of self-familiarity: falling into hypo-familiarity produces an exaggeration of the felt distance between the ego and the stream of consciousness, leading to disowned experiences, while falling into hyper-familiarity eradicates this felt distance, leading to complete self-absorption during which the patient is reduced to automatisms without any accompanying reflection. Moreover, these pathological extremes of familiarity not only apply to the patient’s relationship with their self, but also to their relationship with the world and with other people. Based on these considerations I propose a new classification scheme that helps us to make sense of the most characteristic symptoms.

Studies of depression suggest that in the depressed subject, abnormal dynamical synchronies exist between the various factors of first-person perspective, bodily/emotional agency, and reflective (narrative related) agency, as evidenced in both phenomenology and dynamical connections across correlated brain areas. In line with the idea that psychiatric disorders are disorders of self and are typically multifactorial, and understanding depression in holistic terms as a change in one’s way of being in the world (Merleau-Ponty), I consider how predictive processing approaches may be integrated with enactive phenomenology to explain what Erwin Straus (1947) characterizes as an alteration in the basic structure of space and time? in depression. Common complaints include those of time slowing down or stopping, the past as distant, and the future as empty and hopeless. Fuchs (2013) describes this as a reification of time. Predictive processing accounts of depression focus on embodied (interoceptive) anomalies, but have so far failed to address disruptions in temporal experience. I consider a predictive processing account of Husserl’s phenomenology of intrinsic temporality as a way to address this issue.

The large group of patients suffering from pains, dizziness, fatigue and other forms of bodily distress usually is considered to be difficult to treat with either biomedical or psychosocial treatment methods. Whereas biopsychosocial risk factors for these mostly chronic conditions are relatively well known (e.g. childhood adversities, prior organic illness, current life stressors etc.), the mechanisms underlying the experience of bodily distress itself are largely unclear. Top down or psychogenic models which imply (unconscious) psychological causes for overactive autonomous nervous and other bodily systems have never been confirmed empirically, and bottom up models implying primarily physiological disturbances that are secondarily amplified or otherwise enhanced by psychosocial mechanisms also meet with limited empirical confirmation.

In the presentation we will discuss a model of bodily distress as perceptual dysregulation, based on a model of the brain as a predictive processing device in which internal models interact with peripheral input to create extero- and interoceptions. Interestingly, this model not only allows for an “ecumenical” integration of top down and bottom up aspects, it also supports a 4E-perspective (embodied, embedded, enactive, extended) on the development of bodily distress. An important aspect of this is the developmental notion of “embodied mentalization”, seen as a result of multiple body-related interactions between child and caregiver – these interactions shape the internal generative models and hence directly influence later perceptions, also of bodily distress. Treatment implications of this model will also be discussed.

In this contribution, I will consider what we call “body” and its role in clinical practices. I will work together with both Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jacques Lacan. This will allow me to consider not only the body as a materiality structured by its finitude, not only the body as a locus of our lived experiences, not only the body as it anchors our actions, but also the body as it incarnates otherness. Otherness will here be considered as twofold: on the one hand, the body as a living organism is a generality and its functioning hosts a germ of depersonalisation; on the other hand, and at the same time, the body is that which keeps any other subject away from me, separated from me, irreducible to me. It thus appears that the body is both at once a concretion of alterity and of singularity. We will rely on such conceptualisation of the body to consider the possibility of designing a clinical practice informed both by Maurice Merleau-Ponty and by Jacques Lacan.

This paper addresses experiences of grief in order to examine various ways in which human experience, thought, and activity are shaped by relations with specific individuals and with other people in general. In particular, I focus on the nature of emotion regulation and develop an account of how regulatory processes are interpersonally distributed. In so doing, I discuss how enduring relations with the deceased often play regulatory roles. I conclude by proposing that a consideration of these same interpersonal regulatory processes (and their absence) should be equally central to our understanding of the nature and development of psychiatric illness.

Husserl scholars are well aware that Husserl engages different levels of experience in his phenomenological analyses. In Ideas I, for example, he remains fairly focused on the level of objective constitution, where objects are constituted as whole unities. In Ideas II and the Cartesian Meditations, on the other hand, he moves through several levels in order to arrive at a description of the intersubjective levels. My argument in this article is that there are several of these levels of experience, and that they are much more systematically in place for Husserl than might first appear. My primary goal, therefore, is to explicate each of these levels as well as to demonstrate how Husserl carries out analyses in each of them. Further, I wish to point out that these levels of experience are not to be linked necessarily to one type of phenomenological method or another (for example, static or genetic). Rather, the type of method in play depends on the questions that are driving the inquiry.

These levels of temporality begin at the “lowest” level of primary, sensory experience, where neither temporality, nor the body, nor intersubjectivity is constituted; rather, it is a continual flow of fundamental sensation. We then move “upward” into our passive constitution of this sensory flow, where sensory formations relate to one another through similarity and contrast. Here temporality is a flow of object-like formations, rather than pure sensory “data”. It also becomes recognizable as the form through which all experiences become available for us. Embodiment and intersubjectivity at this level are merely rudimentary formations that arise through similarity and contrast. Out of this passive level arises our more aware activity of constituting the objects and subjects with which we are dealing; in doing so, we also constitute time as having a “before” and an “after” with regard to our experiencing flow. In addition, my body distinguishes itself as having a certain sensory aspect to its materiality that is different from the materiality of other objects, and other subjects also begin to distinguish themselves from objects. Finally, we reach the level where we recognize the participation of other subjects in our experiences. Here we find the constitution of time as an objective, measurable entity in the world. Objects, too, gain a new level of materiality as objective entities in the world, experiencable by others. And subjects are now understood to be other egos—similar to me, but not the same as me. The intersubjective level, furthermore, appears to have at least two levels: the level of individual encounters with other subjects (a more “personal” level), and the level of community, history, and generations (a more abstract sense of cultural human being). Each of these constitutive levels is functioning all the time—it is only through phenomenology that we focus upon and analyze them separately.

This paper considers the ways of knowing regarding mental disorders that are characteristic of the traditional healers (curanderas and curanderos) of an indigenous group in Mexico together with some brief consideration of similarities and differences when compared with contemporary Western psychology and psychiatry. The study is based on numerous ethnographic interviews with traditional Purépecha healers in rural Michoacán, interviews focused on local conceptions of emotional and mental disorder, especially nervios, susto, and locura (nerves, fright, and madness). I will focus, in particular, on the local understandings pertaining to two issues central to the theme of the conference (the body and the other): namely, 1, the relation between body and soul in nervios, susto, and locura; and 2, the role of social relationships, rivalries, and magical interventions in the development of such conditions.

Persons affected by or vulnerable to eating disorders often report their difficulties in perceiving their emotions and that they do not “feel” themselves. They have difficulties in feeling their own body in the first-person perspective, to have a stable and continuous sense of themselves as embodied agents and to establish a stable and reliable representation of themselves – a fleeting feel of selfhood and an evanescent sense of identity. Indeed, feeling oneself is a basic requirement for achieving an identity and a stable sense of one’s Self. The experience of not feeling one’s own body and emotions affects the whole sense of identity. Indeed, we construe our personal identity on the basis of our feelings, that is, of what we like or dislike. For person affected by eating disorders, since they can hardly feel themselves and their feelings are discontinuous over time, identity is no longer a real psychic structure that persists beyond the flow of time and circumstances. They also feel extraneous from her own body and attempt to regain a sense of bodily Self through starvation. The most typical phenomenon seems to be that these people experience own body first and foremost as an object being looked at by another, rather than coenesthetically or from a first-person perspective. Since they cannot have an experience of their body from within, they need to apprehend their body from without through the gaze of the Other. What they seem lack is the coenesthetic apprehension of their own body as the more primitive and basic form of self-awareness. As a consequence the way one feels looked at by other persons is the only possibility to feel oneself and define one’s identity.

In my talk, I will discuss the disagreement between Gerda Walther and Aron Gurwitsch concerning the nature of community (what is most important: concrete bodily engagement or cultural heritage) and relate their phenomenological perspective to a recent account of nationalism offered by Bernard Yack.