Our Strange Body: Philosophical Reflections on Identity and Medical Interventions 9089646477, 9789089646477

The ever increasing ability of medical technology to reshape the human body in fundamental ways - from organ and tissue

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Our Strange Body: Philosophical Reflections on Identity and Medical Interventions
 9089646477, 9789089646477

Table of contents :
Dedication
Contents
Preface & Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 Heavy, Inanimate, and Nauseating Bodies
2 Body Boundaries
3 Mirror, Please Tell Me Who I Am
4 I Exist on the Outside
5 My Strange I
Epilogue
Works Cited
Index of Names
Index of Subjects

Citation preview

OUR STRANGE BODY Philosophical Reflections on Identity and Medical Interventions JENNY SLATMAN

Our Strange Body

Our Strange Body Philosophical Reflections on Identity and Medical Interventions

Jenny Slatman

Amsterdam University Press

Our Strange Body: Philosophical Reflections on Identity and Medical Interventions was originally published in Dutch as Vreemd lichaam: over medisch ingrijpen en persoonlijke identiteit, by Ambo, Amsterdam, 2008, reprinted in 2011. English translation: Ton Brouwers This translation is based on a comprehensive revision of the original Dutch publication.

Cover illustration: Reassembling the Self 3, Susan Aldworth, 2012, lithograph Image courtesy of the artist. www.susanaldworth.com Cover design: Maedium, Utrecht Typesetting: Crius Group, Hulshout Amsterdam University Press English-language titles are distributed in the US and Canada by the University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978 90 8964 647 7 e-ISBN 978 90 4852 314 6 (pdf) e-ISBN 978 90 4852 475 4 (ePub) NUR 730 © Jenny Slatman / Amsterdam University Press B.V., Amsterdam 2014 All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the written permission of both the copyright owner and the author of the book.

In loving memory of Bas, thinker and doer

Contents Preface & Acknowledgments

9

Introduction 13 The issue of identity: Being self and other 13 Social-scientific and ethical analyses of body modifications 15 A phenomenology of identity 18 1 Heavy, Inanimate, and Nauseating Bodies Carrying along our body The fallen soul Inanimate life The modern soul The soul that inhabits the stomach Reality bracketed off Sweating and blushing

23 23 28 35 38 42 45 47

2 Body Boundaries Strange bones Handiness, or handling one’s world Body schema Leib and Körper: Difference and unity Tolerating the strange Limits to tolerance

53 53 58 66 68 76 79

3 Mirror, Please Tell Me Who I Am 85 ‘Oh my God, I look as hot as I feel’ 85 Narcissism 88 Other Narcissuses 93 The power of the gaze 100 Own and strange in the mirror image 110 4 I Exist on the Outside 115 Turned inside out 115 The inner self as unassailable stronghold 119 Seen from the outside 124 Touch 131 Recognition without narcissism 136

5 My Strange I Prosthetic wings The speaking and spoken I Thinking is speaking For – sum Living with intruders What is strange and what is own

143 143 146 148 151 154 159

Epilogue 165 Works Cited

169

Index of Names Index of Subjects

177 179



Preface & Acknowledgments

Our own body. What could be more familiar and common than our own body? We do not have to question its presence since it is always with us as long as we are there. Yet if we do start musing about it, it immediately loses its taken for granted nature and may become a rather enigmatic phenomenon. In retrospect, I can say that my interest for putting into question the obvious nature of being embodied goes back a long time. Since my teens I have been fascinated by the human body, its anatomy and physiology, which motivated me to start studying being a physiotherapist. After having worked as a physiotherapist for a couple of years, I realized that through acquiring anatomical and pathological knowledge, and a wide variety of physical examination and treatment skills, ‘the body’ did not share its secrets, at least, not with me. I lacked the conceptual and analytical tools to actually phrase the perplexity of something as commonplace as our own being embodied. As such, it was no surprise – again in retrospect – that I took up philosophy, and progressively got absorbed in the philosophy of the body. Once one is immersed in philosophy, many questions on ‘the body’ present themselves. In this study I limit myself to the question of identity. Foundations for these meditations on body and identity were laid during my post-doctoral project at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, in which I analyzed the relationship between embodied identity and artistic representations of the body (2001-2006), and when teaching my philosophy for psychology students courses at Tilburg University in the Netherlands (2004-2009). To make my courses as digestible as possible for these students, who had no background in philosophy, I developed coursework around the theme of personal and bodily identity, and interlarded them with many topical cases, especially clinical ones. By using these cases, I quickly came to realize that a case can be much more than just a fine illustration of a philosophical theory. During classes and discussions the examples often served as an instigator of further questioning and curiosity. This is what led me to develop my philosophical reflections for this book on the basis of several present-day cases and examples. This book is a translation of a thoroughly revised and updated version of the Dutch text that was originally published in 2008 and reprinted in 2011. Translating is not an innocent, let alone neutral, process of attaching other signifiers to the same meaning. Therefore I am very happy that my text has been translated by Ton Brouwers. Alluding to Merleau-Ponty’s idea that

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thinking can only take place while speaking and writing – while using language – I felt that Ton has been my co-thinker who was always willing to jointly search for the most suitable and elegant wording and phrasing. This translation has been made possible by means of an Aspasia stipend generously granted to me by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). I have been privileged for having been surrounded by many passionate, supporting, and critical colleagues over the last years. I owe a great deal to Guy Widdershoven who persuaded me to develop my work in the interdisciplinary setting of the Health, Ethics & Society department at Maastricht University, and with whom I have closely collaborated on various texts and projects since 2008. My present colleagues in this department nourish my work in various ways. Klasien Horstman, Agnes Meershoek, and Anja Krumeich introduced me to the intriguing world of medical anthropology, medical sociology, and qualitative empirical research. Rob Houtepen and Tom Maassen – unrelenting philosophers – always find good reasons to refute my arguments, thus requiring more philosophical accuracy. Gili Yaron, Marjolein de Boer, and Gijs van Oorsouw keep me on track with their questions and their discontent with overly simplified answers. Maria-Teresa Brancaccio is always game for drinking caffè while discussing body-mind issues. During various occasions, over the last years, I have benefitted greatly from conversations and correspondence with Chantal Bax, Ulrika Björk, Jenny Boulboullé, Helena De Preester, Gunn Engelsrud, Shaun Gallagher, Minae Inahara, Stefan Kristensen, Darian Meacham, James McGuirk, Karel Novòtny, Franco Paracchini, Erik Rietveld, Pierre Rodrigo, Emmanuel de Saint Aubert, Fredrik Svenaeus, Aagje Swinnen, Mikkel Tin, Renée van de Vall, and Kristin Zeiler. I would like to thank Geertje Mak and Peter Costello for their meticulous reading of the entire manuscript, and for providing constructive comments. The international Symposium Phenomenologicum that gathers every summer in Perugia, Italy has been crucial for my initial inauguration in phenomenological philosophy many years ago. After having been absent for a long while, I was pleased to be able to join this group again and, in particular, for having the opportunity to discuss my work with Emmanuel Alloa, Gido Berns, Françoise Dastur, Eran Dorfman, Bernard Flynn, Sam IJsseling, Reginald Lilly, Jacob Rogozinski, Nicholas Smith, Philippe Van Haute, and Judith Walz. My colleagues from the international group in feminist phenomenology, Alia Al-Saji, Helen Fielding, Linda Fischer, Lyat Friedman, Annemie Halsema, Sara Heinemäa, Bonnie Mann, Dorothea

Preface & Acknowledgments

11

Olkowski, Christina Schüess, Eva-Maria Simms, Silvia Stoller, Veronica Vasterling, and Gail Weis, repeatedly challenged me to make explicit in what sense my anthropological analyses can contribute to a more critical and ethical view on embodiment. Some particular words of thanks go to Annemie who is always willing to critically read my work in progress. I am therefore more than pleased to join forces with her in our current research projects. My two men constitute the place where I can live, love, and work. While making me realize, time and again, that writing is not the most important thing in the world, they provide me with the most precious support a writing academic could imagine. Henry, thanks for always being there, for putting things in perspective, for appeasing my spinning head, and for raising my spirits through humor, affection, and understanding. Our son, Tibor, often makes fun of me and my rather sedentary life with books and papers. Joining him as he plays soccer confronts me with the full impact and meaning of being embodied. I am sure that these playful and physical distractions have sharpened my thoughts. My brother, Bas, has been an eager listener and critic of my ideas, even more in the period in which he had to face the devastating force of neoplastic ‘intruders’ in his body, which eventually led to his untimely death in 2010. In the full knowledge that he would have endorsed the idea that our embodied being in this world marks both our vigor and our vulnerability, I dedicate this book to his memory. Maastricht, June 2014

Introduction The issue of identity: Being self and other What would it be like to be someone else, to be in another person’s head? An intriguing question, for sure, which does not come with readily available answers but which certainly allows us to fantasize endlessly. A question such as this one has been food for thought for filmmakers, writers, and artists alike – and philosophers of course. In his 1690 treatise on personal identity, John Locke invites his readers to imagine the following. A prince and a cobbler, two men with completely different lives and appearances, decide to swap the contents of their memory with each other. This implies that the memory of the prince, including all his personal recollections, is stored in the body of the cobbler. All princely thoughts and recollections of a spoiled life as prince have now become part of the cobbler’s body, marked as it is by a life of hard work. For Locke this thought-experiment gives rise to the question of what this particular alteration does to the identity of the prince. Is he still the same person?1 Since Aristotle a distinction has been made between qualitative identity and numerical identity. We speak of qualitative identity when two things or persons have the same traits or qualities. For example, monozygotic twins are identical from a qualitative angle. But they are not numerically identical because they comprise two different individuals. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in contrast, quite differ from a qualitative angle, but numerically they are one because they comprise a single human being. When posing the question of the identity of the prince, Locke was not concerned with qualitative identity. In a qualitative sense, after all, we change constantly in the course of our life: our body is subject to an ongoing process of transformation. It is also quite normal for particular character traits to change; a shy young person, for instance, may well conquer her shyness at a later stage of her life. In Locke’s thought-experiment, the prince did not gradually change a little, but radically obtained an altogether different body and appearance – the body of some other person. Such intervention is not just a qualitative change; rather, it involves the fusion of two different individuals, and therefore we should ask if the prince has numerically remained identical. 1

The term ‘identity’ comes from the Latin identitas, which means ‘being the same.’

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Locke’s response to this question is ambiguous: the prince remained the same and he did not. It all depends on what it is that remains the same or identical. According to Locke, the prince as person remained the same, but he is no longer the same man (Locke, 1690, § 15). Being a ‘person,’ in Locke’s view, is constituted by consciousness and more in particular by memory. A person remains the same over time because individual recollections allow him or her to connect events, feelings, and so on from the past with the present (§ 9). I am the same person as thirty years ago because I can still remember what I did and what I experienced at the time. The same applies to the prince. In the cobbler’s body yet with his own consciousness, he still lives with his own personal memories, and therefore he has remained the same person. But he did not remain the same man, because ‘man,’ or ‘human being’ in Locke’s view, is determined by how you look physically, how other people see you from the outside. Suddenly the prince, whom one can easily imagine as having velvety soft hands, well-manicured nails, a powdered nose, and perhaps a fussy wig (we are dealing here with a prince from the late 17th century), has a scrawny body and coarse, callous hands. Despite this large change in appearance, linked as it is to class difference, the prince simply remains the same person because he can recall everything that is part of his refined life as a prince. Accordingly, Locke underlines that we can distinguish between human being and person, or between body and consciousness, but that changes in the body, however extreme, do not affect the identity of our personhood. Although Locke does not discuss the prince and the cobbler any further, this case gives rise to a host of other questions regarding identity. What, for instance, would a princess say when her prince was to appear in a cobbler’s body, and if the monarch is beheaded in a revolution, whose head should in fact be severed (assuming that consciousness is linked to a person’s brain) (Onfray, 2003)? And what if the prince were to look into a mirror? It is rather questionable whether it is possible to separate our ‘being a person,’ based merely on our inner experience of our memories, as strictly from our ‘being human,’ based on how our body looks from the outside. Locke’s analysis is often considered the first philosophical theory on personal identity. With his thought-experiment, he also seems to have set the tone for how debates on personal identity tend to unfold. Many philosophers, after all, employ thought-experiments to examine the idea of identity. A well-known example from a current debate is that of Derek Parfit (1984). Inspired by science fiction such as Star Trek, Parfit asks us to imagine that a perfect blueprint is made of someone’s physical and psychological life and that subsequently it is teletransported to another

Introduc tion

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location where an exact physical and psychological replica is made. This means that there are two exactly the same persons: qualitatively they are identical. But since we still have to do with two individuals, we cannot say that they are numerically identical. Therefore, we need to go one step further in our thought-experiment and also imagine that the original person is (painlessly) eliminated. The question we may next ask ourselves is whether or not this replica is identical to the original person. These sorts of questions challenge us to reflect; they invite us to investigate how, exactly, we should understand ‘identity,’ and what are the main criteria for identity; or, in other words, what causes a person to remain the same person. Although I believe that thought-experiments and the ensuing questions are very relevant for philosophical theorization of identity, I also feel that as a philosopher one should not only concentrate on theoretical issues – that is, on issues that do not occur in the real world but that one may still think up and speculate about. Significantly, philosophers need to be able to say something about things that happen in everyday life as well. In this book I provide an analysis of identity without taking recourse to thought-experiments. Instead of speculating on fantasized, unreal situations, I rather ground my analysis in all sorts of phenomena that have become part of our everyday life: bodily adjustments, prostheses, organ transplants, plastic surgery, medical imaging, and so forth. What I would like to demonstrate is that these various phenomena trigger similar and at times nagging questions concerning identity.

Social-scientific and ethical analyses of body modifications Relating the issue of bodily identity to actual body modifications, this philosophical study ties in with various types of current ‘body research’ in both the humanities and the social sciences. Yet, as I will explain shortly, my approach in this study also diverges from that in most of these other studies, thus adding a specific voice to this field. Since the 1990s, interest in the body has increased considerably, first and foremost in various theories on social practice. Since then, it has virtually become commonplace to consider the social agent not only as a rational being, but also and, perhaps, primarily as an embodied being (Crossley, 2001; Shilling, 2012). This attention for embodied social agency clearly has had repercussions on sociological analyses of medical practices. Whereas previously sociologists were more engaged in, for instance, critical evaluations of the welfare state and the phenomenon of medicalization (De Swaan, 1988; Illich, 1976), today’s medi-

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cal sociologists have produced more and more studies on the role of the body in health and medicine (Featherstone, 2000; Lupton, 2012; Williams, 2003). On the basis of these sociologically informed analyses of contemporary health and medical practices, various theories on body modif ications have been put forward: some claim that active body modification, such as cosmetic surgery, piercing, dieting, and bodybuilding, can be explained in terms of complying with imposed social norms and discourse (Heyes, 2007; Turner, 1982; Wegenstein, 2012); others, by contrast, claim that such activities in fact can contribute to an individual’s autonomy (Davis, 1995) or to realizing an individual’s self-identity in a disintegrated society (Giddens, 1991). Although I certainly incorporate some ideas on social practice in this study – especially in Chapter 3 in which I discuss intersubjectivity – my approach differs from these sociological studies in that its principal aim is not to analyze particular contemporary practices. My analyses remain philosophical in that they seek to elucidate various types of contemporary body modifications while using philosophical theories and arguments. Even if I start my philosophical considerations from real cases, and make use of empirical literature, I do not pursue any form of ‘empirical philosophy.’ Empirical philosophers aim at developing theories on the basis of empirical research within a certain field. Mol (2002), for instance, has convincingly shown how a meticulous ethnographic analysis of a specific medical practice – care and treatment of arteriosclerosis – leads to an alternative body ontology. While I surely welcome this recent development of empirical philosophy, for this study I have chosen to start from a philosophical issue – i.e. the question of identity – rather than a specific given practice. Applying a philosophical mode of reasoning, I often speak of ‘the body’ in a general way, that is, I do not further explore the various contexts in which the meaning of ‘the body’ takes shape. This does not imply that I endorse a universal, a-historical idea of ‘the body.’ As I make clear in Chapter 1, in which I provide a short history of Western philosophy of the body, philosophical conceptions of the body have changed time and again. These conceptual changes tend to be strongly embedded in the (historical) context of scientific developments, such as the rise of modern physics and modern anatomy in René Descartes’s time, or the increasing possibilities of transplantation medicine in Jean-Luc Nancy’s case. I do not focus thematically on these different contexts, nor do I explicitly address differences such as gender, age, race, and ability, which are obviously constitutive for the meaning of embodiment. The reason for not attending to these differences is that the philosophical problem of identity – i.e. the very question of how someone remains ‘self and same’ while constantly changing and becoming

Introduc tion

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other – is in itself not a localized issue but a generalized one, at least in Western philosophy. Using examples of contemporary technological medical possibilities of modifying and mending bodies, this study, then, also touches on current discussions about the body’s perfectibility. I will explore all sorts of issues related to bodily perfectibility, but I will not discuss them from the dominant ethical and feminist perspective common to this debate. From such perspective, scholars critically ask whether all sorts of interventions in the body are desirable or not. Although this is a very important question deserving careful consideration indeed, in this study I would like to focus on issues that precede such ethical questioning. This also means that I will not engage in contemporary ethical discussions on ‘human enhancement,’ i.e. discussions on whether it is desirable, or even morally required (Harris, 2010), to apply all kinds of technological interventions to make humans better than well. Very often, discussions on this theme – which has mainly been hijacked by so-called transhumanists and bioconservatists while it was philosophically instigated and framed by the Sloterdijk-Habermas debate from around the turn of the century – explore ‘therapy’ and ‘enhancement’ as a binary pair (Ter Meulen, Nielsen, & Landeweerd, 2007). Whereas a therapy is supposed to aim at curing a disease or disorder, enhancement may not be strictly necessary from a medical point of view. Although a neat opposition between therapy and enhancement might be advantageous for various parties, such as health insurers who wish to cover only medically necessary interventions, in reality the distinction between therapy and enhancement is not so easy to make due to different and ever-changing concepts of health, as well as the ongoing tendency of medicalization. In this book I certainly deal with issues that are commonly seen as forms of human enhancement, while discussing various high-tech interventions and cosmetic surgery, but I will leave aside the question of whether we should consider these as either therapy or mere enhancement. I am primarily interested in the philosophical-anthropological question of how interventions and technologies that enable or result in drastic bodily modifications affect our identity, regardless of whether particular interventions are desirable or not. Are we the same person after having received someone else’s heart? Can we still identify with ourselves after a surgical intervention that completely changes the way we look? And do we identify with a medical image of our own inner body? Is a prosthetic device merely a convenient extension of our body or does it constitute an essential part of who we are?

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A phenomenology of identity Modern technology has made it possible to change the human body in drastic ways. If Locke engaged in a thought-experiment, today’s transplantation technologies have allowed surgeons to combine parts from separate individuals in a single body. Arguably, the most extreme example is the head-body transplant. At this point such a transplant has not been performed on human beings yet, but it is well possible, according to the American neurosurgeon Robert J. White (1926-2010) who from the 1970s gained experience with such surgery on rhesus monkeys. In this surgery the head of one monkey was put onto the body of another monkey. The reconstructed monkey responded well to this surgery and after some time regained consciousness. In human beings, such operation would work even better, according to White, because our blood vessels are slightly wider. One wonders of course who would ever like to undergo such operation. In White’s view, fully paralyzed people might benefit from this because in many cases the functioning of their organs quickly deteriorates. It would be possible to ‘equip’ them with the body of a brain-dead person. No one, it seems, ever knocked on Dr. White’s door asking him for a new body.2 Other major interventions in the body, such as organ transplants, have grown ubiquitous however. In the past decade, we have seen a number of hand transplants, as well as some facial transplants. In these spectacular interventions, a strange or foreign element is added to a body that one will normally experience as own. The German word Fremdkörper well describes this adding of a foreign element to someone’s body. The concept actually indicates that something or someone does not quite fit in some particular place; as if there is a stranger or alien in our midst – a Fremdkörper. Because another person’s lung or kidney does not really belong in our body, our immune system will do all it can to reject it. Likewise, there are many similar if less striking Fremdkörper or odd elements found in and on our bodies these days.3 In this book I will examine identity as a phenomenon from the angle of the difference between the body’s ownness and its strangeness or otherness, 2 For more information on Dr. Robert J. White, see an interview with him in The Sunday Telegraph Magazine, 2000, online at http://bennun.biz/interviews/drwhite.html. See also a short documentary on White and his work by VBS.TV (available on YouTube). 3 I thus use the term Fremdkörper in a rather general way, referring to both others (other bodies) and otherness or strangeness in one’s own body. In Husserl’s phenomenology, by contrast, the term is only used to refer to the bodies of others.

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but I equally consider the interdependency between the two. 4 My approach of identity thus deviates from how philosophers commonly analyze ‘personal identity.’ The question mostly center-stage is the following: what causes someone to be the same person at different points in time, or, in other words, what is the criterion for identity across a person’s lifetime? Is our identity shaped by unchanging recollections, by an unchanging body, an unchanging brain, by a combination of these factors? Or is it impossible to identify such criterion at all?5 Rather than explicitly addressing this concern in this study, I aspire to clarify the phenomenon of identity from the experience of ownness. This implies that I am primarily concerned not with the relationship between ‘remaining the same’ and ‘changing,’ but with the relationship between what is experienced as ‘own’ and what is experienced as otherness or ‘strange.’ With its emphasis on experience, my analysis fits in the philosophical tradition of phenomenology. By analyzing phenomena, thus focusing on how things appear to us instead of how things ‘really are,’ phenomenology after Husserl (1900-1901) has sought to unravel Erlebnisse, i.e. our lived (and conscious) experience of our world, our body, and others. At the end of Chapter 1, I introduce the phenomenological way of thinking in my argument as a response to the Cartesian way of thinking that has burdened us with an unbridgeable gap between the body as a thing or object and the mind as an immaterial thinking and experiencing entity. It is quite common to position phenomenology in opposition to Cartesianism. Phenomenological studies that attend to the issue of the body and embodiment in health and medical practices habitually underline the negative sides of the (Cartesian) idea that the body is a thing or an object, and subsequently stress the idea of the body as subject, as lived, and as zero-point of orientation and action (Aho & Aho, 2008; Leder, 1990, 1992; Toombs, 1992, 2001). Since I believe that embodied subjectivity cannot be considered separated from the body’s ‘thinghood’ or object-side, my analysis is more conducive to the idea of the 4 My usage of the rather peculiar word ‘ownness’ is inspired by Dorion Cairns’s guideline for translating key concepts in Husserl’s phenomenology. Cairns has translated the German term Eigenheit as ‘ownness’ (Cairns, 1973: 33). 5 Interestingly, this analytical, and mostly called ‘theoretical’, philosophical approach to the problem of personal identity is not limited to speculation or thought-experiments only. More and more theoretical philosophers make use of real cases to examine criteria for personal identity over time. Klein and Nichols (2012), for instance, examine the memory criterion while discussing a patient with a neurological condition whose memory is affected in a typical way. Since my interest lies primarily in physical (and perceptible) transformations I will not discuss cases which involve mainly mental and cognitive changes (or ‘deviance’).

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‘body as object’ than most phenomenologies of the body. In the course of my reasoning – in which I do not draw on phenomenological literature only, but also incorporate various arguments stemming from other philosophical styles and fashions – I will set forth the idea that being a subject is inscribed in being an object. And this implies that what we call our own body has always come with particular strange elements already. My thesis is that adjustments to extreme bodily changes and our body’s tolerance of Fremdkörper are possible in fact on the basis of this intrinsic strangeness or otherness within ourselves. This has resulted in a paradoxical idea of identity: that which makes me ‘I’ is something that is simultaneously own and strange to my ‘me-ness.’ In the chapters that follow I will elucidate various aspects and dimensions of ownness and strangeness with regard to our body. Each of the chapters develops a separate argument related to my subject, implying that they can also be read individually. The first chapter has a historical focus. I argue that within Western philosophy the body has largely been considered as a strange or foreign object; in relation to our mind, our body has commonly been viewed as a Fremdkörper, and as such it has long been described as a negative factor. In the next chapter I explain why it is possible to view the body as own, even while its boundaries are open and flexible, allowing strange elements to enter it. The third chapter addresses the exterior of our body: our mirror image. I argue that in the case of drastic changes in our outward appearance – such as through cosmetic surgery or a facial transplant – our sense of self-identity will hardly be affected if we continue to consider the external strangeness of our mirror image nonetheless as our own. Chapter 4 deals with the possibility of visualizing the body’s interior. I argue that current medical imaging technologies, such as ultrasound, endoscopy, and MRI scanning, do not remove or cancel out the strangeness of our body; in fact, they only increase it. Although the strangeness of my body as matter may well belong to me, I can never fully appropriate it, make it my own. In Chapter 5, finally, I discuss the role of language in the formation of our self. Here I defend the view that in essence all matter that makes it possible for me to say ‘I,’ regardless of whether it involves matter that is ‘own’ or strange to my body, belongs to me. That strange side of me is also ‘me.’ Although I provide several in-depth readings of various (classical) philosophical texts, this book is not meant to be an introduction to the work of the philosophers I cite here. In each chapter my argument starts from

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wonder or even awe about the many issues and news items concerning interventions in the body that we encounter in today’s media almost on an everyday basis. Subsequently I draw on philosophical ideas and texts that, in my view, give a deeper understanding of these various issues. As such this book will be of interest not only to philosophers and philosophy students, but also to medical professionals (and students) who deal with all kinds of bodies and bodily interventions on a daily basis, as well as to everyone who shares in this amazement regarding our body in today’s highly medicalized world and who will not be put off by theoretical reflection. Trained and educated in part in the hermeneutical tradition that embraces the view that it is the reader – rather than the author – who ‘constructs’ the intention of a text, I know that it is up to the reader to interpret this study’s underlying intention. Notwithstanding this hermeneutical premise, I feel that my aim is achieved when by the end of this book the reader has been challenged to view the body, or her or his own body, or the bodies of others, from a slightly different and more philosophically informed perspective.

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Heavy, Inanimate, and Nauseating Bodies

Carrying along our body For several years, the South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has been a subject of debate in the world of sports.1 Pistorius is an athlete whose lower legs were amputated when still a baby because he was born without fibulae. He runs with the help of two special prostheses made of carbon, which look somewhat like bent spatulas. The construct that replaces his lower leg and foot is remarkably thin. As a result, when running he almost appears to be flying when looked at from the side. Of course, Pistorius is an athlete with a disability and a very good athlete at that. He is even so talented that he can compete with able-bodied athletes. He would have liked to participate in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. However, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) first wanted to study his case because his prostheses might give him an edge. For one thing, he will not be hindered by acidification of calf muscles, nor does he need to fear ankle or Achilles tendon injuries. Moreover, his prostheses are elastic, meaning that once he gets going – which takes him slightly more time than able-bodied athletes – there is a bouncing effect, causing him to run faster. A biomechanical study had to establish his possible advantages. Eventually he was allowed to compete with able-bodied athletes. In 2011 he participated in the regular World Championship in Daegu, South Korea, where he reached the individual 400 meters semifinals.2 In the summer of 2012, Pistorius represented South Africa at both the Paralympics and the Olympics in London, competing in the individual men’s 400m and the 4x400m relay. 1 While revising the manuscript of this text, news of a tragic incident threw a different light on the case of Oscar Pistorius. On 14 February 2013, Pistorius shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his bathroom – mistaking her for an armed robber, as he has claimed. Regardless of his guilt or innocence, Pistorius, now accused of murder, seems to have fallen from his pedestal and is unlikely to epitomize the movement of Paralympic sports any longer. As my analysis is not primarily concerned with questions of emancipation and recognition of people with impairments, this negative turn in Pistorius’s story barely touches on my argument here. Therefore I decided to hold on to his case in this study. 2 For more information about Pistorius’s life, his unusual sports career, and some of the technological details pertaining to his prosthesis, see his autobiography (Pistorius, 2009).

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Normally one would not consider an individual with such severe disability as someone with an advantage. That both sports officials and his fellow athletes were hesitant about his admission to the Olympic Games in 2008 has to do with the issue of whether his body represents a burden that is the same as that of the bodies of able-bodied athletes. Every athlete has to carry along his or her body. The burden to be transported by them needs to be comparable, otherwise no fair competition is possible. This is why many sports have established divisions based on age, weight, and gender. The division between able-bodied and disabled athletes is also meant to ensure maximally fair competition. In general athletes with a disability have a much more bothersome body, and they may have to invest a much larger effort even to produce the most obvious movements. Pistorius has been put in the category of paralympic athletes, all of whom he beats easily. Owing to his special prostheses, he even has become a genuine rival for legged athletes. I assume that Oscar Pistorius, in his daily life, will experience substantial inconvenience of not having lower legs and of always having to rely on aids. Each morning he will first have to find and pull on his ‘legs’ before being able to get out of bed – a concern that all of us with two proper legs never have to bother with. Living with lower leg prostheses requires particular attention for your body each new day. After Pistorius has attached his running prostheses, however, his body regains its ‘natural’ capability of being able to run. Once he finds himself running on the athletics track again, he no longer will have to think consciously of every next step, unlike someone who just got a new prosthesis. Although it may well be more bothersome to Pistorius to go up a flight of stairs, on the track the burden of running fast seems no larger, or even smaller, to him than to able-bodied athletes. Special in this case is that at least in some respects his artificial legs appear to be better than normal legs.3 If it comes to winning races, Pistorius may actually be better off with his prostheses than with legs of flesh and blood. We should not necessarily view a prosthetic device, then, as a poor replacement, for it may even serve as an enhancement on the body’s original, natural design. Although Pistorius’s case first of all raises questions about fairness in sports competitions, from a broader perspective it also shows that contemporary prosthetic technology blurs presumed clear boundaries between therapy and enhancement, between able and disabled bodies, and between natural

3 As suggested in ‘An Amputee Sprinter: Is He Disabled or Too-Abled’, New York Times, 15 May 2007.

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talent and successful incorporation of technology (Burkett, McNamee, & Potthast, 2011; Van Hilvoorde & Landeweerd, 2008). Pistorius’s success as an athlete illustrates how contemporary (medical, orthopedic) technologies may reduce the burden of the body and perfect the defective body. It is a fact of life that all of us somehow have to carry along our body. Much of the time we may hardly realize it, since we tend to accept our body as it is as a matter of routine. Often we become aware of our body only if some part of it bothers us or is malfunctioning. As Leder (1990) aptly describes, very often we only become aware of our body in the mode of dys-appearance, i.e. it appears to us when it does not function, or only poorly. In the same way, our body can become manifest to us in a positive way, in the mode of eu-appearance (eu meaning nice or good). For instance, while taking a swim on a hot day our body may give us a nice and comfortable feeling in the cool water, even when we are not really focused on our body. Mostly, in fact, this kind of embodied self-experience takes place without explicit reflection on our body (Zeiler, 2010). But also emphatic attention for our own body can be positive and does not need to be negative. Men and women in sports and music, for example, will have to concentrate on their body’s functioning in order to achieve. They can never take their body for granted if they aspire to improve their performance. If eventually the piano player’s fingers need to move across the keys in a seemingly natural fashion, this first requires lots of practice and careful attention to fingering and posture. In this case a voluntary ‘bracketing’ of the body’s naturalness is involved. In cases of dys-appearance, however, we may indeed experience the presence of our body as a drag, such as when we are ill, feel pain, have a physical limitation, or are overpowered by strong emotions. Such experiences make us see our body as that which is in the way of our proper functioning. At any moment our body may reveal itself as an annoying burden, a drag, a pitiful thing from which we wish to distance ourselves, or even part with it altogether. Some have argued that such release from the body has genuinely become possible through the invention of the internet. We may enter a virtual space, such as Second Life, without bringing along our body of flesh and blood. Still, it is rather questionable if we thereby really leave our body behind. Virtual reality hardly represents an altogether new world; also before the internet many of us enjoyed roaming around in a virtual space, in our fantasies and imagination. The reality of a movie or a book is as virtual as that of the internet. The internet, then, does not so much create worlds unknown to us. Furthermore, the virtual reality of the internet is far from disembodied. Although in creating online identities (avatars) we

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may opt to present ourselves in altogether different bodies than the one we actually have – by posing as much older or much younger, or as someone of the other sex – research has shown that other users do not accept the presentation of a sexless and body-less avatar (De Mul, 2010). In Second Life you do not encounter human beings without a body; in virtual reality, too, people are still embodied. It is not possible simply to get rid of our body, even for those of us with a wild imagination. The body, then, proves not only a nuisance, but a very persistent one to boot. Still, in Western thought the notion prevails that we should not simply tolerate the presence of this continual drag. 4 Over the centuries, philosophers and theologians argued that we had better ignore the presence of our body as much as possible and look for a safe, disembodied site for our life of the mind. In this study, instead of following this tradition uncritically, I rather aim to apply ideas from various philosophers for a different kind of analysis. I will start from the persistent presence of the body, without thereby addressing whether it is morally good or sensible, whether it contributes to happiness and the good life or not. Specifically I discuss what, exactly, it means to ‘carry along’ (apporter) our body’ (Merleau-Ponty, 1961: 123). I thereby look for inspiration in several contemporary phenomena that in my view mark a turn in how we reflect on the body. Increasingly our culture has been pursuing the perfection of the body through technological intervention. This phenomenon is such an interesting one because it appears to imply a change of the dominant negative image of the body. Even though we do not so much claim to ‘carry along’ our body, most of us no longer try to hide or ignore that we in fact have a body. We idolize and display all sorts of aspects of corporality eagerly. Doing workouts in the gym, adding piercings and tattoos, applying various forms of makeup for both women and men, opting for breast and penis enlargements, making cosmetic corrections by Botox or surgery, exploring drastic changes in fertility such as surrogate motherhood and IVF – what these activities and alterations have in common is our refusal to accept bodily imperfection or our refusal to be satisfied with a ‘naturally’ given body. Much in the same way, of course, Oscar Pistorius had himself fitted two great prostheses. Although the body can be a nuisance at times, if not all the time, instead of hiding it we might as well seek to adjust it, which will render it less bothersome and perhaps more enjoyable – easier to carry along with us. 4 In this study, I limit myself to Western philosophy, implying that I will not address views on the body as articulated by Chinese or Buddhist philosophers.

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When considering these contemporary (technological) developments aimed at improving and enhancing the body, it seems correct to claim that Western culture has surmounted its own body contempt. Is this a positive development? Not everyone agrees, and there are even quite some critical voices. The advantage of espousing a critical view of bodily adjustments and improvements is that it will allow us to put them into perspective. It is important, for instance, carefully to study the consequences of interventions that have quickly grown ubiquitous in recent years, such as breast and penis enlargements, including their risks and whether they should be paid for by comprehensive insurance. Yet aside from psychological, economic, or health reasons for exercising restraint regarding particular procedures, we are also exposed to moralist criticism, the thrust of which commonly is that these contemporary developments prove modern life is running out of control. A case in point is the book L’adieu au corps by David Le Breton (1999). This French anthropologist and sociologist presents his readers with a very dismal worldview. He argues, for instance, that our era represents the final episode of a history long characterized by a deep-seated hate of the body. Through all the possibilities provided by modern technology we as modern people may liberate ourselves from our despised body. Current developments regarding improvements of the body refer to the fact that we are on the verge of parting with our body (l’adieu), which Le Breton views as a highly negative development. This parting consists of the separation between body and person or human being, causing the body to be cut loose from what he calls ‘the phenomenological unity of man’ (p. 16). This negative view of man is inadequate in my opinion. As I will argue, our ‘phenomenological unity’ can only exist because we may consider our body as a thing (to be perfected). Pistorius’s lower leg prostheses precisely belong to the phenomenological unity of Pistorius as a fast runner. I refer to the experience of our own body as the experience of something within us that is not fully ‘own,’ or, in other words, that is somewhat strange. This foreign, object-like dimension of our body may perhaps be troublesome – a burden that every now and then we literally must carry along with us – but our relation to this dimension does not need to be couched in terms of hatred. I would rather say that today we, as ‘technologized’ individuals, are not afraid to embrace the strangeness within us. Before further addressing contemporary phenomena such as prostheses and organ transplants, I will first explain the nature of the body’s ‘strangeness’ and why in many classical texts from the history of (Western) philosophy this strangeness was interpreted negatively.

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The fallen soul Le Breton claims that our contemporary obsession with the body and our outward appearance stems from the disgust we feel vis-à-vis our body. The thought of Plato (427-347 BC) is commonly understood to be pervaded by such revulsion as well. Although it is true that his writings stimulate us to lead a contemplative life marked by reason, in his case this did not go hand in hand with contempt of the body. On the contrary, Plato was an athlete who trained and kept up his body, rather than scorning it. We tend to forget that Plato is only a nickname, his real name being Aristocles. He received his nickname Platoon, meaning ‘the broad (shouldered),’ because of his athletic build, as noticed by his contemporaries during wrestling games. Every now and then, someone will claim that philosophers should not be preoccupied with the body. Philosophy is about loftier issues and their contemplation does not require a body in particular. When considering Plato’s Phaedo, however, it seems hardly productive to hold on to this view because this dialog tells about the immanent ending of Socrates’s life. Socrates is about to die, meaning that his body is bound to undergo a radical transformation. To allow him to depart from this earthy life, Plato had no choice but to bring in the body. It was no longer possible frivolously to philosophize about issues unrelated to the body. Of course, the body of Socrates constitutes the heart of this dialog. The poison he must drink shortly will devitalize his body, after which his freed soul will be able to make its move to Hades. Still, not all those around him appear to accept this process as of yet. For this reason, Socrates once again needs to explain to them in fine detail how soul and body interrelate. Socrates did not seem to be blessed with a beautiful body. Regularly, even, he has been depicted with an ugly, thick nose. If he claims that a philosopher should attach no value to the body’s ‘adornments’ (Phaedo: 64d),5 it would be too obvious to argue that as a philosopher he ignored bodily concerns because he himself failed to have a handsome appearance. For even when Socrates would have been our contemporary, I strongly doubt that he would have opted to have a nose job. Philosophers, regardless of their outward beauty or ugliness, should not be concerned with their body but should try to detach themselves from it, according to Socrates. If we are busy all the time with adorning our body or seeking its pleasures such as eating, drinking, and sex, we will never become detached from it. This raises the

5

References to Plato’s texts are according to the Stephanus pagination.

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issue of why it is so important to a philosopher to become separate from the body, and what this release of the body in fact means. Being able to separate oneself from one’s body assumes that the body and the person who disunites from it do not coincide. Apart from my body there is apparently an ‘I’ who may separate herself from that body. Who or what is this ‘I’ if it is not my body? Plato calls this the soul. I am my soul and in addition I have a body. He describes the relationship between soul and body in the well-known metaphor of the prison, the body being the prison of the soul (Phaedo: 82d-83b). The soul – our ‘I’ – is imprisoned in that body, and it seems to be one of our main tasks, certainly if we are a philosopher, to release ourselves from that prison. This metaphor well illustrates the essence of how Western culture, including its Christian tradition, looks at the body. The body sits in the way of the soul; the body holds the soul captive. The body that our soul has to drag along severely limits its options, especially when it aspires to some loftier world. The restriction imposed by the body on the soul consists in particular of its weight. For weight is the opposite of what the soul stands for. If anything the soul is light and nimble, or even weightless. It is in the nature of the soul, therefore, to aspire to rise to the highest regions. Essentially, the soul is incompatible with the weight of earthly existence. A human soul, then, has a divine dimension, for lightness is a sign of the divine. The only physical element which may be understood to have something in common with the divine is the wing (Phaedrus: 246d). In this respect, Plato hooks up with common imagery from Greek mythology. In Phaedrus, the dialog in which he explains the soul based on its analogy with the natural union of a team of winged horses and their charioteer, he also explicitly refers to the image of Zeus who in his winged chariot flies through heaven. Human beings, through their (specific) soul, have something in common with the gods. It is possible to ask, of course, why the soul would want to fly and why it would want be in heaven. According to Plato, heaven is the place where the Ideas reside, and they serve as the soul’s ambrosia. By beholding Ideas, the soul nurtures itself and does not lose its wings. Insufficient nourishment will cause it to lose its feathers, and it will come down to earth and try to cling to something that is firm and has weight: a body. This is the very situation in which we, as human beings, find ourselves. We are fallen souls. Yet, crucially, the desire to fly will always be present. We are like clipped birds that continue to try to fly but fall down all the time. As fallen souls, living beings exist as the unification of body and soul. We are not the sole living beings, however; plants and animals, too, represent a unity of body and soul. For this reason, the Greek psuchè, which we translate

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as ‘soul,’ is not exclusively human. The term has two meanings in fact. The first applies to all living beings and the second only to beings that have logos (the power of speech and reasoning). In general, psuchè means life principle, or, as Plato says, the task of the soul consists of care for the inanimate (Phaedrus: 246b). Bodies without psuchè are dead. The human soul does have a specific status according to Plato. Because we have language and because we do not only depend on the senses when it comes to knowledge but also on the power of reasoning, contemplation and insight, the human soul may distance itself from the body to which it had clung. The human soul, given its power of reason, has the possibility to relate actively to the body to which it is linked. The specific nature of the human soul, then, is that it causes a split within living beings. Mortals always consist of the unity of body and soul – a bodiless soul is not a living being. The human soul’s highest power drives a wedge in this unity. When Plato argues to free the soul from the burden of the body, this means he is forcefully hammering down that wedge. All fallen souls are living beings, but only humans may have knowledge of their fallen status. Philosophers are the ones who have preeminent awareness of the fallen situation of humankind. This applies more in particular to the philosopher Socrates. During his final hours, waiting for death, he wishes to share this knowledge with his friends. Socrates must die and this means that this human being, this mortal man, will be split: a poisonous draught will end his existence as unity of body and soul. To reduce the threat of this division on which he cannot exert any influence – if not to deny it altogether – Socrates proposes a split that comes from within, one that can be self-regulated. He tells his friends they do not need to be afraid of death because it does not concern the soul, which is immortal. Through death, the soul will actually be able to release itself from the body, and again fly freely. Death means the end of our miserable fallen condition; in no way does it undermine our true being. We should in fact welcome death because it liberates the soul from its weight. Socrates’s analysis of the soul appeals to our deep-seated fear of death, but instead of taking this fear seriously he ridicules it. He mocks his sad and fearful friends Simmias and Cebes by saying that they are just as afraid as children for some hobgoblin (Phaedo: 77d). This analogy falls short, though, for fear of death is not at all typical of children. The paternalist attitude of Socrates fails to relieve our own worries regarding death, but it is quite recognizable. The biggest horror awaiting us in life is death, and no one escapes it. It is this opponent of life, this absolute otherness of life that we wish to quell when we say there is something in us – the soul – that

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is immortal. To achieve this, or, in other words, to conquer the absolute otherness in our life, we have to separate (or estrange) ourselves from that which is mortal, and this is the body. Conceiving our own body as something strange or other allows us to deal with the absolute otherness of death. When I claim that my (current) body is of no importance – that it is something I would be happy not to have and that it is ‘strange’ rather than own – it hardly matters anymore that at one point it will stop functioning and be detached from me. Denial of the body helps in dealing with our fear of death. By driving a wedge between body and soul already, death’s blow will perhaps strike us less hard. Socrates calls philosophy an exercise in dying (Phaedo: 81a), but perhaps we should rather say it is an exercise in softening the impact of death. Plato’s view of the relationship between body and soul is closely interrelated with his notion of true knowledge. The body is not only a drag in our triumph over death; the body also obscures our knowledge, our understanding of all things. True knowledge is not knowledge of the things that are continually changing; instead, it is knowledge of the unchanging character of things. Therefore, knowledge does not only consist of descriptions of things we behold; real knowledge concerns the cause of their existence. That cause is the unchanging, which Plato also calls Idea (or essence) of something. It is not possible to perceive these Ideas through our senses, for Ideas are in fact invisible. We do not encounter them in our everyday world. Real knowledge, then, does not flow from using our senses, nor should we rely on what others tell us. That is mere opinion (doxa), and to Plato it has nothing to do with knowledge. We attain real knowledge by detaching ourselves from our senses, and hence our body, and by subsequently using our pure power of reason. The exercise in dying thus comes with the meaning of separating oneself from doxa and setting oneself to beholding Ideas by means of reason or intellectual insight – theooria. In two ways, then, the body is a ‘strange’ thing for Plato. First, we consider our body as ‘strange’ as a way to prepare ourselves for the radical otherness of death. Second, this strangeness stands in the way of contemplation and our quest for true knowledge, or philosophy as such. In other words, philosophers in pursuit of first causes who take it upon themselves to fight superficial knowledge, chitchat, and opinions also have to combat the body and its weight. At the same time, we need to ask whether Plato felt indeed that the soul had to be freed from its bodily prison. After all, perhaps there is a good reason for the soul’s imprisonment. Let us imagine our soul to be

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free-floating. This means that the soul would no longer fall into the category of ‘living being.’ It would then be a bodiless being, not hindered in any way to fly upward to the highest regions. This may seem great, but it also implies that this being cannot be moved by anything or anyone – that this being is an indifferent being. This feathered indifference has no need for anything or anybody. Its virtuousness will therefore never be tested, as virtuousness has everything to do with how we deal with others, how we can be moved by others. Plato was hardly a proponent of such indifference. Even if our prison is our burden, a living being will never be freed from it. Liberation takes place through death only. In life there can only be a catharsis of the soul, and this is what Plato advocates. A soul becomes pure if in life it never willingly associates with the body, if it gathers itself into itself alone (Phaedo: 80d). The soul, then, will not really be set free. At best it indicates its aversion and its being not guilty of its own imprisonment. This mainly means that one should not give in to bodily cravings, for lust is the preeminent means for making the prisoner the chief assistant in his own imprisonment (Phaedo: 82e). The metaphor of imprisonment, then, does not refer to our possible release. We merely have different ways of dealing with our imprisonment. Becoming aware of it is becoming aware of our fallen soul, but this will hardly contribute to our flying freely in life. All of us simply remain down here, at best flapping our wings a little. Our inability (or not being allowed) to escape from our bodily weight is addressed in even more pronounced ways in Plato’s allegory of the cave. In this allegory the theme of liberation and imprisonment plays a major role as well. The chains of imprisonment symbolize the ignorance fueled by opinions (doxa). This is the situation of our everyday life. Because we are chained and cannot see the true light outside of the cave, we will never have insight into the cause of the shadows we see on the wall of the cave. One of the prisoners is freed from this cave, and eventually this person is allowed to see the sunlight outside of the cave. He will then be able – after his eyes’ blinding will have died down – to understand that the sun is the cause of all things. This liberation runs parallel to the release of the soul from its bodily prison. Strikingly, in this allegory the one who is liberated does not do it himself, and moreover, it involves a violent liberation and he is subsequently pulled from the cave to let himself be blinded by the sun. The one imprisoned down there did not want to be unshackled and wanted even less to leave his dark spot (Republic: 517a). The cave is the safe and pleasant place of our daily

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life where we are in fact quite satisfied. We do not mind the shadows on the wall being mere shadows, nor does it interest us the least that we are ignorant of their cause. This not knowing is experienced as such only if we were to know that there is yet another life outside the cave. It is possible to compare this situation with that of Truman Burbank, protagonist of The Truman Show (1998), a movie directed by Peter Weir. Truman’s life takes place in a large television studio. His life is a scripted life, but he does not know it. The studio where he is held captive is like the Platonic cave. As long as he does not know that his life is not ‘real,’ he is actually quite happy. However, after learning of his life-long captivity and finding the studio’s exit, he does not want to go back in anymore. In Plato’s story, the unfortunate person, after being dragged out of the cave to behold the sun, must go back into the cave. This person will not feel at home there anymore. Had he never been exposed to ‘real’ life, life outside the cave, he had not known that the cave was actually his captivity and he might still have been happy there – ‘ignorance is bliss’ after all.6 This applies in the same way to the captivity of the soul. If we are not really aware of our imprisonment, the body will not be a burden to us. Another striking feature of Plato’s allegory is that the one who has been outside the cave, the one who was freed – the philosopher – is not allowed to stay outside the cave, but must go back in. For human beings there is no life outside the cave. Nor is there any form of life for them without a body. The task imposed by Plato on philosophers is not a simple one. Our body must be fought, but we also need to realize that we cannot disunite ourselves from our body altogether. We cannot just discard it as an element that is strange or foreign to us. Our body is the strange element that somehow is with us and we have no choice but to carry it along with us. In other words, the body is the strangeness or otherness to which philosophy always has to relate in one way or another. Like a nightmare, the body is the strangeness that ‘haunts’ philosophy. Yet we may as well interpret this predicament in positive terms: we need the body to be able to practice philosophy. If we were feather-light souls, there would be no need to free ourselves from our 6 A well-known saying that is also uttered by Cypher, a character in another movie that toys with the Platonic theme of two (parallel) realities, The Matrix (1999). Cypher claims that ignorance is bliss at the moment when a choice must be made between a red pill and a blue pill. By taking the red pill one will gain insight into the ‘real’ reality (comparable to the reality outside of Plato’s cave) and realize that in fact we are living in a virtual world guided by a computer program, a well-nigh unacceptable truth. The blue pill will allow us to continue to live our blissful life of ignorance (inside the cave).

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body. If we were to reside in the heaven of Ideas all along, we would not need to have a desire for it and thus we would lack the desire for knowledge that seems essential to philosophy. Our struggle with the weight of the body constitutes an invitation for thinking. The weight of the body refers to our finality. Socrates’s impending death was an incomprehensible thing for his friends and his wife Xantippe, whom he no longer wanted to be there with him in his final hour because of her whining. It was incomprehensible to Socrates’s friends that they would never exchange views with him anymore – never feel his presence anymore. Characteristically, in Phaedo, death is very near while simultaneously being put at great distance. To Socrates’s question whether there are any instructions regarding the poison to be drunk, the man who hands him the poison tells him he has to drink it, walk around until his legs grow heavy, and then lay down (Phaedo: 117a). Death is nothing but additional weight to an already weighty body. The heavier the better, so it seems, because then we know at least for sure that the full load will remain down here and not join the soul to Hades. Plato describes the body mainly in terms of its weight, its heavy weight. Right before one dies this weight reaches its climax: Socrates will die with leaden legs. The strangeness of death, then, announces itself in this weight. Yet we can experience the strangeness of our mortal body in other ways also. We may experience our body as strange or other once we consider it as merely a thing. Think of our arm after accidentally lying on it for some time. It may seem as if it is not our arm anymore. It hangs down from our body and appears no longer alive. At such moments we look at our body with a sense of wonder and we may suddenly realize that we are just a thing. We look at our hand, we touch it and we may think that it might as well be replaced by a prosthesis. For Oscar Pistorius it is a most normal thing, before every training exercise or race, to substitute his normal leg prostheses by his supersonic sprint prostheses. Plato never described a living being in terms of a thing, because he assumed the unity of body and soul. A major shift in modern thought, starting with René Descartes (1596-1650), pertains to the thinking about body and soul and specifically the notion of the ‘inanimate thing’ in a living body. Descartes radically disconnected body and soul. This implied that in order to live, bodies do not need a soul at all. If philosophers from antiquity and the Middle Ages viewed the soul as animating principle for all living beings, including plants and animals, Descartes claimed that only human beings have a soul and this soul is not so much necessary to live, but only to be rational. Living bodies may therefore as well be soulless. If Plato conceived

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of the strangeness of the body as the weight of a living body, Descartes understands it as the inanimate thing-like dimension of the living body. In many contemporary medical interventions, the body is understood in this Cartesian manner.

Inanimate life On 17 November 2005, two surgeons in the Czech city of Brno worked for hours on a nose. It involved an 11-year-old boy’s nose, which was bitten off by a German shepherd and subsequently also eaten by the dog. A veterinarian killed the animal, cut it open, took the boy’s nose out of the dog’s stomach, after which the boy brought it with him to the hospital. The surgery was complicated because the nose had been in the dog’s stomach for about two hours, which meant that some parts of it had begun to decompose already. To prevent infections these bits had to be removed, while the remaining nose had to be sterilized. If the healing process was not without complications, one month after the surgery the physicians announced that the boy’s condition was stable and that his nose looked fine.7 This incident, and its fortunate conclusion in particular, indicates how accurately and effectively today’s doctors can repair an injured body. The stitching of all the tiny veins, nerves and skin tissue requires great skill and precision. The alternative was to use an artificial nose implant, but that would never have looked like a real nose. Owing to this intervention, the boy, with his whole life still ahead of him, did not lose his face. That such surgery can be successful at all is because the body is capable of tolerating ‘strange’ elements. After it was bitten off, the nose had become a ‘foreign’ part of the boy’s living body. If the dog had had slightly more time to appropriate the boy’s nose, it would not have been possible anymore to return it to its original owner. The nose’s wounds, in part caused by the fluids from the dog’s stomach, could largely be undone again through sterilization. But this incident also reveals another, more fundamental, strangeness. I will call this the strangeness of the body’s material or thing-like nature.8 The boy’s nose in fact seems like the nose of a clay puppet. You can remove 7 This news item could be read in various international newspapers. See, for instance, The Czech Republic’s English-language electronic Newspaper, Monday 19 December 2005. 8 In Chapter 2, I will further refine this ‘strangeness’ as the so-called körperliche side of the body.

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it and put it back on again. In expert hands, the body is quite malleable and perfectible. This perfectibility is possible because the body is a thing or machine. Descartes writes that the body can be compared to a clockwork: a device of which all parts are interrelated in a mechanical way and that, once it is wound up well, does not need an ‘internal will’ to start moving. Adopting this comparison we may well claim that many of today’s surgeons are great clockmakers. We have seen that Plato describes the body in negative terms: as obstacle. This is rather different in the case of Descartes. The body in fact highly fascinated him. He had great interest in its workings. Of course, he lived in an era of revolutionary changes in body knowledge. In the 16th century, for instance, Vesalius paved the way for modern anatomy, and in the early 17th century the British biologist and physician William Harvey discovered the blood circulation system and the function of the heart. Rather than being the site of the soul, the heart is a simple pump. This notion had great appeal to Descartes. Through conversations with his friend and teacher Isaac Beeckman, he grew convinced that the natural sciences should start from mathematics (geometry in particular), instead of from one or other nontransparent animating principle, as used to be the case in antiquity and the Middle Ages. The life and motion of all living beings had to be explained no longer with recourse to psuchè but to mechanics. The world consists of material parts that interact in a causal way. Quite early in his career already, in 1633, Descartes wrote a treatise on man, in which he applies the mechanical worldview to the human body. However, he withdrew this piece from publication out of fear of being convicted by the Church, after learning that Galileo was excommunicated based on similar ideas. A major argument in this text by Descartes, and perhaps its most ‘scandalous’ and ‘blasphemous’ aspect, is that the body, to be living or ‘animate,’ does not need to have a soul. In Descartes’s view, the so-called esprits animaux (animal spirits) are responsible for ‘animating’ the body. These are not pure spirits because they are matter, the smallest particles imaginable. He also uses the metaphors of ‘very fine wind’ or ‘pure flame’ (AT, XI, 129).9 These particles are transported through the bloodstream. When the blood arrives in the brain, it not only fuels the brain mass, but it also carries along these tiny spirits which through the sheer force of the blood are pushed into the cerebral cavities and from there end up in the nerves. According to Descartes, the nerves 9 For references to Descartes’s texts, I use the pagination in the standard edition by Adam and Tannery (AT).

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can be compared to pipes, such as from a fountain, through which water is pushed by a propelling force set into motion mechanically. The pumping heart produces the propelling force that causes the blood and animal spirits to circulate. The heart’s functioning he explains with reference to the phenomenon of ‘fire or warmth without light’ (AT, XI, 123). This is a form of heating comparable to hey heating: a process whereby hey spontaneously catches fire when hot. In a similar vein, the warmth in the flesh of the heart would spontaneously cause the blood to swell and expand. The blood that now needs more space will flow eagerly through the right ventricle, pulmonary artery, aorta, and so on. Descartes explains the mechanical operation of the animal spirits in the brain by comparing the body to a church organ (AT, XI, 165): the heart and main arteries are like the organ’s bellows and the air displaced via the windpipes is like the animal spirits. The keys of the organ’s keyboard determine through which pipe the air will be displaced. Objects that we perceive through our body can be compared with the organ player’s fingers on the keyboard. These objects thus determine via which nerves (pipes) the animal spirits will be displaced. The body, with its blood circulation system and nervous system, is a mechanical whole that is also influenced in a mechanical way from the outside. That I perceive things is the result of a mechanical movement exerted on my nerves that causes a particular generation of animal spirits in the brain; if next I react in a certain way this is again because special nerves guide these spirits from the brain to set into motion specific muscles. At a primary level, the body may function very well on its own and does not need a soul. This is also what Descartes describes in his rendering of the pain reflex (AT, XI, 142). If you hold your hand near a fire, the fire’s particles will cause the hand’s skin to move away. This motion activates a nerve, which subsequently – much like tolling a bell – opens a brain cavity pore, which through the nerve causes the animal spirits to come down that cause the foot muscles to move in such way that the hand does not burn. Surely, some 350 years after Descartes’s findings, experts in anatomy and physiology embrace other insights. But his style of thinking still determines our general view of the body. We see it in contemporary biomedicine and medical practice (Hacking, 2007; Leder, 1992), and in the fact that we (patients, clients, and consumers) are not really opposed to being treated as if our body were a machine (as long as the outcome is positive, of course), and most of the time we highly welcome and accept all kinds of technical medical interventions. If the heart is merely a pump for circulating blood,

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this function can also be taken over by a heart-lung machine to enable, for instance, open heart surgery. Without the notion that our body can (also) be viewed as a sequence of mechanical functions, we would not be able to imagine ourselves in an intensive-care unit with all its various pumps and other high-tech equipment. Descartes compares the body with clockworks, fountains, or mills (AT, XI, 120). These are all manmade machines that are still capable of moving in various ways on their own. Man is a machine made by God, but one that can well move autonomously, independently of God and the soul. A living human being is like a wound-up clockwork, a dead body is like a broken clockwork, as Descartes claims in his later text on The Passions of the Soul (1649) (AT, XI, 330-331). He is silent, however, about defective bodies – clocks that tick irregularly. The fixing of defective bodies is the task of medical science. That this science developed so strongly and is often successful is, I would suggest, because it starts from the idea that the body is a repairable machine.

The modern soul At the end of his Treatise on Man, Descartes underlines once more the mechanical nature of the human body. He claims that all functions of the machine that we call our body derive from the ‘arrangement of its counter-weights and wheels.’ ‘In order to explain these functions, then, it is not necessary to conceive of this machine as having any vegetative or sensitive soul or other principle of movement and life, apart from its blood and its spirits, which are agitated by the heat of the fire burning continuously in its heart – a fire which has the same nature as all the fires that occur in inanimate bodies’ (AT, XI, 202, my emphasis). In this text, at least in the version available to us, Descartes does not get to describing the function of the soul. This he addresses in his Meditations (1641). In this text Descartes views the soul no longer as animating principle, but merely as what today we would call ‘psyche’ or ‘consciousness.’ The soul is nothing but the thinking thing (res cogitans). At their core the Meditations, rather than just a treatise on man, are a quest after the foundation of true knowledge, while still presenting an entirely new view of man. In the era of Descartes, the sciences developed at a rapid pace, but in his view they remained fragmented. Therefore he felt a need for a foundation from which all sciences should start. This foundation had to consist of knowledge

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that could not be doubted. To establish such knowledge, everything not beyond doubt had to be excluded. Thus Descartes initiated his ‘methodical doubt.’ What we should doubt first of all is the information provided by our senses. Sensory knowledge, then, cannot be part of a foundation for science. We should also doubt the sensory experience of our own body. I may think, for instance, that I am sitting here typing behind my PC, but it is quite possible that I am dreaming it. Likewise, I may doubt whether my arm is really my arm, or whether my body is really my body. It is possible to doubt it and therefore this kind of experience cannot constitute a foundation for science. Furthermore, we may also doubt such mathematical truths as 2 + 3 = 5, as it could well be that there is some ‘evil spirit’ (malin génie) that constantly fools me and that makes me believe that 2 + 3 = 5, while in reality this is not the case (AT, VII, 22). Descartes increasingly pushes the issue of doubt further, even up to a point that it seems possible to cast doubt on everything. Yet there remains one truth that cannot be doubted. If there would be an evil spirit that fools me, this must imply that I in fact exist, otherwise there would be nothing to be fooled (AT, VII, 25). If everything is subject to doubt, there must be an ‘I’ that doubts. The indisputable foundation that Descartes thus finds is the existence of ‘I’ that can doubt and that may suspect it is potentially fooled. Next, he wonders what that ‘I’ beyond doubt can be. It is not our corporal life, because we may doubt its reality. Nor is it the soul imagined as wind, fire, or ether, for all these metaphors refer to the corporal and are therefore subject to doubt. The indisputable ‘I’ is the soul as ‘thinking thing’ (AT, VII, 27). The sole aspect of me that is beyond doubt is the fact that I think. So it is our act of thinking (cogitare) that we cannot doubt. When referring to cogitare Descartes does not just refer to thinking or reflecting, but also to doubting, understanding, confirming, denying, wanting, not wanting, imagining, and experiencing (AT, VII, 28). All intellectual activity, in other words, is beyond doubt. In his view, the soul in fact performs all that activity. The mode of thinking thus developed and applied by Descartes in his Meditations has major ramifications for the relationship between body and soul. We saw that Plato drove a wedge between body and soul, but in his case there never was an actual split (in life). In Descartes’s view, however, there indeed is such a split. If we adhere to the mode of thinking as proposed in methodical doubt, body and soul cannot go together. All that belongs to the body, after all, can be doubted, while the soul is that which cannot be doubted. When the soul is connected to the body, the soul becomes subject to doubt, too, and is actually no longer worthy of its name. For Descartes this means that body and soul must be separate. They are substances (or

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things) that cannot be reduced to each other: the body is an extended substance, one that occupies space (res extensa), while the soul is a thinking substance (res cogitans). By conceiving the body as an extended substance, he underlines the notion of the body as not essentially different from all other physical things in this world. They all have a size and take up space: they are ‘extended.’ It does not matter whether it involves living or inanimate things, or things that can have a soul or cannot have one. In essence, all are the same, namely: extended. In this logic, the body becomes something that is no longer typical of human beings or any other living beings. In this way, in a sense, our body is taken away from us. The body I call my body comprises nothing that is my own. The only specific aspect of my body is that it is an extended thing, but that applies to a host of other things and for this reason it is hardly strange to us that parts of our body can be replaced by other things. The Czech boy from Brno whose nose was put back might as well have received an artificial implant, which probably we would have found to be more normal. The extended and non-extended radically differ from each other. The non-extended soul is that which seems to be most own. Descartes also claims that the soul’s activity may be summarized as ‘having an experience’ (AT, VII, 29). The fact of me having an experience no one can take away from me. It cannot be doubted. What can be doubted is the content of my experience. For example, I may doubt whether it is a dog that I see sitting on the pavement; it might also be a garbage bag. But what I cannot doubt is that I engage in the act of perception. What is indubitable, then, is what is unalienably mine. It is that which constitutes my essential ‘I,’ my fundamental ‘self.’ In other words, with Descartes the separation between body and soul is also the separation between what is own and what is strange or other, between the unalienable and that which can be removed and replaced. So far, the image sketched for us by Descartes is quite orderly, but the real world is erratic of course. The radical separation between body and soul as analyzed by Descartes only occurs if we apply methodical doubt. Because this doubt is the instrument of philosophy, the separation between body and soul is a philosophical problem. It only presents itself when we are philosophizing. In our everyday life, where much is beyond doubt to us (or our life would become impossible), body and soul in fact go together. This much Descartes also writes to Princess Elisabeth in his famous letter of 28 June 1643. This princess had read his Meditations and she very well understood that on the basis of the mode of thought developed in that text, body and soul must be separated. Next she wondered, however, how the

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two might go together. In his letter Descartes writes that the convergence of body and soul is not a problem because in our daily life the two always go together. To describe how, exactly, body and soul act on each other, Descartes subsequently writes his Passions of the Soul (1649). In this work he no longer calls on methodical doubt, but he tries to explain all sorts of common and daily experiences. These experiences are possible only when there is interaction between body and soul. In a mechanical way the body receives stimuli from outside (through the senses) and these are read and interpreted by the soul, creating a particular experience. The body thus acts on the soul. In intentional movements – for instance when I decide to fetch my coat and go outside – exactly the opposite occurs: the soul, which has a specific action lined up, acts on the body to set it in motion. The above-described animal spirits play a crucial role in the interaction between body and soul in our daily life. From the body’s tubes, its arteries, and nerves, these spirits move to the brain where they somehow stimulate the soul, and, conversely, the soul manages to animate these spirits to act on the body’s muscles. If Descartes does not so much say that the soul is in the brain, he believes it should be located there. The place where the animal spirits may act on the soul, and vice versa, where the soul may again infuse animal spirits into the body, is the pineal gland.10 This is still a somewhat unsatisfactory solution for a problem that Descartes himself created. In his view, body and soul are two radically different substances. The body is extended while the soul is not. The explanation provided by Descartes for the interaction between the two is a mechanical one, and mechanics only applies to physical and hence extended things. If we take Descartes’s analysis in his Meditations seriously, it simply cannot be the case that the physical and extended body can have a (mechanical) influence on something that is not extended, and it is even more puzzling that what is not extended can touch the extended and set it in motion. Descartes is very much aware of this problem, for there is a good reason to propose such a notion as animal spirits. If these are physical particles, they are so tiny that they are barely extended. Descartes, then, seems to call on a kind of hybrid substance to serve as tailpiece of his analysis of the body as being a mechanical thing that is still animated. To many, the unsatisfactory solution provided by Descartes – to bring together the two radically separated substances again – is a ground for 10 This is a gland that today we call ‘epiphysis’ and of which we now know that it plays a role in our hormonal regulation and biological clock.

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rejecting his theory in full. I do not do so here because his analysis also clarifies to us in fine detail that there is a ‘strange’ element in all of us; that our body is a thing; that like a thing it is possible to repair and perfect it; and that other things may well replace it. Although we may disagree with his notion that body and soul meet each other in the pineal gland, he is right in suggesting that we may experience our body as a thing. Gilbert Ryle (1949: 17) has described the Cartesian soul as a ‘ghost in the machine.’ In Descartes’s view, after all, the soul is that which the body is not; the body is physical and extended while the soul is non-physical and non-extended. Of course, these negative descriptions fail to indicate what the soul in fact is, other than some mystery or phantom. With Ryle one could say that this phantom-like soul is the strange, inexplicable in the body as machine. I would rather reverse this logic, however, by claiming that not the soul but the body as machine is ‘strange.’ Even if we cannot say what exactly the soul is – in this, Ryle is entirely right – ‘having an experience’ is in fact most ‘own’ to us. To Descartes, the soul is our ownness. This ownness can only be uncovered through methodical doubt in philosophy. However, as Descartes writes in his letter to Elisabeth, it is better to philosophize neither too much nor too often: it would be ‘very harmful to occupy one’s understanding often in meditating’ (AT 695). In daily life there is always interaction between our body and our soul, implying that we are always faced with a strangeness that forces itself upon our ownness.

The soul that inhabits the stomach Before further exploring the relationship or tension between what is own and what is strange, a relationship that we can reduce to Descartes’s distinction between body and soul, first I wish to briefly address a contemporary view that is incorrectly attributed to Descartes, but in which that tension is in fact gone. This view is also known as ‘Cartesian materialism.’ This materialism follows in the wake of Descartes’s thesis that the body is nothing but a machine, while it simultaneously assumes that outside of the body’s matter there is no other substance. It thus denies the existence of a spiritual element. We also encounter this view among contemporary neuroscientists and philosophers who claim that all our mental activity is nothing but brain activity. In their view, soul and brain are the same. This view goes back to the thought of the 18th-century physician and philosopher Julien Offray De Lamettrie (1709-1751). According to De Lamettrie, Descartes was a great

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philosopher because he had demonstrated that animals, meaning ‘soulless’ living beings, are only machines. But Descartes was mistaken when he posited that human beings consist of two substances. Humans, living beings with a soul, are also merely machines, said De Lamettrie, because the soul is nothing but a part of that machine. In his best-known book, Machine Man (1748), De Lamettrie defends the thesis that the soul is embedded in matter. First, he asserts that if one is to understand the human soul one should not take recourse to all sorts of philosophical concepts. It is not possible to understand man a priori; this can only be done a posteriori, that is, through experience and perception. This is also why the ‘lads’ – those who merely philosophize and only have arguments and concepts at their disposal – can give no adequate analysis of man. In contrast, only those who are philosopher and physician are suitable to provide such analysis (pp. 4-5). We can understand the soul only by dissecting it in the same way as anatomists dissect the body. A physician has the advantage of having insight into the latest developments in anatomy, and De Lamettrie, to be sure, does not shy away from referring to the work of leading physicians and anatomists from his day and age, such as Borelli, Tulp, and Boerhaave. Furthermore, physicians have experience with special physical phenomena such as paralyses, delusions, and phantom limb pain. It is no wonder, then, that De Lamettrie, as a child of the era in which the sciences began to flourish, claims that only scientists (scholars of nature) are entitled to speak. In De Lamettrie’s view, a human being is a machine that winds up its own spring and therefore it is an example of perpetual motion – a perpetuum mobile (p. 7). How we feel, which mood we are in, and whether, for instance, we are righteous or not merely depends on how the machine is wound up, which in turn mainly has to do with what we eat. Food is not just necessary to sustain the body; food also ensures that the soul will feel fresh and strong. A good meal may cause joy to a saddened heart, and it may also inspire a sense of justice. For example, De Lamettrie tells about a Swiss judge whose judgments were markedly harsher after a good meal – which presumably represents better justice. In this same vein, he believes that every now and then the soul inhabits the stomach (p. 8). The soul’s condition – how you feel, as well as your intellectual and linguistic powers – wholly depends on the condition of your body and to which it is exposed, such as climate, but also substances like opium and coffee. It is thus possible to explain everything out of matter. That one being can speak while another cannot is not so much related to having a soul or not; it merely has to do with the fact that the speaker’s matter is organized in

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a different and more complex fashion. De Lamettrie was convinced that it was very well possible to teach monkeys sign language. They cannot speak because their speech organ is unsuitable, but they do have the power of language. His materialist perspective, then, comes with the implication that humans are not such very important beings anymore. They are machines, just like other animals; they merely have a slightly more complex material organization. In this sense, De Lamettrie was a precursor of Charles Darwin, who developed his theory of evolution a full century afterward. It is easy to understand that at the time quite a few pious people denounced De Lamettrie and that it was seen as just punishment from God that this atheistic philosopher-doctor, who reduced the whole world to matter, himself found his demise in matter: he died in 1751 after eating tainted ragout (Vartanian, 1960: 12). In his time it was a form of blasphemy to claim that there is only matter and that spiritual things do not exist. According to De Lamettrie, it is hardly enigmatic to be a machine and to be able to feel, think, and perceive. Nor is it a contradiction ‘to be born with intelligence and a sure instinct for morality and to be only an animal’ (De Lamettrie, 1747: 35). Thought is a quality of matter. De Lamettrie reverses Plato’s idea that we need to try and cut ourselves loose from our body. By taking good care of our body – which includes eating well and sexual pleasure – we also take good care of our soul. Unwanted abstinence, says De Lamettrie, causes rage in men and women alike, and that is hardly a healthy condition for the soul (p. 8). Care for the soul consists of spoiling the body. Such message has perhaps a familiar ring to us, for today it is easy to run into it as an advertising slogan for saunas and other wellness centers. Although De Lamettrie’s materialist ideas may seem quite attractive, in my view there is also something missing in them.11 It is fine to conceive of our body as matter, but it is much more interesting to explore the fact that we can also experience our body as such. De Lamettrie’s ‘anatomy of the soul’ precisely lacks an analysis of our own experience of being a machine or thing. When you say ‘I experience myself as a thing,’ this ‘I experience’ and ‘the thing’ do not coincide. Apparently, there is an I that experiences and an I that is a thing. There is a separation, then, between two ‘I’s.’ This separation corresponds to that between the soul (I experience) and the body (as thing) in the philosophy of Descartes. However, it is hardly necessary to conceive of these two ‘I’s’ as the difference between two different substances. 11 In Chapter 4, I will present another kind of materialism based on the work of Jean-Luc Nancy.

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This distinction has to be looked for at another level. In what follows I will leave behind the distinction between body and soul – which has dominated Western thought for so long – and explain the distinction between I as ‘experiencing I’ and ‘I as thing’ in terms of the distinction between two aspects of the body. The body is not only a thing, but also an experiencing thing. Below I will elaborate on a number of insights from 20th-century phenomenology to elucidate how these two aspects of the body relate to each other.

Reality bracketed off The founder of phenomenology, the German philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), started his career (as mathematician and philosopher) towards the close of the 19th century. At the time, psychology became an autonomous science and it was assumed that the ‘psyche’ could be investigated experimentally (that is, through experiments), akin to the methodology of the natural sciences. Such manner of investigation assumed, however, that the psyche or consciousness is a kind of thing, a view that still relied on the Cartesian notion. Husserl strongly disagreed with this assumption: consciousness is a ‘stance’ or a ‘being directed to’ rather than a thing. When I perceive a table, for example, I am conscious of that table. Although it might seem that such consciousness is realized by the sum total of visual sensations that come in, this is not the case because I am conscious of more than the sum total of sensations. When I am standing in front of a table, I have no visual sensations of its backside or underside, but still I perceive ‘the table.’ Consciousness implies that you are always conscious of something. Instead of perceiving auditory sensations, I hear ‘the adagio of the violin’ (Husserl, 1900-1901: V, § 14). That which I am conscious of is the piece of music. The sensations (Empfindungen) merely constitute the raw matter of that of which I am aware. The activity of consciousness consists of the so-called ‘grasping’ (auffassen) of this matter. I perceive a table because I grasp the sensations produced by its visible sides in such way that I immediately assume that the sides invisible to me are still there. In this way, our consciousness makes co-present (mitgegenwärtig machen) that which in fact is not present at all. Our consciousness ‘interprets’ given sensory sensations in such way that we are conscious of ‘something,’ rather than just being passive receivers of stimuli. This becomes clear by an example from Gestalt psychology. If our consciousness were just a passive collector of sensations, the implication would be that the same sensations always generate the same perception.

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This is not the case. For even if the visual data in a Rubin’s vase picture remain the same, the object we are conscious of may differ: depending on what you take as background, you see either a vase or two faces en profile. The ‘grasping’ activity of consciousness is called ‘intentionality.’ This is not simply the same as ‘having an intention,’ as if our consciousness constantly ‘wants’ or is set to something. That consciousness is intentional means it is always conscious ‘of something.’ This also implies automatically that consciousness does not precede that of which it is conscious. There is no such thing as a thinking substance first, which subsequently is conscious of something. In other words, ‘intentionality’ indicates that consciousness has two ‘sides’: there is the activity that ‘interprets’ or ‘grasps’ sensations and there is something of which I am conscious. The first is called ‘intentional act’ and the second ‘intentional object.’ When I look out of the window and see my neighbor walking by, my ‘intentional act’ consists of perceiving, while the neighbor I see is the ‘intentional object.’ It is impossible to disconnect the two from each other. The perceptive reader will perhaps counter that my perception and that which I perceive may well exist separate from each other. After all, my neighbor will also walk past my window at times when I do not see him. Although this is probably true, the most interesting aspect of phenomenology is that it is not preoccupied with whether there are things outside of my consciousness; nor is it interested in whether the thing I perceive does in fact exist. It has no interest in the real existence of the intentional object. Whether it is really my neighbor who I perceive does not matter all that much. The one thing that matters is that through my consciousness something appears to me and thus becomes manifest to me, and that which becomes manifest has a particular meaning for me. The neighbor appears in my perception as a person I perceive. If the intentional act changes, the meaning of the intentional object changes along: if rather than perceiving my neighbor I merely conjure him up in my mind, this involves another kind of consciousness, another kind of intentional act that produces another meaning. In a phenomenological sense, the neighbor I saw and the neighbor conjured up in my memory have a different meaning, whereby it is not at all interesting to know whether or not a ‘real’ neighbor exists. Put concisely, phenomenology does not address the existence of things any longer, but only deals with the meaning of what becomes manifest: the meaning of phenomena. The question after the existence of reality is postponed, put between brackets – eingeklammert (Husserl, 1913: §36-38). Phenomenology changes the question of ‘what exists?’ into ‘what is the meaning of appearance, what is the meaning of what becomes manifest?’

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That this change has various implications becomes clear when we explain the example of the neighbor from Descartes’s view. From his angle, I will doubt that it is my neighbor that I see walking past my window, but I cannot doubt that I am the one who perceives. Based on this, it is possible to detach consciousness (which is beyond doubt) from that which I am conscious of (which can be doubted). The only thing that can be doubted is that ‘I have an experience’ or ‘I think.’ This is exactly a logic fought by phenomenology: it is impossible to separate having an experience from the content of that experience. Even if I may forever doubt whether it is my neighbor that I perceive, at the moment of perception I definitely perceive something. In this sense one can say that the Cartesian cogito or ‘I think’ is changed by phenomenology in ‘I think something.’ Husserl’s idea of intentionality has not only been crucial for new views regarding consciousness. It has also caused us to start thinking differently about the body. Descartes saw the body as a thing only, one that potentially exists independently of consciousness. Starting from the notion of intentionality, however, two different dimensions of the body become visible. Importantly, when the body perceives itself it is both the intentional object and the intentional act. When I have my hand touch all over my face, I can experience this part of my body as an object that I perceive (intentional object), but I can also experience my body as that which perceives (intentional orientation). For many, presumably, this double perspective on our own body will be hardly new. In common parlance this is often indicated as the difference between ‘having a body’ and ‘being a body.’ In this book I am eventually concerned with presenting the notion of bodily identity as based on ‘the being of the body that you have.’ But before addressing this I would first like to clarify ‘having a body’ and ‘being a body’ as two dimensions. I will do so by starting from the thought of the French phenomenologist Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980). Unlike the view of bodily identity I will advocate, Sartre holds on to understanding ‘having’ and ‘being’ a body as two opposites that cannot be reconciled. As a result, in his case the body we have, the body as object or thing, remains excluded from what we in essence are (or even forming a threat to that). For Sartre, the body as matter continues to be a negative aspect.

Sweating and blushing Antoine Roquentin, the protagonist of Sartre’s ground-breaking novel Nausea (1938), lets us feel what is so nauseous in the actual existence of

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bodies and all other material things. He finds himself at a point in his life at which he has to face his naked existence. Its meaninglessness is first expressed in revulsion of matter. For example, Antoine cannot get himself to skim small stones on the water, as some boys who are playing. He simply cannot touch such a small stone – that dirty, muddy piece of matter. It is horrific to him. And when in the library he shakes hands with the autodidact, about the only person with whom he occasionally interacts, he is permeated by the appalling experience of the thick fat worm in his hand. Also the hand is nothing but a piece of meaningless matter at that moment. Where De Lamettrie celebrates matter, to Sartre it gives rise to the fact that our life – our mere existence – leaves in us the insipid, inescapable taste of nausea. Sartre’s notion of nausea and his negative gaze on the body can be explained from the fact that he interprets Husserl’s phenomenology of consciousness against the backdrop of the notion of ‘existence’ as explained by Martin Heidegger (1927). Our life is determined by ‘being thrown’ in a certain situation on the one hand and ‘having possibilities’ to deal with that situation on the other. We normally cannot determine the situation in which we are thrown: we are born in a certain family, culture, class, etc. These are facts that we cannot influence. Sartre calls this the ‘facticity’ of existence. Having possibilities is the counterpart of facticity and is referred to as freedom. Without freedom or possibilities, our life is reduced to a bare existence that as such is entirely meaningless. Thus freedom is most essential to human life, and this freedom, in the view of Sartre, is provided through the existence of consciousness. Elaborating on Husserl’s idea of intentionality, Sartre posits that consciousness always goes together with that of which you are conscious, subsequently to add that these two matters imply a difference in mode of being. Consciousness (the ‘intentional act’) is that which exists ‘for-itself’ (pour soi); that of which you are conscious (the ‘intentional object’) exists ‘in-itself’ (en soi). Only beings with a consciousness can exist ‘for-itself.’ This means they cannot relate to their self and not coincide with it. Everything which is not a human being exists by definition ‘in-itself’ and fully coincides with itself, like a stone that is just a stone and cannot relate to itself. A stone thrown to a particular spot cannot assess the situation, let alone change it; a human being who is ‘thrown’ in a certain situation can. That which exists ‘in-itself’ has no meaning in and of itself, but receives one by an active intentional consciousness. Our consciousness gives meaning to everything. Now we may provide a closer approximation of the notion of freedom linked to being ‘for-itself.’ Because the two extremes of intentionality are

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interdependent, being ‘for-itself’ can only exist by the grace of being ‘initself.’ Put differently: I can only have consciousness if something becomes manifest for me of which I can become conscious. According to Sartre, my consciousness of something always goes together with a kind of denial or negation. His reasoning is as follows: I am conscious of something, which to me exists ‘in-itself’; I do not exist ‘in-itself,’ or, I am not this thing; I am nothingness (le néant). The determination of freedom thus unfolds via a negation: a thing that exists ‘in-itself’ is unfree; I am not unfree, for I can give meaning to this thing. He refers to the most fundamental activity of our consciousness with the odd verb ‘to nihilate’ (néantiser). This means that consciousness always determines (and assures) its freedom by determining something else as unfree. This ultimately implies that an individual, who in essence is free and ‘for-itself,’ can never acknowledge the freedom and ‘for-itself’ of another individual. A free human being will always try to ensure his or her freedom by reducing the other to an unfree thing. The other, then, is always a threat to my freedom, hence the famous slogan l’enfer, c’est les autres – hell is other people. Above I indicated that it is possible to understand the body from two perspectives: the body you ‘are’ and the body you ‘have.’ Sartre explains these two different aspects of the body through the distinction between being ‘in-itself’ and being ‘for-itself.’ The body I am and that is ‘for-itself’ is not my body as a thing, but pertains to my factual existence that makes it possible for things to be there for me (Sartre, 1943: 328). We might say here that as long as I am not really conscious of my own body, I am my body. Even if the body that I am is not an actual object of my consciousness, it is experienced in a particular way. The experience of our factual being is formed by the sense of nausea. Nausea is the non-reflexive grasping ‘of a contingency without color, a pure apprehension of the self as factual existence’ (p. 362). The mere fact that I am, that I am my body, is as such meaningless and contingent; I might as well not have been there. The very experience of this fact fills Antoine Roquentin with nausea. The moment I start being conscious of my own body, being my body changes in having my body. This is described in the following example. When I am reading a book, the book is the object of my consciousness. I need my body, but it is itself not the object of my consciousness. At that moment my body exists as the possibility of being able to read, and it is thus given in an implicit way only (Sartre, 1943: 355). Let us assume that when reading my eyes begin to bother me more and more. The pain perhaps makes me

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aware of my body. Pain marks the boundary between ‘being’ and ‘having’ my body; I grow conscious of my body, but pain is not intentional; it is no intentional object (ibid.: 356). Pain in my eyes is not having pain, but it is ‘eyes-as-pain’ (douleur-yeux) or ‘vision-as-pain’ (douleur-vision). The painful body part does not exist anywhere among other things; it does not exist as such in space. If next I start focusing on my ongoing discomfort, the pain becomes an object; it turns into an ‘illness’ (le mal). This is of course no physical object, but a mental one that still exists ‘in-itself,’ which is distinguished from consciousness (ibid.: 359). Put briefly: when I do not really perceive my body or when faced with a not yet objectified pain, consciousness and body coincide. The moment when the body is objectified by an ‘illness,’ it emerges as an ‘in-itself’ that is opposite to the ‘for-itself’ of consciousness. Falling ill, indeed, implies a gradual process of alienation which does not so much result from the alien gaze of the other, but from one’s own body’s otherness (Svenaeus, 2009). As long as I do not really notice my body, I am my body. This unnoticed body is the existence of my possibilities. I walk, run, or ride my bicycle without really thinking. This also applies to all who in a natural way deal with their prostheses. Oscar Pistorius runs without thinking; his beingathlete is marked by the possibility of running. From this perspective, the body is ‘for-itself’ and not just a thing. The legs of Pistorius change into things when he puts them on and removes them, when he massages his stumps, when an orthopedic has to modify the prostheses, when the IAAF formally studies his way of running, and so on. At that moment, the legs no longer represent the possibility to run; they are just things. It is this dynamic that turns my body into something that is strange; it becomes something as seen by the other. This perspective of the other (pour autrui) transforms my body into a thing that is not free. The other constitutes a threat to my freedom. Sartre enthrallingly described this threat through an analysis of the gaze. The moment I become aware of the fact that another person may be looking at me, I start feeling ashamed, just like Adam and Eve began to feel that way when they realized God could see them. Shame is the feeling of being detectable, and thus the feeling that you are merely a visible thing and no longer a free consciousness. The gaze of the other – the fact that another person can see me, even if no one is present at all – turns me into a thing that merely exists ‘in-itself’ instead of being a free consciousness that is ‘for-itself.’ In Sartre’s view, everyone may have this ‘power’ of the gaze, but it is probably more recognizable when we think, for instance, of how women are turned into

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objects of lust by the pornographic gaze. These looked-at women are reduced to things.12 The body as it appears to the other is characterized by the fact that it is robbed of its freedom. It appears as thing, or as ‘transcendence transcended’ (Sartre, 1943: 362).13 From the perspective of the other, my body thus appears as a thing. When I myself experience my body as a thing, I adopt this perspective of the other. We experience this for instance when we are subjected to a medical examination or intervention. I see my vertebra on an X-ray and realize that I am merely a thing made of bones. When a doctor needs to examine my leg, I make it available in a way that he or she can perform the examination. The body that thus appears is the machine or the thing as described by Descartes and De Lamettrie. Descartes described the experience of our ‘self’ as thing in terms of an odd kind of collaboration between soul and body in the pineal gland based on even stranger animal spirits. De Lamettrie could not describe this experience because in his view experience or soul coincides with matter or the thing-like. Finally, Sartre describes this experience in terms of alienation, because it does not take place from your own perspective; after all, you displace yourself in the perspective of the other. When seeing my vertebra on an X-ray I do not see myself as I am or exist as ‘for-myself’; rather, I see myself from a perspective outside of myself. This alienation may be accompanied with sweating or blushing (Sartre, 1943: 376). Sweating or blushing are corporal expressions of shame. I experience my body as a thing, for instance when a physician looks at, percusses, or auscultates my body, but I cannot really know myself as this thing because I have exchanged the ‘for-me’ perspective by the outside perspective, the ‘for-the-other’ perspective. My body becomes manifest as a thing in all its weight, but I cannot really understand it as part of my being or existence – at best I can see it as ‘my property,’ something I have and not something I am (p. 328). I merely sweat or blush. I look at my own body, I touch my own body, but no matter how long I touch it or look at it, no experience of ‘ownness’

12 In Chapter 3, I discuss how the gaze of others can play a role in wanting to change your appearance. Here I will further discuss Sartre’s theory. 13 Interestingly, the appearance of the body of the other can also evoke a certain type of nausea in me. This is the case if the presence of another person goes hand in hand with an affective experience of the mere contingence of his or her existence. In that situation, I no longer perceive the other as a thing with particular traits; all masks of clothing, makeup and facial expression are then being undermined and I merely experience the mere matter of that other’s flesh (Sartre, 1943: 367). This is the experience Antoine Roquentin has when holding in his hand the worm-like hand of the autodidact.

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thereby presents itself. The body as thing is the ‘strange’ dimension of and in my existence. Sartre’s description thus results in a representation of the body as that which may become manifest from two perspectives. The body either coincides with consciousness, and then it appears from the perspective of ‘for me’; within this perspective I experience the body only as the nauseous facticity of my existence. Or the body becomes manifest as something that is opposite to consciousness, as an intentional object or a thing; in this case it appears from a perspective outside of me, as ‘for the other.’ From this perspective, my body remains merely strange to me. These two perspectives are irreconcilable with each other, on account of which the strangeness (the thing-like) cannot be incorporated in any way in the ownness of life. For this reason Sartre’s theory of the body is too limited in my view. From his perspective, for instance, the lower leg prostheses of Oscar Pistorius would be no essential part of his life. However, I would argue that Pistorius as an athlete is shaped by these strange elements, this Fremdkörper. For Sartre, strangeness and ownness are opposites. But there are many cases whereby the boundary between what is strange and what is own is not always clear-cut. For one thing, how ‘own’ is the nose that via the mouth, gullet, and stomach of a dog is put back on the face of the Czech boy by a surgeon’s hands? In the next chapter I will further elaborate on how the strange manages to nestle itself in our own body.

2

Body Boundaries

Strange bones Although many satirical or reality TV shows will primarily aim at entertaining the audience, they can also be fairly instructive with respect to how we as modern-day people experience and relate to our body.1 A couple of years ago, I was gripped by an episode of a show in which two female guests shared a quite specific experience with the audience.2 At one point in their lives, both women had had to face the amputation of parts of their body: one of them needed to have her diseased lower leg removed in hospital and the other woman lost two fingers in an accident. Amputation, no matter how extreme and traumatic as an experience, is a common phenomenon. The two women had a special story to tell on the show because they held on to their amputated body parts and took them home with them. Normally, people will leave amputated parts behind in hospital, after which these parts will be destroyed in special incinerators. Both women, however, had found out that it was not prohibited to hold on to your own, amputated body parts. The woman who lost two of her fingers had buried them in her backyard and covered them with a stone. The other woman had buried her lower leg and foot in her garden, but after some time she dug them up again – after she was sure only the bones were left. She brought them along with her to the studio, wrapped in nice fabric and at one point she displayed them on the table in front of her. This managed to silence even the talkative show host for a moment. To the question of why they wanted to hold on to their ‘dead’ limbs the woman who lost two fingers replied that they had been an integral part of her body for very long and that she therefore did not want to give them up. The other woman wanted to keep her bones with her out of a more religious idea: after her death she wanted to be reunited with them, in order to have her mortal remains intact on her journey through eternity. If these reasons are quite understandable, there is an odd side to them as well. Both women, it appears, cherish their dead bones as their own property, as belonging to them. It seems questionable, however, whether that which our body 1 Also, as I will discuss in Chapter 3, some contemporary television shows are very clear about the prevailing social and cultural norms with respect to bodily perfection or putting on display one’s body. 2 It involved a broadcast of the Dutch satirical TV show Kopspijkers (5 March 2005).

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has rejected or that which our body has lost in an accident should still be regarded as part of our own body. At first, most of us will probably say that what we consider to be our body corresponds with what we see of ourselves when looking into the mirror or, for that matter, what others see when looking at us. But we might as well say that our body is all which is held together by our skin. The skin appears to mark the boundary between what belongs to us and what does not belong to us, or, in other words, the boundary between what is ‘own’ and what is ‘other’ or ‘strange.’ Biology teaches us indeed that the skin encloses an organism. The boundaries of our body are not strictly delineated, however. The skin itself consists of pores that make it possible for tiny substances to leave or enter our body, while there are also several larger body openings, of which the mouth and anus are most clearly geared to taking in and secreting particular substances. Limiting ourselves to the purely biological dimension of our body, we immediately realize that what we call our body represents an ongoing process of absorption and secretion, rather than it being a steady, unchanging entity. In this respect, the American philosopher Daniel Dennett (1991) has claimed that our ‘biological self’ is not a concrete given, but an abstraction. In his view, this ‘biological self’ is a product of the evolutionary urge of a living organism to distinguish itself from other organisms. An organism must distinguish itself from its environment to protect itself. The skin thereby plays a major role because it protects the organism against unwanted invaders or against the loss of its own body heat. However, this (evolutionary) organizational principle, which distinguishes the ‘self’ from what is ‘strange’ or ‘other,’ does not always lead to unequivocal demarcations. In this context, Dennett refers to errors permitted by Mother Nature. Our organism is permanently exposed to all sorts of alien invaders such as bacteria, mites and tapeworms, but we do not need to protect ourselves against all invaders. Some of them will indeed pose a serious threat to our biological self, and we must do our utmost to dispel them, but others, such as certain intestinal bacteria, are crucial for our prolonged existence. We must keep out unwanted, ‘alien’ invaders, but at the same time we also need other, benign invaders that should help protect us against external threats. Apart from a ‘biological self,’ human beings also have a ‘psychological self,’ according to Dennett. When it comes to defining our body in a biological sense, the boundary between what is ‘own’ and what is ‘strange’ or ‘other’ is hardly clear-cut, but when trying to define our body as we experience it in a psychological sense, it proves to be even harder to draw

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such a boundary. For example, there is a large difference between how we experience swallowing the saliva that is in our mouth and how we experience drinking the saliva that a moment ago we spat into a clean glass. We will find it normal to swallow the saliva in our mouth, but we will find it disgusting to swallow saliva we spat out. Although in essence this saliva has barely changed character as a fluid, we still find it unpleasant to drink it. This aversion follows from the fact that the saliva has left our body, which, in the words of Dennett, causes it to be ‘no longer quite part of us anymore – it becomes alien and suspicious – it has renounced its citizenship and becomes something to be rejected’ (Dennett, 1991: 414). It is possible to apply this same observation to the behavior of the two women on the TV show referred to above. Carrying your own dead bones with you is like swallowing spat out saliva. The body has rejected a leg, after which doctors decided to amputate it, to separate it from the body forever. As a result, the leg has become ‘alien’ and tainted, and when you still want to hold on to it, this is met with disgust, as became clear from the reactions of the audience that was present when the show was recorded. That our body rejects some part or substance which we will start to experience as alien does not only have to do with the fact that it spent time outside of our body or was removed from it. In the previous chapter I referred to the Czech boy whose nose, after it was bitten off by a dog, could still be re-attached and ‘appropriated’ by his body again. In most of us, this case will also invoke a mild sense of discomfort or perhaps disgust. Just imagine that your nose spent some time in a dog’s mouth and stomach! It is an eerie thought and we would surely keep the smell of that dog with us for quite a while. Fortunately the bitten-off nose was saved on time and could become a properly functioning part of the boy’s body again. The woman’s amputated leg was rejected because it lost all functionality for her body, if the leg did not pose a serious threat to her overall health. It is safe to assume that surgeons saw no chance to mend her leg and attach it to her body again. Although the parts that belong to a body or some organism must perform a specific function to sustain it, this does not yet indicate where, exactly, the boundaries of a body or organism are to be located. Biologists use the concept of ‘phenotype’ to indicate the outer features of an organism. In his analysis of the biological and the psychological ‘self,’ Dennett refers to the notion of ‘extended phenotype,’ as described by the British zoologist Richard Dawkins and used to indicate that an organism’s features are not strictly limited to this organism. For example, a web belongs to the extended phenotype of spiders and a dam to that of beavers. Strictly speaking, webs

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and dams do not belong to the organism, but without these ‘extensions’ those organisms would not be able to protect themselves against foreign elements and the spider or beaver could not be a biological self. In this same way, tools and clothes, for instance, belong to the extended phenotype of human beings. People extend their phenotype in many ways, but the most typical way in which they do so, according to Dennett, is through language. We protect ourselves in particular through building a web of stories. Human selves only exist by the grace of stories (Dennett, 1991: 429). It should be added that we cannot freely make up stories to define ourselves, for in this respect a human being is just like a spider: it does not know that it is spinning a web – it simply does so. Dennett’s conclusion is that ourselves do not really exist; we cannot point to a ‘self’ somewhere in our brain. Our ‘self’ only exists in the stories we tell about ourselves to ourselves and to each other, and for this reason this self is comparable to a fictional character. Although I will not discuss this notion of the self as narrative identity any further here, I will elaborate on the role of language in the formation of our self in Chapter 5 below. In the current chapter I will mainly concentrate on the boundaries of our body and that they may also be outside of our body, that they are not given from the start, and that they may shift or be stretched. But such shift or stretching can never go on indefinitely. The body needs to have a clear delineation because otherwise it cannot protect and demarcate itself from all that it is not; on the other hand, our earthly frame needs to be porous, both from the inside out and from the outside in, if at least we are to have an external frame that we can live with. In today’s world we take it to be quite normal to redraw the body’s boundaries, and often we are not even very aware of it anymore. Many people, for instance, will not be really aware that they are wearing clothes; our clothes and our body constitute a single whole. Interestingly, the psychologist Paul Schilder (1935: 203) once described how a lady who often wore a large hat with a long feather on top of it had grown perfectly used to wearing this hat: without really noticing she knew perfectly well to go through a narrow door opening elegantly, without her hat touching the doorpost. At such a moment she shifted her body’s boundary toward the far tip of her hat’s feather. Similarly, having gained great skill in using some tool, we may altogether forget we are in fact relying on an extension of our body. Blind persons that use a stick to explore their immediate surroundings have extended the boundary of their body to the tip of the stick. In this way, it is possible to redraw the boundaries of the body all the time by adding all sorts of new aids and elements. The current high-paced

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development of medical science is a case in point, and more likely than not new attributes will be added to bodies in the years to come. Today’s interventions can be so spectacular – consider, for instance, a facial transplant – that one wonders whether those who have undergone all sorts of reconfigurations are still the same person. At which point will the various altered elements cause a cancellation of our sense of our body as being our ‘own’ body? Technologies have made it possible for bodily discomforts and defects to be solved by breaking open the body’s boundary. Think, for instance, of a pacemaker, a pig’s heart valve, your sister’s kidney, your brother’s bone marrow, the heart or face of a dead person, artificial hips or knees, metal plates in fractures, or electrodes in the brain to reduce obsessive-compulsive disorder. These are examples of interventions that are still substantial, although many orthopedic adjustments and even most forms of open heart surgery are increasingly seen as standard operations. Strictly speaking, smaller and fully accepted add-ons such as spectacles, contact lenses, hearing aids, fillings, crowns, and other dental prostheses also reflect a change of the body’s boundary. If we consider all these forms of additions to the body as ‘prostheses,’ we may well argue that today most of us have become prosthetic through and through already. In the view of the Australian performance artist Stelarc, the human body is prosthetic by definition: we are all ‘cyborgs’ – a combination of organism and cybernetics or self-regulating technologies (Haraway, 1992). This reflects the notion that in essence the human body falls short and that therefore it needs to be supplemented by technology. In prehistory we did this with sticks and stones, and today we do this with advanced technology. This much Stelarc demonstrates in his work. In 1995, for example, he presented a performance entitled Fractal Flesh. During this performance the artist, who himself was in Luxemburg, had attached several electrodes to his body that could be activated by a computer, which was linked to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Media Lab in Helsinki, and a conference hall in Amsterdam. An internet connection allowed people in these locations to set Stelarc’s body in motion. His body responded to the long-distance commands with a delay of one second. With this performance, he wanted to show that our body is not simply our home base anymore. What prompted his body to act – its so-called ‘sense of agency’ – was almost impossible to demarcate and even transcended boundaries between countries.3

3

For an overview of Stelarc’s work, see his authorized website: www.stelarc.va.com.au.

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We may think of bodily aids and adjustments as exceptions to a ‘normal’ situation, but it has actually become more normal to meet somebody with a prosthesis than without one. To some this is perhaps a disturbing idea, one that follows from the fact that people still attach much value to the notion of a natural or untouched, pristine body. In my view, however, this is a hopelessly nostalgic notion. An unaffected body would be a body without any invaders. But such a body never existed, nor will it ever exist, and in this sense I agree with Stelarc’s claim that ‘the body is obsolete.’ We do not have a single good reason for cherishing a notion like ‘the natural body.’ In most cases, a body will be better off by opening up its boundaries to what is alien to it. Everyone familiar with painful hips caused by arthritis will understand the blessings of artificial hips. Still, I do not intend to present a utilitarian plea here for unbounded intervention in the body. Our body will always retain particular boundaries. In this chapter I investigate how specific body boundaries are established and which aspects restrict boundary determinations.

Handiness, or handling one’s world In the previous chapter I have shown that the experience of the body as ‘other’ may coincide with the experience of the body as thing. Here I would like to further investigate the experience of what in fact is part of our body – of what is own. How is it possible, in other words, that I experience my body as my own body? How is it possible that I experience my body as different and delineated from other bodies and things? It is quite true that we may compare the body with a thing-like machine, as was argued by Descartes and De Lamettrie, but our body can only be our own body if it is not merely a thing. From an outside perspective, also called third-person perspective, the body may well appear as a thing. The doctor sees my body as a thing or I see my own body as a thing from the perspective of the physician. Also when I look at my own body in the mirror or when I inspect my feet, I look at my own body from outside and then this body shows similarities with a thing. In these outside observations, it seems, no immediate experience of ownness is involved. An experience of ownness occurs when I feel my own body. I can consider my feet at the end of my legs as strange objects, but this strangeness is linked to me, for I know quite well, for instance, that I am clipping my own toenails, not someone else’s. That I consider my toes to be mine is because from within I sense that they belong to me. This feeling will be confirmed when

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accidentally I cut the nail’s cuticle. At first sight, it appears that ‘ownness’ can only be experienced from within, from a first-person perspective. How this experience of ownness can be understood I would like to clarify here by considering the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961). In contrast to Sartre, a fellow student, Merleau-Ponty does not assume a strict opposition between things (the body) and consciousness. He argues that we as human beings are neither a pure consciousness nor a reduced thing. Rather we are a ‘conscious thing’ or an ‘incarnated consciousness.’ From this view, it is subsequently possible to provide a description of the body that is neither purely a thing nor purely consciousness, which he calls le corps propre, or our own body (Merleau-Ponty, 1945). 4 Our own body is not simply the same as our biological or physiological body. Its boundaries are not determined by the boundaries of the organism, but by what can be experienced as own and what cannot be experienced as such. The specific character of this boundary can be clarified by looking at pathologies whereby there is a discrepancy between the experience of ownness and the physical appearance of someone’s body. The two most striking cases in this respect are the phantom limb and anasognosia. The first involves experience of a body part that physically is no longer there, while in the second case there is no feeling in a certain body part that physically is present. To describe the typical experiences of American soldiers who had lost an arm or leg in the Civil War, the term ‘phantom limb’ was first introduced in the nineteenth century (Mitchell, 1871). However, the phenomenon of spooky limb sensations (or pain) after amputation was known and described earlier already. Perhaps one of the most telling historical examples is the case of the Flemish anatomist and surgeon Philip Verheyen (1648-1711). Verheyen, who is known for his work Corporis Humani Anatomica (1693) and for baptizing the ankle tendon as Achilles tendon, had to undergo a leg amputation when he was a young man. As a physician he was very interested in the anatomy of the amputated leg, and therefore he preserved it in a way that he could dissect it carefully. One of the aims of this auto-dissection was to gain a better understanding of his own phantom limb experience (Hoornaert, 1863). There is also the suggestion that Verheyen is the author of Letters to my amputated leg – personal notes in which he tried to find a physical and metaphysical explanation for the phenomenon of the phantom 4 Merleau-Ponty did not coin the term corps propre. The French philosopher Maine de Biran (1766-1824) used it before him.

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limb, discussing the then contemporary religious and philosophical views on body and soul.5 The majority of people who have lost a limb, either through surgical amputation or traumatic amputation, suffer from phantom limb sensations. This sensation involves a ghostly and ambivalent experience of bodily wholeness. Sometimes the phantom manifests itself as an awkward but not necessary unpleasant bodily self-experience, yet very often a phantom limb manifests itself through unbearable experiences of spasm and pain (Kooijman, Dijkstra, Geertzen, Elzinga, & van der Schans, 2000). The (painful) phantom, which normally appears shortly after amputation, is hard to get rid of and will sometimes last for decades. From a phenomenological point of view, one could claim that in the case of the phantom limb, the absent body part is still experienced as ‘own.’ The women who told their story on the satirical TV show appeared to treat their missing body part as nonetheless belonging to them, as still an integral part of their individual body. However, as I will argue below, in the experience of ownness associated with phantom limbs, time plays out at quite a different level. The phenomenon of phantom limbs is tackled by Merleau-Ponty (1945) from a specific angle. He argues that traditionally there have been two kinds of explanations for this odd phenomenon: a physiological and a psychological explanation. From a physiological angle, it was assumed that somehow internal nerve stimuli remain present, whereas psychological explanations rather interpreted this phenomenon in terms of memory. Merleau-Ponty considers these two explanations inadequate.6 Of course, nerve bundles play a major role in the experience of a phantom limb, but their functioning is no sufficient explanation for the phenomenon. This is suggested by the fact

5 It was through reading the novel Runners (Bieguni, 2007) by the Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk that I came across the typical life story of Philip Verheyen. Tokarczuk does not provide any bibliographical references, which makes it difficult to verify whether her account is truthful. The fact that she does mention her itinerary of visits to anatomical museums and collections in Europe suggests, however, that her fiction is based on some non-fictional historical data. 6 He relies in particular on the work of the neurologist Jean Lhermitte (1877-1959) and the psychologist Paul Schilder (1886-1940). These scholars published their work in the first decades of the past century. As 21st-century readers, we might feel that these scientif ic sources are somewhat outdated concerning the issue of phantom limb sensations. This might be true, but Merleau-Ponty only uses these studies as a leg up to his own view, and as I explain in this chapter, his phenomenological-existential view on this matter is still very much contemporary.

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that phantom limb pain is hard to mitigate by medication such as cocaine, which affects the nerve bundles (Merleau-Ponty, 1945: 76).7 Physiology (or neurology) as such, then, cannot offer us sufficient clarification here. Phantom pain is often linked with a particular memory of the traumatic moment of injuring the arm or leg. For example, a war victim can still feel the shrapnel that shattered his real arm in his phantom arm. Often, a certain emotion or circumstance that reminds the victim of the injury causes the phantom limb to (re)appear. Moreover, the neurologist Jean Lhermitte has observed that the illusion of having a phantom limb occurs more often in people with more intellectual development (MerleauPonty, 1945: 76). Based on this kind of observations, one had increasingly sought to explain this phenomenon from a psychological angle, instead of a physiological one, as a memory of the (good) time when the body part was still present. This (illusionary) recollection would represent a refusal to face the new situation of its absence, or, in other words, a rejection of a severe mutilation. Even if such psychological explanation sounds quite plausible, it did not fully convince Merleau-Ponty. In his view, it involved neither a wellconsidered rejection of the absence, nor a conscious memory of the situation before or during the trauma involved. In his analysis of this phenomenon, Merleau-Ponty was initially inspired by the psychoanalytical approach of Paul Schilder (1935). Psychoanalysis could serve as a supplement to the psychological descriptions because psychology (at that time) conceived of mental acts such as recollecting, believing, and wishing as conscious processes, while psychoanalysis also provided room to unconscious and preconscious mental processes. In particular the notion of the preconscious, also called the ‘prereflective,’ plays a major role in Merleau-Ponty’s descriptions of the body. In his analysis of the phantom limb, he uses Schilders’s notion of ‘organic repression.’ In psychoanalysis the term ‘repression’ refers to an unconscious mental process. It is not simply the same as very consciously forgetting something, forgetting that you have lost your leg. If Merleau-Ponty was interested in the unconscious and the preconscious, he did not follow exactly the path of psychoanalysis. Unlike psychoanalysis, which starts from the psyche and has little interest in the body, Merleau-Ponty started 7 Merleau-Ponty, in his discussion of the physiological explanation, does not really address the role of the central nervous system (brain), perhaps because little was known about it at the time. Contemporary researchers in fact assume that changes in the brain are crucial for the experience of phantom limbs (Cf. Ramachandran & Hirstein, 1998). But what is lacking in these contemporary observations is the question of why changes in the brain occur. For this question, the analysis by Merleau-Ponty continues to be relevant.

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from the body. To him, mental, psychological processes were embodied processes. Repression does not exclusively involve a mental process, as Freud felt, but also an organic or bodily process. Physiological and psychological factors both play a role in phantom limbs as phenomenon, but these two components, which seem to be mutually exclusive, are grounded in something that is more fundamental and comes about in a non-conscious way. This may sound rather puzzling but according to Merleau-Ponty this so-called third dimension, which sustains the physiological as well as the psychological, was nothing but the way in which we in a bodily manner live our everyday life – nothing but human existence. As we saw, Sartre described human existence as pure consciousness. Merleau-Ponty felt this description to be flawed. In his view, existence is the being of a bodily or incarnated consciousness. Our existence is not the ‘being for-itself’ (être pour soi) that is opposite to the ‘being in-itself’ (être en soi) of things. In contrast, human existence is marked by ‘being to or in the world’ (être au monde). This means that our existence is never separate from the world in which we live. We can never cut ourselves loose from our world, not even if we turn completely inwards, as Descartes claimed in his Meditations. Our être au monde means that absolute doubt, as Descartes sought to establish, is in fact not possible, because in our thinking we will always continue to be indebted to the world around us and we therefore cannot ‘doubt it away,’ so to speak. For a good reason, Merleau-Ponty, in his definition of human existence (être au monde), exploits an ambiguity of the French word à, which may refer to a location, a direction, and a possessive relationship. Human beings are ‘to’ the world. This means that they find themselves there, are part of it, but also that they may relate to it. In short, this ambiguity means that we are a part of the world, a thing among other things, but also that we have a relationship to these things, which is why we are different from such things. Before elaborating this ambiguity I first return to the phenomenon of the phantom limb and see where an existentialist explanation of it will lead us. How is it possible, then, that we can experience a body part that is not there anymore? The phantom limb points to the ‘ambivalent presence’ of an arm or leg, not so much to an imagined notion or memory of it. My phantom limb is still present for me. This presence is not physical, but neither is it just a fancy. The presence of the phantom arm is based on my existence or my ‘being to or in the world.’ Existence is not a static given, but necessarily points to the situation in which we find ourselves and the possibilities we have to handle it. In the case of a phantom limb, there is in fact a discrepancy between the actual situation and the possibilities:

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‘To have a phantom arm is to remain open to all the actions of which the arm alone is capable; it is to retain the practical field which one enjoyed before mutilation’ (Merleau-Ponty, 1945: 81-82). This notion of ‘practical field’ becomes more insightful if we further refine the notion of existence. Existence or ‘being to the world’ involves a physical being in and to the world. This bodily existence consists first of all of a preconscious, prereflective dealing with the world. When waking up in the morning, taking a shower, having breakfast, and taking a bus to work, we do not really have to think about all these various activities, nor do we do these things without being aware of them because if we want to, each of them can be performed in a very conscious manner. This is the preconscious or prereflective level. Mostly we deal with things around us in this prereflective way. Therefore, the world in which we live is a manageable world, one that is lived physically. Existence, then, suggests an interaction of, on the one hand, the habitual body that is used to handle things adequately in a preconscious way and, on the other hand, a world that presents itself to us as manageable. Our ‘practical field’ consists of how we normally can deal with things. It involves a skill or ‘handiness’ that through habit is etched in our body. In the case of bodily mutilation or trauma, there has been a disruption between the manageability of the world and the possibility to handle it. The world as such remains manageable, but it now requires ‘a hand which I no longer have’ (ibid.: 82). To the amputee, a cup, for instance, still appears as a thing to hold and drink from, while the person has precisely lost the hand that lends meaning to that cup. The ‘ambivalent presence’ of the phantom arm points to the fact that the actual body (in this case the amputated body) does not coincide with the habitual body (the worn habit of dealing in a certain way with the world). The world as it appears from the habitual corporality has no basis anymore in the factual or actual body. This bodily existence has a temporal structure. This means that we always live with the factuality of the past and the possibilities of the future. A severe trauma disrupts this temporality and this also suggests the cause of the ‘organic repression,’ which according to Merleau-Ponty (and Schilder) is characteristic of phantom limbs. We could say that the habitual body is ‘trailing’ the actual body. A trauma causes the fluent movement of time, which helps to gradually leave behind earlier experiences, to falter. A phantom limb, the ambivalent presence of a limb, refers to a ‘quasi-present’ – an earlier present that refuses to become past. Vivian Sobchack, a contemporary film and television studies scholar with a special interest in phenomenological analyses of images, has written a very insightful account on her own phantom limb which gives a further phe-

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nomenological description of a phantom’s quasi-presence (Sobchack, 2010). Drawing on the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty, and Leder’s subsequent ideas of bodily absence and presence, Sobchack reports the ways in which her phantom limb appeared to her after her left leg had to be amputated high above the knee – due to recurrent soft tissue cancer. Compared to the experienced transparency of her healthy right leg, her phantom limb was experienced as more present. In line with Leder’s (1990) vocabulary, she says that whereas her right leg most of the time is ‘absent,’ her phantom limb dys-appears.8 Whereas she experiences the phantom as here and now, and she has a feeling – albeit vague – of this spooky limb’s boundaries, her biologically present right leg is not experienced as something here, but rather as no-thing here, and the boundaries of the right leg are not felt, except for the sense of her foot because of its regular contact with the ground. She also describes the phenomenon of the phantom limb experienced as shorter than the ‘real’ limb had been, and that in the process of rehabilitation (with a prosthetic leg) the limb shortened further as if the phantom foot finally incorporated into the stump, as if literally reincorporated in the flesh. Sobchack’s analysis nicely shows that the differences between a ‘real’ leg, a phantom limb, and a prosthetic leg involve a difference of degree, not of kind. Like the presence of a real and prosthetic leg, the presence of a phantom limb is not just a fancy, hallucination, or illusion, but involves a genuinely lived presence. For amputees, the absent leg or arm is still there. I believe that these experiences of presence – be it the experience of dys-appearance, eu-appearance or a more reflective and explicit experience of one’s body’s presence (or of its parts) – fundamentally involves experiences of ownness. The arm that is gone is still something that belongs to the amputee; it belongs to her or his own body – even if in a pathological way. The amputees’ own body does not simply coincide with their actual, biological body. Their own body is their ‘vehicle of existence.’ Existing merely means being part of the world with our body – relating to the world with our body. Above I remarked that être au monde – ‘being to or in the world’ – is ambiguous. This ambiguity flows from the ambiguity of the body. The body 8 Since dys-appearance refers to the becoming manifest of one’s body in the sense of dysfunctional or bad, it seems obvious to describe the experience of a phantom limb as such. However, it might be possible that phantom limb sensations are experienced as good or comfortable. If that is the case, the experience of the phantom limb can also be described as eu-appearance, embracing Zeiler’s (2010) terminology.

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is a thing, a pile of matter, and hence a part of the world, but at the same time it fundamentally differs from a thing because it can relate to things. When Merleau-Ponty speaks of ‘own body,’ it is precisely about that aspect of the body through which it distinguishes itself from things. If the body were merely a thing, a phenomenon such as phantom pain would not be possible. The phantom limb can emerge because embodiment also means relating to, handling things. In my dealing with the world, my arm, which can handle all the things to be handled, is called upon to perform, even if in fact it is no longer there. It also becomes clear here what the difference is between phantom pain as phenomenon and wanting to cherish your own amputated bones. The woman who stores her amputated bones views her body mainly as a material thing, to which the separated bones still belong in a way. She views her lost bones as parts of her body, as her own, merely based on their thing-like, material status. What she wishes to cherish is her own matter. However, the phantom limb experience, rather than being about cherishing a particular material presence of the body, is about cherishing the possibilities one had but that are now lost. Storing the dead bones of fingers or the lower leg in no way contributes to what I call ‘handiness.’ This is why these bones are not really ‘own’ anymore. What is ‘own’ has more to do with what I ‘can,’ with my handiness, not so much with the physical presence of particular matter. If a phantom limb is a ‘pathological’ phenomenon, it is not merely a neurological or psychological disorder. We might say that it is an existential problem. A severe trauma, such as a mutilation or rejection of a body part, will affect an individual’s whole existence. Normally, existence involves interaction between body and world that is meaningful. Being meaningful here means that there is the possibility of ‘handling’ a given situation. When having a phantom limb this possibility is absent; with a phantom arm, after all, I cannot handle things the way I am used to. The amputee has to disclose the world anew, as it were, by developing a new, other ‘handiness.’ This will also change the meaning of the things in the world. In handling things, certain activities, such as fetching a pen or other tool, will no longer be self-evident activities. The phantom limb refers to a clumsy, sometimes disabled, existence, not merely because one hand is absent, but also because at that point it is not possible to handle the given situation. Merleau-Ponty’s existential analysis of phantom limbs results in a functional explanation: the amputated arm is still experienced as being there because its old function is still experienced as such. This functional view also explains why some amputees gain from a phantom limb; as the guardian of habitual bodily movements, it can facilitate the use of prosthetic

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devices (Sacks, 1985). But more often than not, amputees experience their phantom as very painful, which is not useful or functional at all. While providing merely a functional explanation of the phantom limb, Merleau-Ponty does not address this pain. As I will discuss below, it is possible to qualify some aspects of his existential, functional description of our experience of the body. For Merleau-Ponty, intentionality, giving meaning to that which appears and manifests itself, is a bodily affair. In this mode of interpretation, he argues, it is not about ‘I think,’ but about ‘I can.’ The phantom limb refers to the situation in which one ‘cannot.’ I would say that ‘I can’ may be interpreted as having a certain skill, or being handy, in dealing with the situation, whereby deftness does not apply to ‘hands’ only. Also without hands one can be handy. Our ‘deftness’ mostly comes about at a preconscious, prereflective level. This system of sensorimotor capacity that functions without one really being aware of it is also called a ‘body schema.’9 The basis of this schema follows from a coherence or unity at two different levels: 1. The parts of the body form a unity that does not just result from their sum total: the living body is experienced as one, rather than as a torso with a head, two arms and two legs attached to it. 2. In its prereflective perception and acting, the relationship between our body and the world is not oppositional, but marked by interaction and harmony. To determine the boundaries of our ‘own body’ in more detail, I will address the specificity of the ‘unity’ of the body schema. I will thereby clarify that this unity is not just unity but that, paradoxically, it is based on ‘difference.’10

Body schema The experience of the ‘unity’ of our own body goes together with the experience that it finds itself in space in a specific way. Our body is not 9 Even if the term ‘body schema’ is often confused with the term ‘body image’, for a better understanding of the experience of the body it is crucial to distinguish between these two. If ‘body schema’ refers to the preconscious system of motoric and sensory abilities, ‘body image’ refers to the conscious system of perceptions, postures, and beliefs regarding our own body (Gallagher, 2005; Gallagher & Cole, 1995). 10 In this chapter I will explain this ‘difference’ on the basis of the difference between Leib and Körper. In Chapters 4 and 5 I will elaborate on the notion of ‘bodily identity based on difference’ with reference to Jean-Luc Nancy’s philosophy.

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just an ‘extended thing’ (res extensa), as Descartes described it. From the experience of my own body it is immediately clear that my hand is present on the table in a very different way than the computer, the phone, or the fruit bowl. Also, the way the computer sits next to the phone is of a different order than the way my hand is next to the phone. Telephone and computer take up a particular position. This means that their place in this space can be determined by measuring it: the distance between computer and phone is about fifty centimeters. I may also approach my own body in this way. For example, I may measure the distance between my two hands or the curve between my pulse and elbow. This is not the usual way I approach my body, but it might well be how an inquisitive doctor would approach it. Normally, I know immediately, without knowing positions, where all my body parts are. I experience my own body as a unity and also know instantly, without thinking or looking at it, what my posture is and how and in which direction I move. Without looking, I know if my leg is bent or stretched, or whether my leg goes upward or backward. This bodily experience of self, which is crucial in every posture and movement, was first described by Henry Head (1920). This British neurologist became famous by his trailblazing study of the nervous system, whereby he did not shy away from having a few nerves cut through in his own lower arm, in order subsequently to be able to investigate where numbness occurred. In his view, our ‘body schema’ is a central neurological principle for bodily functioning. It is a ‘standard’ for the experience of all postural changes (p. 669). In the 1930s the term also grew current in psychology and it was used for cases in which the body’s spatial experience was somehow disturbed, as well exemplified by phantom limbs. When individuals suffer from a phantom limb, something is wrong with their body schema; the arm no longer there is still experienced as present because it is still part of the body schema. Conversely, the arm that you happened to sleep on and that started feeling numb is not a part of your own body schema anymore. Physically the arm is still present, but its presence is no longer felt directly. In this situation, the ‘sleeping’ arm is present to you in the same way as the computer or phone on the table. Likewise, the dead bones taken along to the television studio by the woman no longer form a part of her body schema. The difference between a sleeping arm and dead bones is that the first situation tends to end soon again in most cases. Dead bones, in contrast, will never come alive anymore and they can never be experienced again as being alive. Body schema, then, represents the felt unity of one’s own body. But this unity is no fixed given. We might call it a ‘dynamic unity.’ This has to do

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with the fact that the body has to adjust to its environment, the situation in which it finds itself, all the time. My own body appears to me ‘as an attitude directed towards a certain existing or possible task’ (Merleau-Ponty, 1945: 100). I find myself – my own body – in a certain situation, which I somehow have to deal with. One does not experience one’s body or embodied existence separately from finding oneself in a particular situation and handling it. When I am sitting behind my computer, meanwhile drinking coffee and also taking care of some phone calls, my body is continually busy with handling the situation at a prereflective level (after all, I do not have to think about all actions before performing them). My hand reaches to my cup of coffee and my fingers curve themselves, anticipating the cup’s shape; my fingers nearly automatically seem to find their way on the keyboard. In all these intentional actions, my body does not just occupy a position; my body does not just happen to be in some place in the world, but it ‘inhabits’ it. The computer, phone, and cup merely take up a position; their spatiality we therefore call ‘positional.’ In contrast, the spatiality of our body, or our inhabiting of the world, we call ‘situational.’ If we want to determine the boundaries of our body in spatial terms, it will be clear that they do not coincide with the position taken up by it. ‘The outline of my body is a [boundary] which ordinary spatial relations do not cross’ (ibid.: 98). The boundaries of our body, determined by the body schema, comprise both the body and its situation. Our physical dealing with the situation we enter is marked in particular by dealing with it as ‘skillfully’ as possible, or rather, by ‘managing’ that situation maximally. To realize this, we use all sorts of tools and aids. If we use these ‘prostheses’ skillfully, so that they will be etched in our body through habit, we may as well say that they become part of our body schema. The boundary of my body schema does not need to coincide with my fingertips, but may also be constituted by, for instance, the end of a hammer when I am hammering or the outline of my car when I try to maneuver it through a small gate. Just as the ‘extended phenotype’ comprises more than the actual organism, the boundaries of the body schema do not coincide with the boundaries of the organism.

Leib and Körper: Difference and unity Merleau-Ponty refers to the body as ‘own’ (propre), thus stressing that it is intrinsically part of who we are. At the same time, our body will always

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retain an element of otherness or strangeness as well. I would argue that the boundaries of our body – of the body schema – are quite flexible; our body is permeable, can be penetrated by ‘foreign’ elements, instruments and clothes, because our experience of what is own always goes hand in hand with our experience of otherness or strangeness. The body schema points to an experienced sense of unity within us, but this unity also carries a difference within it. This may sound paradoxical because unity and difference are normally antithetical and exclude each other. That these two can also go together has to do with the fact that our body represents an ambiguous mode of existence: it is both a thing and a non-thing. This ambiguous existence I would first like to clarify based on the difference between Leib and Körper, as described by Edmund Husserl. The phenomenological analyses by Husserl (1900-1901; 1913) focus on the nature of human consciousness. This philosopher has argued that consciousness should no longer be conceived as a thing or substance, as in the work of Descartes, but as an ‘activity’. Consciousness means giving meaning to the world as it appears to us. In the second book of his Ideas (1952) Husserl explains that the different ways in which matters appear to us also imply different forms of reality. He distinguishes, for instance, between material nature and animated animalist nature, a distinction we might refer to as one between dead and living matter. In so doing, Husserl seems to revert back to the classical notion found in the work of Plato – a notion that was also fundamental of course to Aristotle’s view that living matter is animate matter. Thus Husserl refutes Descartes’s thesis that living bodies can also be inanimate and that the soul, rather than being a life principle, merely refers to the ‘psyche’ or thinking substance. In fact, Husserl calls this animalist nature (initially meant to refer to the existence of human beings, even though it may also apply to that of animals) also a seelische reality. This animate reality, in his view, is constituted by what he calls Leib. He distinguishes this animate body or Leib from inanimate matter, called Körper, and as such it fully belongs in the category of the Cartesian res extensa.11 It is important to point out that Leib and Körper are not two separate things that exist side by side. It is not simply about a distinction between living and lifeless matter. Instead, the two terms refer to different aspects of one and the same living body. As already referred to in the previous chapter, phenomenology does not embrace a realistic ontology. Bracketing 11 Merleau-Ponty uses the terms corps vécu or corps propre as translations of the German Leib.

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the question of real existence, it seeks to articulate in what way bodily existence is constituted and in what sense it appears to us. For Husserl, the Leib is, ‘in the first place, the medium of all perception; it is the organ of perception (Wahrnemungsorgan) and is necessarily involved in all perception’ (Husserl, 1952: § 18). In other words, there is no perception of spatio-thingly (raumdingliche) objects possible without this organ of perception. While perceiving things around us, our Leib is thus always involved. But then Husserl continues and poses the phenomenological question in what ways this Leib is constituted and, therefore, in what ways it appears to us. To examine this he takes the typical case of our own Leibkörper (corporeal body), that is, our own spatially experienced body that is perceived by means of our organ of perception, our Leib. The quest for the special constitution of the Leib thus results in an analysis of bodily self-experience. Husserl elucidates that the perception of one’s Leibkörper is based upon a double-sided experience. This double-sided experience of one’s body becomes clear, for instance, when we consider experiences that occur when we touch our right hand with our left hand (Husserl, 1952: § 36). In this touching, we may perceive the left hand in two different ways. In the jargon of phenomenology we can say that the same hand appears in two different ways and therefore it can have meaning in two different ways. For one thing, we may experience our left hand as if it is a certain thing with particular characteristics, such as having a rough feel. In this way we perceive this hand just like any other thing around us. This is the experience of our own hand as thing or as Körper. But the specific nature of living bodies is that another perception may take place as well. The moment I touch my left hand with my right hand, the right hand feels the characteristics of the left one, but this left hand can also feel that is being touched. The left hand, then, is not just a passive thing that is touched; it also feels something, namely that it is touched. This second experience – the sense of being touched – does not provide any information about particular qualitative characteristics of our hand (or our body in general), such as its being soft or rough. It involves an experience of our body as Leib rather than as Körper. To briefly elaborate on the specific nature of the experience of our body as Leib: when I feel in my hand that it is touched, it gives me the experience that it is my hand or my body that is touched. I feel all too well that I touch my own hand and not someone else’s hand or some other thing. This is why I call the experience of Leib the experience of me-ness. In the English edition of Husserl’s Ideas II the German words Leib and Körper are translated as ‘Body’ and ‘body.’ I find this to be a rather unsatisfactory translation since it fails to differentiate between the experience of what is ‘lived through’

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(Leib, Leben, life) and the experience of thinghood or even unanimated matter (Körper, corpse). Therefore, I prefer to use the original German terms. The experience of Leib comes about through specific sensations. Every perception is based on sensory input, i.e. sensations coming from the various senses. The difference between a perception of something outside of myself and the perception of my own body as Leib corresponds to differences in sensory input. In the first case, sensations are not reflected within my body, while in the second case there are so-called ‘localized sensations.’ For example, when I perceive a red apple, I have particular color sensations that determine the fact that I attribute the quality ‘red’ to this apple, but this quality belongs to the apple outside of me and is not found somewhere within my perceiving body. The red is not localized in my eyes. In the case of the sense of being touched, sensations are localized. I feel in my hand that it is touched. This experience does not only come about by touching your own hand; the experience of Leib also occurs when being touched by other elements except your own hand. Husserl introduced the German neologism Empfindnisse to describe the peculiar character of the localized sensations that underlie the Leib-experience (Husserl, 1952: 152). This term is translated into English as ‘sensings.’ From a neuro-physiological point of view we could say that ‘sensings’ mainly occur through touch, pain, proprioception (i.e. the ‘internal’ perception of bodily posture and bodily boundaries), kinesthetic sensations (i.e. the ‘internal’ perception of bodily movement), and temperature perception. Sensings cause me to experience my body as mine. Husserl bases his analysis of the Leib in particular on touch. Localized sensations may emerge because the sense of touch carries reflexivity. When our right hand touches our left hand, both hands feel they are touched. Some claim that this involves ‘the feeling of feeling’ (or the touching of touching).12 However, this is not the case. I would rather say that in this instance the touching of that which is touched coincide in one spot; it involves ‘sensing our own tangibility’ (Slatman, 2005). According to Husserl, this reflexivity is absent in our visual perception. The experience of seeing my own visibility does not result in localized 12 Such an interpretation (erroneous, in my view) of self-perception we find for instance in the work of Michel Henry (2000). He argues that the experience of being touched coincides with that of touching, which implies that in self-perception one’s body does not fully coincide with itself. This interpretation, which discards the Leib/Körper distinction, leaves room for only one mysterious principle, which Henry calls ‘life’ (Vie). Such a view, however, fails to do justice to the fact that many parts of our living body can be replaced by inanimate, thing-like Fremdkörper.

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sensation. We are perhaps inclined to agree with Husserl here because the difference between touch and sight is commonly conceived as a difference between a perception whereby the perceiving and the perceived touch each other versus a perception whereby there is a distance between the perceiving and the perceived. Touch after all implies proximity and sight implies distance. It is questionable, however, to conceptualize the Leib as based on touch experiences only. Recent research has revealed that visual sensations may also be crucial for the bodily experience of me-ness. Ramachandran and Hirstein (1998) have demonstrated that visual information can be relevant in phantom experiences. They developed a ‘virtual reality box’ for treating people who felt they had a paralyzed phantom limb. The top part of the box is open and on its side it has a hole, in which a person sticks his or her healthy hand. The mirror in the middle of the box reflects the hand present in such a way that it seems as if the other (amputated) hand is present as well. Thus the patient receives visual feedback of his or her amputated arm, which he or she still feels as a phantom. In this way, the invisible phantom hand is in effect made visible. This visual feedback caused several patients to have a different feeling in their phantom arm. Without the feedback, they experienced their arm as paralyzed, heavy, as if frozen in cement. The visual feedback gave them the feeling that the phantom arm was no longer paralyzed, and they even felt motion in it. In several patients, the visual feedback also caused localized touch sensations in the phantom arm when the healthy arm was touched. In one amputee who had earlier suffered no phantom experiences, the mirror caused the sense of having a phantom limb for the very first time. In one case the virtual reality box brought about the first successful amputation of a phantom limb: after the visual feedback was applied during three weeks for ten minutes each day, the phantom arm’s feeling disappeared completely. The main conclusion linked to this experiment is that there must be a fundamental interaction between seeing and touching. This interaction is also discussed in the late work of Merleau-Ponty (1961, 1964), where he moves away from Husserl’s view that the experience of the Leib only occurs in touch sensations. Merleau-Ponty addresses, for instance, an example put forward by Paul Schilder of a man smoking a pipe in front of the mirror, who feels the pipe’s heat not only in his actual fingers, but also in his fingers in the mirror (Merleau-Ponty, 1961: 129). I feel my body where I can see it. That ‘feeling’ our own body can be evoked by ‘seeing’ it is clearly reflected by the so-called rubber hand illusion (RHI), described in several recent

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studies. The RHI is the illusion that you can experience a rubber hand as your own hand. It can be triggered in the following way: a subject is asked to put his or her hands on a table; next, the subject is asked to obscure one of the two hands from view by holding it behind a screen; the non-visible hand is replaced by a rubber hand; the ‘invisible’ real hand and the rubber hand are touched simultaneously and at the same intervals with a brush by a researcher. Subjects indicated to have the feeling that they could feel the brush in the rubber hand, and some claimed to feel the rubber hand as their own hand (Botvinick & Cohen, 1998).13 In another study subjects were asked during the experiment to indicate the position of the place where they ‘felt’ the touch. In this case, too, subjects indicated – if the rubber hand also looked somewhat like a real hand and if the hand was in a congruent position – to feel the touch in the rubber hand (Tsakiris & Haggard, 2005). The RHI example underscores that we may feel something in that which we see of ourselves. Also, as I have discussed elsewhere in more detail, the RHI experience reveals that the experience of bodily ownness does not totally coincide with ‘being here.’ Instead the experience of bodily ownness and the subsequent recognition of oneself is constituted by both ‘being here’ and ‘being there’ (Slatman, 2009a). This suggests that the feeling of our own body, our Leib, is not just constituted by a perspective on ourselves from within, the feeling that we have from within ourselves, or the so-called firstperson perspective. Also our self-image, or that which we see of ourselves can play a role in that feeling. This visual information implies a perspective on ourselves from outside, or a third-person perspective. At the start of my analysis it seemed that the distinction between Leib and Körper would coincide with the distinction between ‘from within’ and ‘from outside.’ As it turns out, this is not simply the case, implying that the distinction between Leib and Körper is more complex than it seems at first sight. This complexity we encounter in the following description of the Leib: ‘Hence, the Leib (Body) is constituted in a double way: first, it is a physical thing, matter, it has its extension in which are included its real properties, its color, smoothness, hardness, warmth and whatever other material qualities of that kind there are. Secondly, I find “on” and “in” it, warmth on the back of the hand, coldness in the feet, sensations of touch in the fingertips’ (Husserl, 1952: 153). The Leib itself is thus something that has two ‘sides’: it pertains to the experience of the thing-like, but also to the experience of localized

13 A video in which Olaf Blanke demonstrates the rubber hand illusion is available on the internet (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCQbygjG0RU).

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sensations or sensings. Ultimately this means merely that Leib is both Leib (sensings) and Körper (thing-like). This definition suggests that the experience of the Leib does not exist apart from the experience of the Körper.14 If we need to distinguish between Leib and Körper, we cannot separate them. It is possible, however, to discuss only a Körper. In that case we are dealing with something that is only conceived as a thing. Yet when talking about a Leib, it always involves a Leib with Körper. The specific aspect of the Leib is first of all that it concerns the body that experiences itself as ‘self’ or ‘mine’ (so not as a thing). At the same time, though, this experience is never fully separate from the body’s being a thing, its Körperlichkeit. In other words, a pure Leib does not exist at all. A pure Leib would eventually be nothing but pure mind, or res cogitans (Waldenfels, 2004). That would be an experience of ourselves, an experience of me-ness, which no longer concerns our body anymore. The Leib-experience, by contrast, is an experience of me-ness that is based on corporal experience. It is a form of self-consciousness that becomes apparent in and on the body. That the Leib cannot do without the Körper becomes clear if we go back again to our example of the two hands that touch each other. The Leib­feeling of the left hand comes about through the sensings; the hand feels itself as palpable. This is only possible, however, if the hand is something that indeed can be felt or touched, or if the hand is visible in a particular way as in the case of the Rubber Hand Illusion and the phantom experiences described by Ramachandran. This means that the hand must be something that is extended, for only things that are extended can become touched or be visible in space.15 The hand felt as Leib must also be Körper. Or, put more 14 Note that my argument starts here from the perspective of what is perceived. If one takes the perspective of perception in general, one should say that the perception of a Körper cannot take place without a Leib. From this latter perspective, our Leib is ‘always already in our back, something to fall back on (in unserem Rücken). We can never distance ourselves so far from it that we can say “the Leib is over there”’ as Waldenfels (2000, 251) nicely describes. It is also because of this being prior of the Leib in the order of constitution that we speak of Leibkörper, rather than of Körperleib (idem, 252). Leibkörper indeed refers to a self-doubling of the presupposed Leib into Leib and Körper. Presupposing that the Leib is always already involved in any act of perception also means that the distinction between Leib and Körper is not deduced from a pre-given realistic bodily entity. Since I am especially interested in in what sense we experience our own body, and less in the conditions of possibility of this experience, and since I believe that any experience of our own body involves a Körper experience, I emphasize the importance of Körperlichkeit in this study. 15 In the experiment of the Rubber Hand Illusion and in Ramachandran’s ‘virtual reality box,’ (non-existent) body parts are made visible. In normal (non-manipulated) cases of phantom pain this is not the case of course: here one feels the presence of a limb that is not even visible. Still, one can say that this experience assumes the Körper because the phantom limb experience is

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precisely: I can only have an experience of me-ness based on the fact that the body I instantly experience as mine simultaneously is nothing but a thing, a Körper. The Leib presupposes and confirms the Körper. This is also why Husserl starts his analysis of the Leib by remarking that such an analysis necessarily focuses on our Leibkörper (Husserl, 1952: 152).16 My thesis is that the complex relationship between Leib and Körper can be interpreted as the relationship between what is own and what is other or strange. The body experienced as own concerns the experience of me-ness or Leib. As Körper my body appears as a thing for me. This thinglike, körperliche aspect I call other or strange for two reasons: 1) I do not coincide with my being a Körper; I have a certain distance towards it; and 2) as a Körper my body does not essentially differ from other things around me. It appears in the same way as other things; with particular physical characteristics, like size, shape, color, smell, etc. For example, I can measure my waist size with a tape measure. This will give me ‘objective’ information about my body. But this dimension of my corporality does not generate the experience of the me-ness of my body. That it is about my body is not shown by the tape measure’s centimeters. The körperliche body that can be measured and observed will always have a strange side to it because we can relate to it from outside. If I concentrate on the experience that is about my own body – for instance, by fastening the tape measure so that I can feel it in my waist – I must conclude that this experience of ownness is only possible because my body has a certain körperliche size: the feeling of ownness assumes the strangeness of the thing-like dimension. The experience of one’s own body necessarily assumes the difference between Leib and Körper. If this difference would not be there, it would imply that my body is either purely a Leib or purely a Körper. In the first case the body is robbed of all its corporality because a pure Leib is nothing else but a pure spirit, and one may wonder whether such situation occurs in the real world. In the second case the body is robbed of its dignity. This experience, whereby one’s body is reduced to a pure being-Körper, does occur indeed. Mostly it involves extreme situations such as rape, humiliation, excessive violence, and traumas. In these cases one will want to dissociate based on the presence of particular motor schemes and patterns (Gallagher 2005), and these emerge through orientation in the physical, körperliche space. 16 For this reason, I do not entirely agree with Aho and Aho (2008), who argue that for a phenomenology of sickness, disease, and illness one needs to sharply distinguish between Leib and Körper, and therefore avoid the usage of a term like Leibkörper that, according to them, would blur this distinction (p. 14). As I will show in this study, although Leib and Körper differ from one another, they also condition one another.

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oneself from one’s body. A striking description of it can be found in J.M. Coetzee’s Slow Man (2005). This novel narrates how a middle-aged man, Paul Rayment, tries to recuperate after a serious traumatic accident whereby he loses a lower leg. Right after the amputation, his leg feels like an altogether alien body part. No longer can he call it his own leg, and he rather calls it ‘the ham’: ‘To himself he does not call it a stump. He would like not to call it anything; he would like not to think about it, but that is not possible. If he has a name for it, it is le jambon [the ham]. Le jambon keeps it at a nice, contemptuous distance’ (p. 29). At this point, Paul Rayment describes his own leg as something strange to himself; it has become a mere Körper which he does not want to experience as part of himself. It is nonetheless true, even in this case, that the leg has not been totally alienated, since Rayment obviously knows it is not a ham. This is also why it remains possible to reown the estranged body part, which in fact eventually happens in the novel.

Tolerating the strange Within the framework of the double perspective on the body, that which I experience as my own body is not given in advance. Precisely because my experience of me-ness has always been based already on an experience of the thing-like nature of the body, it becomes possible that this experience of me-ness may also pertain to something thing-like that initially does not belong to my body at all, but was later added to it. This is illustrated by a special case: the double hand transplant of Denis Chatelier. In his book Je vis avec les mains d’un autre [I Live with Someone Else’s Hands] (2008), he reports his peculiar story. This French house painter lost both hands after a fireworks accident in 1996. Initially he used prostheses, but in 2000 he received two new hands. He was the first person in the world to undergo a successful double hand transplant. The new hands of the then 33-year-old Chatelier came from an 18-year-old boy who died after falling from a bridge. He was operated by a team of surgeons in Lyon led by Jean-Michel Dubernard, which since then has also been in charge of the first successful face transplant (November 2005). Of course, the double hand transplant involved highly intricate surgery, but the process after the operation also required exceptional stamina and resilience on the part of the hands’ receiver. The body of the person who receives a body part or organ of someone else will want to reject this Fremdkörper. Our immune system responds directly to the presence of alien invaders. When we are suffering from a cold, for example, our immune system will do all it can to make the

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virus that caused it harmless. In the case of a transplant, such reaction is undesirable (and often life-threatening); the alien element must in fact be tolerated rather than being rejected. To bring this about people who undergo a transplant receive medication to suppress the functioning of their own immune system. A transplant, then, can only succeed when the alien element is not rejected. According to Dr. Dubernard, ‘tolerance’ is ‘the Holy Grail for transplant physicians’ (Chatelier, 2008: 147). In the first three months after Chatelier’s operation there were rejection symptoms of the skin twice, but these could be treated well with medication (Petruzzo et al., 2003). Gradually, feeling emerged in the hands and Chatelier managed to use them better. If receiving new hands involved quite a struggle, increasingly they became more functional and ‘handy’ (Dubernard et al., 2003). Denis Chatelier writes that when he saw his new hands for the first time, he was horrified. His new hands felt numb and inflated. Since the sensorimotor and proprioception innervations had not yet fully recovered, localized sensations were not yet possible. Without localized sensations or sensings, the transplanted hands could not be experienced as lived; he did not experience them as his own. In the period just after the operation he could only speak of ‘the hands.’ An important moment in his recovery was the moment that he called them ‘my hands’ (Chatelier, 2008: 82). Five years after the transplant he was able to do almost everything again. Although he will have to be on medication for the rest of his life to prevent rejection – fighting one ‘alien’ with another ‘alien’ – and although his process of revalidation was long and tough, he claimed to be very happy with the transplant. ‘This transplant has changed my life. Now, I am no longer a nobody (rien) … I regained some dignity’ (p. 127). For this handyman, a handless existence was unbearable. To express his gratitude, every year he pays a visit to Lourdes to put a rose in the chapel and say a prayer for the donor’s relatives. Together with Dr. Dubernard, Chatelier – a confirmed Catholic – was invited to meet the Pope in 2000. As he says, the latter’s cordial handshake provided him with an energy which will last his entire life (Chatelier, 2008: 104). If we would ask Chatelier to touch his left hand with his right hand, this will evoke the double experience as described by Husserl. Chatelier will experience the hand as a thing, but he will also feel that he touches ‘his’ hand (or that it is being touched). Localized sensations will occur; the touched hand is not only a (Fremd)körper, but also a Leib. Chatelier himself has said that the most moving moment in his experience was when his son of 18 months gave a kiss on his hand and that he could feel it. This kiss turned

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the hand into a Leib. Moreover, it implied that the child accepted his father’s ‘strange’ hands, which made it easier for Chatelier to experience them as his. The return of feeling and the possibility to move the hands both indicate neurological recovery. Important thereby initially is that the local (peripheral) nerves from hand to spinal cord and from spinal cord to hand function well. Strikingly, also in the central nervous system there was an adjustment. Before and after the transplant, the neurologist Angela Sirigu made several scans (fMRI) of Chatelier’s brain. Before Chatelier received the donor hands, he used prostheses. The registered brain activity revealed that the area normally responsible for the hand’s movements was taken over by the area responsible for controlling the movements of the elbow. In the months after the transplant the brain adapted again. Quite soon the donor hands were ‘recognized’ as own hands, and the original area in the brain took over control of the hands again (Giraux, Sirigu, Schneider, & Dubernard, 2001). The body schema concerns the felt and experienced unity of our body. This unity is neurologically organized by the brain. The study by Sirigu and colleagues demonstrates that flexibility of the body schema goes together with plasticity of the brain. According to psychologists, this visualization of the brain activity served to support the tolerance of the strange hands. In this way, Chatelier could also see for himself that his own brain activated the hands. The brain scans form solid proof of a successful adjustment of the body schema, and that helps of course in developing a positive feeling about your own ‘remade’ body, which had initially lost all unity but recovered it again. In the previous chapter I referred to David Le Breton’s pessimistic view of man. He argues that the ‘phenomenological unity’ of man is broken when the body is approached as an object, as is the case in all sorts of hi-tech interventions in the body. This is refuted by the example of Denis Chatelier. The precondition for the success of this intricate surgical intervention is, first of all, that this body is merely regarded as an object. Surgeons are busy for hours connecting tiny bits of tissue as if putting together some complex device. Chatelier’s new hands are strange objects and he can do no otherwise than experience them as very strange indeed. Still, at one point the ‘phenomenological unity’ was restored in his case – when ‘the’ hands became ‘my’ hands. However, this ‘unity,’ which presents itself in the Leib-experience and which implies a restoration of the body schema, hardly means that the body is no longer experienced as thing or object. The strange, thing-like Körperliche experience remains an ever-present dimension of the body. The ‘phenomenological unity,’ in the case of Chatelier, was not

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achieved by excluding the body’s strange, thing-like character, but precisely by embracing that strangeness. It involves a unity based on difference.

Limits to tolerance We can say that Denis Chatelier has fully adapted to his new body, both functionally and sensitively. In a way he has turned what is strange into what is ‘own.’ My thesis is that such dealing with a Fremdkörper is possible because as a rule the body already comes with an alien dimension to it. Because we can never experience our body as Leib only, but also as a thing or Körper, we are already familiar with its strange, thing-like dimension. In prostheses and transplants, one thing is replaced by another. It is possible to argue of course that objectively one Körper is not the same as another. One Körper will be more familiar to us than another one. It is not hard to imagine that every time Denis Chatelier attentively touches his hands and looks at them, he experiences them as a lot stranger than when I observe my own hands as objects. Perhaps the skin color is different, or the color of the tiny skin hairs – which after some time also began to grow again in his case. But strangest of all in his case must be the awareness that these are the hands of someone else, who does not live anymore, who was f ifteen years younger and who touched things of which you have no knowledge. Perhaps the hands come from a pianist, or perhaps from a shoplifter. At any rate the hands come from another life and have now received a new life. Gabriel Burloux and Danièle Bachmann, psychiatrists on the support team in Lyon, claim that transplant patients run the risk of contracting the ‘Frankenstein Syndrome.’ This is the feeling that you are inhabited by the strange or a stranger, or worse, that you are inhabited by death. Transplants of body parts that are clearly visible, such as hands and face, will undoubtedly evoke associations with the dead donor. For Socrates it was still obvious that his body could only be of service to his own life. After his life his heavy body, which bothered him so much during his life, became nothing but a pile of worthless matter of use to no one. As a receiver of a donor organ or body part, however, you live with the idea that the lifeless matter of another person has also come to be a part of your still living body. This may be a spooky idea to others. For example, Burloux and Bachmann (2004) describe how a member of the support team started shivering when a hand transplant patient started biting ‘his’ nails.

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In my view we are always already familiar with a certain measure of otherness or strangeness within our body, and this also very much enables drastic bodily changes. But there are limits to what we can handle in this respect. This is first determined by functionality, as I explained with respect to the woman who cherished her own dead bones. Dead matter that can have no function any longer within the body schema falls outside the boundaries of one’s own body. John Irving, in his novel The Fourth Hand (2001), describes the functional boundary of tolerance of the alien as well. In a hilarious way he describes how TV personality Patrick Wallingford receives a transplanted hand on the condition that the dead donor’s wife, Mrs. Clausen, may continue to visit the hand. These visits eventually cause Wallingford to make her pregnant – something in which the former husband never succeeded – and marry her, making both of them happy ever after. Initially the transplant was successful, but later the hand was rejected after all and had to be amputated again. The attending physician, Dr. Zajac, had no medical explanation for it. To Wallingford it was crystal-clear, however, why, after all the adventures, his body still rejected the alien hand. It was not needed anymore: ‘The hand had finished with its business – that was all’ (p. 377). For Wallingford and Mrs. Clausen, the existence of a phantom hand – the fourth hand – was now sufficient for their happiness. Aside from ‘functional’ limits, ‘affective’ or ‘feelings-based’ limits may also play a part in what is strange or foreign (and will remain so). What I mean here becomes clear from the story of Clint Hallam. Hallam too was a patient of Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard in Lyon. In 1998 the then 48-year-old NewZealander Hallam was the first to undergo a single hand transplant. The man had lost his right hand in a circular saw accident in 1984. Initially the operation seemed a success and soon there was functional recovery. Images were shown of Hallam who proudly raised a glass of beer in his transplanted hand or skillfully brushed his teeth. Despite his good functional recovery, it turned out that Hallam could not live with the alien, ‘dull’ hand, and therefore requested its amputation again, which was performed in 2001 (Campbell, 2003). The doctors involved attributed Hallam’s problem with the new hand to his lapses in following his therapy and taking his medication. Furthermore, Hallam was portrayed as an unreliable type with a criminal past: the circular saw incident, after all, had taken place in prison after a two-year conviction for fraudulent acts. In my view, this negative

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representation provided too easy an excuse for a failed transplant (Slatman & Widdershoven, 2010). Not everyone will tolerate the body’s additional dose of strangeness inevitably associated with such a transplant. Another example of affective limits pertains to the first penis transplant, performed in China in September 2006.17 A 44-year-old man received a new penis from a brain-dead donor, after his own got mutilated beyond repair in a car accident. The man could no longer urinate and was not capable anymore of sexual activity. The transplant went well: after ten days the entire organ was well saturated with blood and the man could urinate again. Several weeks later, however, doctors amputated the penis again because of severe emotional problems in both the man involved and his partner with respect to the transplanted organ. Here too, it seems, tolerance of a strange organ or body part requires more than just the restoration of functionality. These cases of no emotional or affective tolerance of strange elements indicate that Merleau-Ponty’s analysis of the body schema needs to be supplemented because his analysis merely starts from ‘handiness’ and functionality. In the case of Clint Hallam, there was excellent functional recuperation; he was quite skilful with his new hand. This implies that his body schema had adjusted well. The feeling in his hand was well developed, so that he also had localized sensations in it and therefore a Leib-experience. But despite his having this me-ness experience of the transplanted hand, the experience that this hand was in fact not his hand, but a foreign, dull, and inanimate thing, continued to prevail. In contrast to Denis Chatelier, Hallam could not tolerate this strangeness.18 I would therefore claim that Hallam’s story indicates that the body’s exterior – its extendedness and shape – is hardly an indifferent factor in how we can experience ourselves as a ‘self’ and that this extended matter cannot simply be replaced by another res extensa. For today’s technology, the body is like a machine that we can tinker with, as we can tinker with our car. But there are limits to this tinkering. 17 See the article in The Guardian, ‘Man rejects first penis transplant’, 18 September 2006. 18 It is very well possible that Hallam appreciated the functional gain of his new hand far less than Chatelier, because Hallam still had one ‘normal’ hand, and also because his being handy relies less on having two hands. He is a salesman and not a handyman like Chatelier (Slatman & Widdershoven 2010). After years of pioneering and experimenting, hand transplantation is still an exceptional surgical intervention. It is a very complex and risky intervention and therefore one wants to be sure whether the receiver of such a hand will really benefit from it. In a recent review it is suggested that bilateral amputees gain more functionality than unilateral amputees, which indeed amplifies the question of whether or not a unilateral hand transplant is worthwhile at all (Landin et al., 2012).

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Commonly these limits are exclusively interpreted in terms of what is ethically permissible. It is asked, for instance, whether it is ethically permissible to give someone with a damaged countenance the face of a dead donor, just as one wonders whether the manipulation of DNA is not going too far. In some cases the limits of the permissible also indicate how one grasps the limits of one’s own body. We see this, for instance, in certain religious groups that hold on to a strictly defined idea of bodily integrity, which causes them to disapprove of interventions such as vaccinations, blood transfusions, and organ transplants because they transgress the body’s boundary. Rather than further discussing all sorts of ethically motivated limits, I would like to address another limit. We should assume that Clint Hallam had no ethical objections to receiving someone else’s hand, or he wouldn’t have wanted a transplant to begin with. The failure of this transplant indicates that there are in fact limits to intervening in the body. They have to do with what is sensitively permissible for the person involved. It is hard to deny that to some extent our body is and will remain a thing. And even if it is possible to tinker with it and replace parts, it needs to remain our thing. The thing-like nature of our body – no matter how strange in essence – has to be somehow ‘own,’ otherwise a situation will emerge in which our emotional life can be fundamentally disrupted. Whether we experience ourselves as ‘self’ does not only rest in our internal feelings about ourselves. The feeling of ‘self’ assumes our internal sense of self to be in line with our exterior. If Hallam used his transplanted hand to hit on the table, he would feel it in ‘his’ hand – his internal me-ness feeling was okay – but the same hand looked at, touched, and appreciated from outside did not give him the sense that this hand really was his. If Clint Hallam were a Cartesian, he would have had no problem with his transplanted hand. To a Cartesian, the body is merely a thing, a neutral thing like all other things. It is ignored here, however, that also the thing-like dimension of our body – its shape, outline, exterior – must be somehow ours. Merleau-Ponty (1961: 131) has convincingly described the problem of the Cartesian gaze on the body. He says that a Cartesian who looks into the mirror does not see himself, but merely an exterior, a mannequin. The mirror image ‘is not his.’ If a Cartesian recognizes himself in his mirror image already, this happens not because he experiences having a special relation with it, or as we should say today, that he identifies with it, but because his power of judgment draws a connection between himself and his mirror image. Our judgment, according to Descartes, makes us form ideas about things and bodies. In his Meditations he writes, for instance, that when he is looking down into the street from his window he sees merely hats and

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coats pass by and these might as well be hiding ‘automata.’ Based on his power of judgment, he judges these to be people (AT, VII, 32). Rather than ‘seeing’ these people – this specific form of res extensa, he ‘thinks’ them. For Descartes, then, the body is an indifferent exterior that may potentially take on a special meaning only through thinking, but with which we do not have a special, feeling-based relation in advance. With Descartes, all forms of ‘narcissism’ are absent. The Cartesian does not have a single (positive) feeling for his own mirror image, which also causes this image not to be really his: it is merely a body, not his body. Of course it is possible to experience our body as merely a body, but mostly this involves an estranging experience. About the physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach there is the story that once when he was entering a bus he wondered: ‘Was für ein heruntergekommener Schulmeister steigt dort in den Bus’ (Waldenfels, 2000: 32). At first he just did not realize that he was seeing his own mirror image, nor was there any identification with this ‘pitiable schoolmaster.’ It was as if it were someone else, a stranger, but not Mach himself. Until he realized he was looking in mirror glass, his mirror image, his exterior was in fact separate from him. Our exterior is truly part of us, of what is our own, if we can recognize it and consent to it. The delineation of what does and what does not belong to our body largely has to do with the degree to which we can value our strange exterior. If we are to accept our body as it is, as something strange and thing-like, we should not have a negative or indifferent attitude towards it. We should be able to love it, at least a little, while it is not necessary to be sickly in love with it, like Narcissus and his own mirror image. Our own body is hardly a neutral thing; it is, as we can say in the words of Freud, a body charged with libido. If in no way we can love our own body, its exterior, its image, then this exterior does not really belong to our ‘self.’ Put differently, there is no identification with that image. What I cannot appreciate and what I cannot love in any way suggests an unbearable strangeness that I cannot relate to my sense of ownness. This is why Clint Hallam wanted to have his strange new hand amputated again.19 In the next chapter I will further address the importance of our ‘outside’ appearance for the formation of our identity. 19 The phenomenon of so-called ‘wannabe amputees’, also called body integrity identity disorder (BIID), whereby people long for the amputation of one or more of their healthy limbs, could also be described as a condition in which a person experiences an unbearable strangeness of his or her own body (Slatman & Widdershoven, 2009). This rare phenomenon I do not further discuss here.

3

Mirror, Please Tell Me Who I Am

‘Oh my God, I look as hot as I feel’ Over the past years a range of different ‘makeover’ shows have become popular on TV. They all seem geared to the optimistic idea that everything can and needs to be ‘remodeled,’ enhanced, or redesigned, be it an old dilapidated house, a neglected garden, or an outdated interior of a restaurant. Arguably the most spectacular versions of these shows directly pertain to our body and its enhancement. Cosmetic surgery, a dental job, strict dieting, special physical training, a mental coach, a good stylist, a hair dresser, a beautician – all may be deployed to turn ugly ducklings into beautiful swans. To underscore the need for, if not urgency of, such intervention, the TV viewers get to see arresting images of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ stages. Most candidates in the ‘before’ stage are weary housewives in drab underwear with non-appreciated bodies. Such plain, lackluster ‘before’ renders the stunning ‘after’ even more titillating, and, true enough, in many cases the outcome is amazing indeed. These kinds of shows raise all sorts of questions. We may ask, for one, whether it is in fact a good idea to undergo such a radical modification of your body in front of an audience. At times I wonder how these shows find their candidates. Are women who are genuinely dissatisfied with their body also willing to expose their ‘unattractive’ body in such a pathetic way to millions of viewers? I also wonder what happens to these people after the makeover’s magic has dissipated and they have to carry on with their daily life. Do such programs unduly impose on us the notion that drastic cosmetic surgery is actually a normal thing to which all of us should be entitled and from which we would all benefit (Brooks, 2004)? Does this ‘domestication of cosmetic surgery’ promote a ‘visual eugenics’ which aims at wiping out all unattractive bodily features (Tait, 2007)? Should everyone be beautiful? Are we not allowed anymore to look less attractive or nonstandard? And is beauty something that becomes manifest only on the outside? Should we not focus on developing an interior sense of beauty, instead of being fully absorbed by external matters? Does the entertaining cosmetic gaze not result in a new type of physiognomy according to which we are prone to judge a person’s moral character on the basis of her outer appearance (Wegenstein, 2012)? Socrates would probably have looked pityingly at these shows, in particular after learning how much time, effort, and money people are willing to spend on improving their body’s looks. In the traditional philo-

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sophical view, the body represents a marginal concern when compared to the soul’s grandeur, while true beauty is rather relevant to our inner life than to our body (Torgerson, 1991). Based on the views of ancient philosophers, it would be easy to voice a radical critique of the contemporary practice of cosmetic surgery and the TV entertainment based on it. Over the past decades, scholars with a background in psychology, philosophy, ethics, feminism, and science and technology studies have published a variety of studies on cosmetic surgery interventions and their explosive growth in our times. Several studies discuss the desirability or undesirability of these interventions while addressing issues such as health risks (both physical and mental), normalization, medicalization, consumer culture, and social pressure versus personal autonomy.1 Although I believe that these normative questions should be pursued repeatedly and forcefully, I also feel that it might be useful to incidentally step back, and explore the phenomenon of contemporary cosmetic surgery from a distance – similar perhaps to Minerva’s owl, which, according to Hegel (1821: xxiv), ‘only flies at dusk,’ after the day is over.2 Embracing this Hegelian philosophical premise, I do not so much intend to enter the political arena where the desirability or undesirability of contemporary cosmetic interventions tends to be hotly debated. Instead, in this chapter I will approach the question of changes in outward appearance primarily from a philosophical-anthropological view and explore why the way we look seems so important, how individuals arrive at the decision to change their outward appearance, and whether and how a sweeping change in appearance affects our being. 1 Health benefits as well as health risk issues are mainly addressed by health and medical psychology studies (Mulkens et al., 2011; Mulkens & Jansen, 2006; Sarwer, 2002). There is a large number of studies on cosmetic surgery in the field of social science and feminist studies. To mention just a few: Morgan (1991), Haiken (1997), and Heyes and Jones (2009) address issues of normalization (including sexism, ageism, and racism) and how cosmetic surgery results in (undesirable) social classification or reclassification; Kuczynski (2006) painfully reveals how medicalization works in consumer culture; the question of whether the possibility of cosmetic interventions either empowers or oppresses individual women is meticulously explored by Davis (1995); Jacobson (2000) provides a very insightful sociological analysis of the (growing) demand for breast reconstructions and the roles played by different parties and stakeholders (e.g. medical doctors, the FDA, politicians, women and health activists, women magazines). In the field of philosophy, Bolt et al. (2002), Hilhorst (2002), and Wijsbek (2000), for instance, discuss how the desire to acquire beauty through cosmetic surgery fits (often age-old) ideas of beauty and the good life. 2 We should not forget that Hegel uses the metaphor of Minerva’s owl in the context of his idea that philosophy is ‘ihre Zeit in Gedanken erfaßt’ – one’s era as understood in its thoughts (1821: xxii). Philosophy should indeed analyze contemporary phenomena, rather than bygone ones, but it can only succeed by lagging behind, by not getting swayed by the issues of the day.

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Although my analysis primarily serves descriptive purposes, it is not ‘neutral’ or ‘non-normative’ – if this were possible at all. By exploring our body’s outside – its visibility to ourselves and others – from a psychoanalytic, phenomenological, and Foucauldian perspective, I give an inkling of powerful yet perhaps unwanted side-effects of our present visual culture. As embodied beings we are visible beings. Indeed, invisibility is not an option, but sometimes it might be wise and preferable not to overdo our visibility, and protect ourselves (and others) from Medusa’s devouring gaze.3 What intrigued me in particular in one of the makeover shows I watched on TV was the role of mirrors. In a show called Extreme Make-Over: The Swan, candidates are forbidden to look into the mirror during the makeover process, which can last up to three months. Only at the supreme moment near the end of this period, the candidate is allowed to look into the mirror again and see the changes for herself (while the TV viewers were of course in the position to follow the makeover process step by step). Obviously, it will be unusual for most of us not to see our mirror image for three months, and therefore the effect is even more dramatic when we look into mirror after a make-over. The entertaining element for the audience is watching the candidate’s reaction. In one episode we see the reaction of reborn Merlin. When the curtain in front of the mirror opened, she first cried out ‘Oh my God,’ her hand covering her mouth, but then she immediately regained her bearings, exclaiming the memorable words: ‘I look as hot as I feel.’ The mirror seems to have had a healing effect here. Apparently, Merlin felt in a certain way, namely that she was a sexy person, and now her mirror image backs up this feeling: she also feels that she looks sexy. The mirror reunites the Merlin as she feels from within and the Merlin as she looks from outside. Yet there is an odd process at work here. How was it possible that Merlin felt she was sexy? What had given her this feeling if it was not her mirror image to begin with? It is a new feeling to her, indeed one that she missed in her life as an ugly duckling. Is her feeling about herself not rather an image she fashioned of herself after she realized that her belly had grown tighter and her breasts larger? Did her feeling of being sexy arise 3 Apart from this implicit normative message, my philosophical-anthropological analyses of embodiment also serve an explicit normative and practical goal as regards reflection on ‘best practices’ in clinical contexts. In my current research project I explore the role of patients’ valuation of their bodily experience and appearance (after disfigurement of their body) in the decision-making about treatment and aftercare (Slatman, 2011, 2012, 2014; Slatman & Yaron, 2014). Given the preliminary nature of these findings I will not discuss them any further in this book.

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from how others responded to her appearance? Or did her mental coach tell her many times that she was absolutely sexy, regardless of the outcome of the physical interventions? The wider issue that presents itself here is how an inner feeling about ourselves relates to a certain image of ourselves. In general we find it quite normal to recognize ourselves in the mirror. In this sense, we are no Cartesians, for they, as I explained in the previous chapter, do not so much see themselves in the mirror. They see a body, a res extensa, of which they may well believe that they coincide with it, but this does not involve actual recognition. Whenever I look into the mirror, though, what I instantly see is myself. Some hesitation might crop up when, for instance, I see a person dressed oddly, but in that situation it is easy to establish that it is my own mirror image indeed by making a gesture and seeing my mirror image perform the same gesture or by seeing me touch my nose while also feeling it. Human beings can recognize themselves in a mirror, and this suggests that we are reflective beings. But some animals can also recognize themselves in the mirror. We know, for instance, that certain monkeys (Gallup, 1970, 1979) and dolphins (Sarko, Marino, & Reiss, 2002) have this capability. Recently, scientists proved that Asian elephants may recognize themselves when looking in the mirror (Plotnik et al., 2006). Recognizing your own mirror image involves a specific way of being or becoming conscious of yourself. Rather than being innate, this self-consciousness has to be developed. Babies learn to recognize their own mirror image between the 6th and 18th month after birth (Merleau-Ponty, 1951). According to development psychologists and psychoanalysts, self-recognition constitutes a crucial step in the formation of an ‘I’ or ‘self,’ which can subsequently develop further as a social being that relates to others. But our mirror image will also continue to play a major role in defining who we are. Without mirrors, Merlin would not have found herself again, and, above all, it would never have dawned on her that she needed to change the way she looks.

Narcissism The mirror equips us with an outer image that we cannot simply ignore. Regardless of whether we identify with it, we have to make do with it. For those who hate living with their own mirror image life becomes hell. A poignant example can be found in people who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder. Objectively, these individuals do not have a deviant appearance,

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but they experience their own reflection as monstrous, and for this reason they fear showing themselves to the outside world and hide in their homes, and in some cases they are even suicidal (Phillips et al., 2005). 4 Classical philosophers, such as Plato, assumed that our essence resides in our inner being, implying that our outward look does not really matter. But today the way we look has become quite important to many of us, and this is a view promoted by psychoanalysts, among others. Freud, for one, has posited that our psyche can only develop in interaction with our mirror image. In his analysis of the human psyche, Freud has more than once invoked characters from antiquity, of whom Oedipus is perhaps best-known. Clearly the Freudian view underscores that our mental development, rather than involving a slow and even process, is a rather tragic affair. Above all, Freud suggests that we, just like many tragic heroes, are not in control of things. It is in this context that he also presented Narcissus as a major character (1910, 1911, 1914). The unhappy fate of Narcissus and Echo is recounted by Ovid, among others, in his Metamorphoses.5 Narcissus’s mother asks Tiresias, who is blind yet clairvoyant, if her son will have a long life. Tiresias replies to her rather enigmatically that that will be the case ‘if he never knows himself’ (Book III: 379). Narcissus grows up to be a handsome young man with whom everyone falls in love, but he rejects all of them, including Echo, a nymph 4 Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is not the same as anorexia nervosa, a disorder mainly among teenage girls who have a compulsive desire to be (too) slim. BDD is best described as a disorder whereby people have an exceedingly negative ‘body image;’ they do not value their own appearance because they are convinced of their ugliness. Anorexia, in contrast, is an eating disorder, and it cannot be explained exclusively by having negative judgments about one’s own mirror image. It was demonstrated, for instance, that in general anorexia patients are capable of perceiving their own body size correctly: in the mirror they will also notice that they are skinny to the bone. But often they feel overweight because they ascribe to themselves all sorts of negative qualities, including ‘being overweight’ (Smeets, Ingleby, Hoek, & Panhuysen, 1999). Frequently, anorexia is accompanied by a desire for control to offset feelings of insecurity. This desire for control is expressed in obsessive dealing with food and body weight; eating as little as possible and becoming as slim as possible is then seen as a major achievement. Others believe that anorexia is a form of resistance against becoming an adult, becoming a woman. It should be added that it involves a common phenomenon in modern society because many contemporary young women are faced with a double morality: liberated from fixed role patterns they seem to have more possibilities, but they also feel frustrated when it comes to making real choices of their own. Excessive dieting is a way for these girls to create a sense of self-control after all (Giddens, 1991). In short, anorexia is a complex phenomenon that does not only involve a (negative) valuation of one’s own mirror image. For this reason, I will not address it any further in this book. 5 There are more classical texts that describe the story of Narcissus, but Ovid’s is the bestknown one.

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punished by the god Juno who gave her a speech impairment that allows her to parrot only. Her intense pangs of love cause all lifeblood to flow out of her and what remains of her is rock and an echoing voice. Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, gets even with Narcissus and his heartless behavior by making him fall madly in love with his own mirror image. In the clear water he discovers his own dazzling beauty and instantly falls in love. But, tellingly, he does not recognize his own mirror image as such. As Ovid writes: ‘He desires himself without knowing it himself’ (Book III: 465). Narcissus merely experiences the unattainability of his object of love: ‘I am in love, and I see him, but what I see and love, I cannot find’ (Book III: 490) and ‘Whoever you are, come out’ (Book III: 498). This fundamental unattainability makes him wither away in sorrow, after which eventually he dies by the waterside. Tiresias had predicted that Narcissus would die at the moment he would know himself. Most likely this refers merely to the form of knowledge involved in knowing your outward look, your mirror image. In the case of Narcissus, however, there was no actual self-knowledge because he did not realize that he was seeing his reflected image. His behavior is somewhat like the conduct of a dog, which when looking into the mirror will also look behind it and will start sniffing his assumed fellow dog. Narcissus’s reflective powers were quite poorly developed indeed. Initially, Freud (1910; 1911) used the term ‘narcissism’ only to indicate pathological behavior. Later on, he made a distinction between primary (normal) and secondary (pathological) narcissism. Secondary narcissism can only emerge because we all go through a primary narcissistic phase. Secondary narcissism, in his view, includes phenomena that are marked by a reduced interest in the outside world. Such interest has been replaced by interest in the self. This pathological interest in the self can only develop on the basis of an interest in the self that the individual developed in early childhood. This stage of primary narcissism we all have to go through in order to develop into an ‘I.’ In essence, then, every human being has to be narcissistic.6 6 Although it might be common to use the term ‘ego’ in psychoanalysis, I prefer to use ‘I,’ which remains closer to the German ‘Ich.’ Also the usage of ‘I’ underscores the everydayness of feeling and being an individual, whereas the usage of ‘ego’ might easily suggest that we are dealing with a very defined psychological entity. As I also discuss in Chapters 4 and 5, our ‘I’ is omnipresent in our lives, and it is crucial for our individual and social being, but at the same time it constantly slips away from definite demarcations.

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To understand this primary narcissism, we first need to touch briefly on Freud’s theory of drives. In his view, we are all full of drives that are always there, but the nature of particular drives may change. Although we need to distinguish between self-preservation drives, aimed at sustaining the individual, and sexual drives or libido, aimed at sustaining the species, there is no strict distinction between the two. For instance, a hungry baby will satisfy its need by sucking milk from its mother’s breast (or a bottle), but afterwards, when it is not hungry anymore, sucking will still be pleasurable. The self-preservation drive thus turns into a drive geared to an object of love: a breast, a nipple, a thumb, or sometimes even a toe. To Freud, ‘libido’ does not only refer to our sexual drive that is satisfied through genital sexual activity, but to all forms of being oriented on objects of love. An infant’s need to suck, then, also represents a form of libido. We can see now that this libido is hardly limited to something or someone outside of ourselves. This is why Freud argues that there is both object-libido and ego-libido or narcissistic libido. But in the case of the infant seeking to satisfy its desire to suck, for instance by sucking its thumb, the term ‘ego-libido’ does not yet apply because an infant does not have an ‘ego’ or ‘I’ yet that it can take as object of love. The focus of infants on their own body Freud calls ‘auto-eroticism.’ In this stage the child does not yet experience itself as a unity or an ‘I,’ but it will equally enjoy sucking its thumb or toe, or, for that matter, any other suckable object offered to it. At this stage the infant is still fragmented and does not yet know what does and what does not belong to its own body. The child only turns into a real ‘I’ after leaving behind the auto-erotic stage, some 6-12 months after birth. This is prompted by its primary narcissism, a ‘new psychical action (Freud, 1914: 69). Although Freud failed to explain what this new psychical action entails, in the 1940s Jacques Lacan, a French psychoanalyst, explained it as involving recognition and identification with one’s mirror image. In his work, Lacan (1949) has elucidated how we develop into an ‘I.’ He posits that the auto-erotic infant only has a fragmented body (corps morcelé), or rather, only the experience of a fragmented body. This will change from the moment the infant starts recognizing itself in the mirror, when for the first time it experiences a unity by seeing its own image. The body experienced as fragmented becomes a body seen as unity. The infant, which at this age (as of 6 months) is still quite helpless in a motor sense, tends to enjoy much pleasure because this image offers it a sense of control for the very first time. Recognition of its own mirror image also means immediate identification with it.

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In Freudian or Lacanian psychoanalysis, identification does not just mean juxtaposition of two equal matters, but refers to a mental process that also brings about a change in the psyche. If, for instance, I identify with particular characteristics of another person, this means I adopt these characteristics. This will change my ‘I.’ Also in the case of our first identification with our mirror image, a major transformation occurs. The infant who has no unity yet identifies itself with the image’s unity or Gestalt, causing it to assimilate with it and develop itself into a unity or ‘I.’ As a rule, identification is also charged with libido. I identify with someone or certain qualities of someone because I find this person, those qualities, desirable. Likewise, our first recognition of our mirror image implies a libidinous relation. Our identification with our mirror image means that our drive is oriented towards the self, which is why Freud used the phrases ‘ego-libido’ or ‘narcissistic libido.’ It is crucial for this self-oriented drive actually to focus on the representation of the image of oneself. Desiring our self does not apply to our own biological organism, but to the (mirror) image that represents us (Moyaert, 1983). We therefore need an image of our self in order to be capable of self-love. The first recognition or identification of oneself in the mirror is part of a process called the mirror stage, or (primary) narcissistic stage. This stage is crucial for establishing a unity. Without this primary identification we would never develop into a unity or an ‘I.’ Lacan qualifies this issue by suggesting that this recognition does not amount to actual knowledge of ourselves. He even says that it involves misunderstanding (méconnaissance). This has to do with the fact that Lacan believes we are divided beings who will never gain full self-insight because our unconscious is bound to remain what it is and can never become conscious. When I identify with an image of myself, I say ‘this is me,’ while strictly speaking this can never be the case. I am not the same as the image of myself: my image forms a unity, while I myself can never be a unity entirely. In this sense identification with my image is always illusory, imaginary. If we only identify ourselves with a certain image, this involves a case of ‘imaginary fixation,’ of which one can be freed only through psychoanalysis. Yet despite its fictitious character, this identification is real because we cannot go through life (continually) as a divided being. The recognition of our self in our mirror image renders us into an ‘I,’ an individual, and therefore this has a healing effect. The very moment when Merlin sees her new mirror image, there is instant recognition. She identifies immediately with this new image. Essentially, her assertion ‘I look as hot as I feel’ means ‘this is me.’ In this case

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the mirror does not offer her an entirely new image because before seeing this image in the mirror she already had some image of herself (which she translated to herself in a feeling). The mirror confirmed this image for her. This makeover show attributes a prominent role to the mirror in order to show that comprehensive bodily change is only completed after positive recognition and identification with the new mirror image. But Merlin’s words also betray that the self-image we have is also shaped in other ways than through actual mirrors.

Other Narcissuses Narcissism is a basic human feature and has to do with mirrors. Of course, it is possible to counter this general claim by pointing out that mirrors haven’t always been around or that some human beings are born blind. If only mirrors could turn us into actual individuals with a unique ‘I,’ children born blind could never develop such an ‘I.’ It is true that blind-born children may have particular developmental problems. Because their spatial orientation develops less rapidly, their motor development tends to be somewhat slower. They tend to reach out to objects less, and they start crawling and walking later than children with sight. Because of this slower motor development, the formation of a self involves a more difficult process in relation to the environment (the so-called ‘ecological self’) (Bigelow, 1995). Yet it would be nonsense to think that blind-born children form no self-image because they do not know their mirror image. A study has revealed that young adults who were born blind may well draw an image of themselves. Some drawings could not be distinguished from drawings by non-blind individuals. This study demonstrated that in particular a person’s educational level (or cognitive faculties) is decisive in being able to represent a self-image. Not being able to see yourself is less relevant (Lev-Wiesel, 2002). If our mirror image is indeed important to our development into an ‘I’, as Lacan and – implicitly – Freud have claimed, it should involve more than just visual mirrors. The image we have of ourselves is not necessarily our mirror image in a literal sense. The self-image we form is not merely a product of our looking into crystal-clear reflecting waters, the bathroom mirror or a shop window. Throughout our life, in fact, our fellow human beings serve as our main mirror. This notion, applied to the psychoanalytical theory of narcissism, basically means that I evolve into an ‘I’ only through the existence of others around me, whose example I decide to follow or not.

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Strikingly, the image of Narcissus is often used to indicate that individuals fully coincide with themselves. For example, Paul Ricoeur (1991) characterized the Cartesian cogito as a narcissistic ‘I,’ and in contrast to this self-centered identity he posited his concept of identity as based on the open yet coherent structure of the life story. If he is right to suggest that the Cartesian ‘I’ fully coincides with itself, it is incorrect to call it narcissistic. We say that Narcissus is self-centered because he cannot part with his own mirror image and has no eyes for others around him. This is why Freud, who after all assumed a constant quantity of libido in all people, also argues that narcissistic persons are marked by an increased amount of ego-libido at the expense of the object-libido, which causes their interest in the outside world to drop strongly. Although as a person Narcissus is perhaps only interested in himself, he does not coincide with himself. His image, his exterior remains forever unattainable to him. The Cartesian cogito, in contrast, may coincide with itself because exteriors are entirely irrelevant within that framework. In Descartes, ‘I’ is merely ‘I think,’ whereby all that is physical, all that can be conceived as spatial image, is subject to doubt and is thus left unconsidered. This cogito is highly self-reflective because when thinking it is conscious of itself as thinking – and for this self-reflection it needs no mirrors. Mirrors, then, play no part whatsoever in Descartes. A Cartesian who is confronted with a mirror will not have the slightest interest in mirror images. The Cartesian ‘I’ has no body, so to speak, and is therefore by no means narcissistic. We also discern the self-centered nature of the Cartesian cogito in the fact that Descartes calls his ‘I think’ a reflective substance. At the time, ‘substance’ chiefly meant ‘that which exists fully autonomously,’ or that which in order to exist does not depend on something else. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), who elaborated on Descartes’s rationalism, used the concept ‘monad’ to refer to the notion of autonomous spiritual substance. The monad is an indivisible unit. Moreover, it does not excrete anything and nothing is added to it; it carries everything within it already and has no need for any input from outside. Not having any ‘windows’ (Leibniz, § 7), the thinking ‘I’ is enclosed within itself. It cannot look outward and no one else can look into it. In twentieth-century phenomenology the notion of a self-centered substance is rejected. Still, Husserl alludes to the work of Leibniz in one of his later texts, where he calls consciousness a ‘monad.’ Yet unlike Leibniz he does not say it has no windows. Husserl’s monad is rather an open, drafty house. After all, consciousness is a focus or ‘activity’ – not a self-enclosed

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entity. In his adjusted meaning, ‘monad’ refers to the ‘sphere of ownness,’ and this concerns all that actually presents itself to our consciousness or all that is immanent to it (Husserl, 1931). To explain why the individual subject, or monad, is not something closed in itself, but rather something with casement windows and doors, we need to look closer to the relation between ‘immanence’ and ‘transcendence.’ Literally ‘immanence’ means that which is ‘inside’ consciousness, whereas ‘transcendence’ refers to what exceeds this, what is ‘outside.’ Let us resume the example of perceiving a table, which I briefly discussed in Chapter 1, and analyze what is immanent and what is transcendent in this external perception. This perception is first of all based upon particular sensations (Empfindungen); these sensations are fully present to me and therefore they are immanent to my consciousness. The perceived table, however, is not immanent to my consciousness, but rather something transcendent to my consciousness: it is outside my consciousness. Also, the perceived table is not given at once; rather, it is always given through a manifold of adumbrations and sensuous schemes. This means that one and the same thing is presented in different horizons and perspectives, and that no single perspective can exhaust the possibilities of appearing. While perceiving a table, there is always one of its sides that we cannot actually perceive, and yet we still perceive one and the same table. So the perceived table is never fully present to our consciousness. Intentional consciousness thus immediately exceeds the content of what is actually given. It makes co-present (mitgegenwärtig machen) what is not originally present. This is called Appräsenz, Kompräsenz or Kompräsentation – concepts that were later replaced by the term Appräsentation (Husserl, 1973a: 23-24). Here I will use ‘appresentation’ as its translation. Appresentation in fact indicates that the monad’s ‘sphere of ownness’ is always already opened up to something outside this sphere; after all, my perception of the table is more than the sum of my perspectives indeed. My perception of it is always linked to a certain horizon, which at once implies that there are other perspectives possible. Perception is thus not the work of a lonesome, solipsistic subject, cogito or monad. By contrast, perception is only possible if we presuppose that there are others; intersubjectivity is thus a condition of possibility for an individual’s perception of things in space (Zahavi, 1997). The sphere of ownness equally breaks open when encountering another human being. Husserl distinguishes between the perception of things and the perception of others. Whereas appresentation in perception of external objects can turn into original presentation, appresentation of another cannot. Standing in front of the table, the underside is appresented to me.

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Lying on my back under the table this side becomes originally present. Such changes of perspective will not have the slightest influence on the apperception of the other, since any original presentation is excluded here a priori (Husserl, 1931: 109). One could say that the making co-present in perception of external objects is always related to the original presentation of its front sides, whereas the making co-present of the other cannot be related to anything present. Husserl calls this typical form of appresentation ‘pairing’ (Paarung). Pairing means, then, the making co-present of what is principally absent. This also implies a specific relation between immanence and transcendence. Whereas the perceived table involves transcendence in immanence – i.e. the perceived thing is related to originally present sensations – the transcendence involved in the perception of another is not related to immanence; no single aspect of the other’s lived through experience is originally present to me. Exceeding the original sphere of consciousness, recognition of another therefore entails the most proper (echt) and genuine (wahr) form of transcendence (Husserl, 1973b: 442). It is a form of intentionality geared to ‘alterity’ (Depraz, 1995). The question is how something genuinely transcendent can appear to me as something I immediately recognize as akin to myself? And here the mirror comes into play. Husserl writes that it is by way of mirroring (Spiegelung) and analog (Analogon), but not in the habitual sense (gewöhnliche Sinne), that the other appears to me (Husserl 1931: 94). If I perceive someone else, the only thing of this perception that is immanent to my consciousness is the sum of sensuous sensations of this person’s Körper. However, if I recognize someone as akin to myself, I do not just perceive a Körper, but more likely an animate organism, a Leib. So what happens in pairing and mirroring is that the Körper of the other person is appresented as similar to my own Leibkörper, and thus, like myself as an animate body, an organ of perception, or as ‘another subjectivity; as another process of giving meaning to what appears’ (Costello, 2012: 38). This also explains why Husserl writes that we recognize others not so much because of how they literally look, but rather through their ‘behavior’ (Gebaren) (Husserl 1931: 114). My alter ego and I, we share the same world, and it is by means of our actions and behaviors that we endow meaning to this world. Pairing and mirroring thus means that we instantly recognize each other’s actions. Husserl writes that the mirror neither implies confusion between ego and alter ego, nor reciprocity between Leib and Körper. For this reason, I do not have immediate access to the other’s psyche or her subjective experience of being an animate body or organ of perception (Leib). Her

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Leiblichkeit can never be originally present to me. If that were the case, she and I would be one and the same. Although Husserl uses the term ‘pairing,’ which might suggest a certain amalgamation of I and other, it is essential to underline that his theory of recognition of another is based upon the radical phenomenological difference between experiencing oneself and experiencing another person. The alter ego is not me; it is another me (or another person). The mirror generates a gap between ‘here’ and ‘there.’ This non-reducible distance is essential to the (genuine) transcendence of the other. Whereas my own Leib appears according to the mode ‘here,’ another Leibkörper always appears ‘there’ (Husserl, 1931: 119). What we can learn from Husserl’s analysis is that although individual consciousness is pivotal in perception, this ‘sphere of ownness’ always already reaches out to otherness since the perceiving individual is ‘narcissistic’ in the sense that he or she mirrors him/herself in others. Hence, narcissism does not refer to solitude or solipsism; it refers to intersubjectivity. The mirror does not allow me simply to coincide with myself. If I still believe I can, I am fooling myself, as Lacan put it. It is true that the mirror contributes to realizing an elementary unity as we identify ourselves with the image. However, it also causes a kind of rupture. If we assume, like Descartes and Leibniz, that our ‘I’ is in fact an inner thing that coincides with itself, a kind of pure self-consciousness, then the mirror shatters this assumed inner unity by giving me an exterior. The mirror ‘draws my flesh into the outer world,’ Merleau-Ponty writes (1961: 129). Understandably, then, the mirror and the image of Narcissus occur several times in his work (Slatman, 2003: § 3.4). Narcissism does not amount to a self-satisfied coinciding with oneself, as Ricoeur argues, but refers to the elementary structure of human existence: we are not merely a consciousness that perceives; in our perceiving we are also perceived ourselves. We simultaneously see and are visible. Narcissism means an inseparable connection of that which sees with that which is seen, of that which feels with that which is felt, of the perceiving with the perceived (Merleau-Ponty, 1961: 124-25). Just as Narcissus was inseparable from his mirror image, my visible and palpable exterior cannot be separated from my seeing or my feeling. We usually call self-consciousness a reflective faculty, but the reflection of Narcissus in the water does not lead to a clear awareness of himself. The inseparability of ‘seer’ and image hardly suggests larger self-insight. Narcissism reflects in fact the opposite of the ‘transparency’ of thinking. The narcissistic self is ‘a self by confusion’ (p. 124.), because it is a self with an exterior. This view of narcissism implies that a person’s physical exterior does not exist apart from his or her power to see, to perceive. This is at odds

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with Descartes’s view; the Cartesian res cogitans after all is the thinking substance that thinks, wants, sees, and feels without itself being visible and tangible. The res cogitans has not a single physical quality; in principle, it is of an altogether different order than the res extensa. Narcissism suggests, however, that this so-called res extensa, this exterior or Körperlichkeit, cannot be separated from consciousness. Inspired by Lacan’s explanation of the child that recognizes itself in the mirror, Merleau-Ponty also addressed this mirror stage in one of his early lectures on developmental psychology, where he indicated that the new psychological function, the narcissistic one, is twofold.7 The mirror image allows me to gain more knowledge of myself – for this reason, our term ‘reflective’ or ‘reflexive’ refers to self-knowledge – but simultaneously this image causes alienation as well. I am no longer that which in an immediate way I felt within me. This self-alienation prepares the young child for more serious alienation, namely that of itself by others. Other people draw me away even more strongly than the mirror from my directly felt innerness (Merleau-Ponty, 1951: 136). The mirror stage is crucial in a child’s development because it prepares it for social life with others. The mirror allows me to experience that a perspective on me ‘from outside’ is possible: my mirror image acquaints me with myself as others see me as well. Before another person I do not appear as a pure consciousness, a res cogitans, but as an exterior, as another Narcissus. In the previous chapter I discussed the twofold structure of our body based on the Leib/Körper distinction. These two aspects we find again in the figure of Narcissus. Where psychoanalysis indicated the function of primary narcissism to be essential to the development of human beings into individuals, Merleau-Ponty claims in his later work that narcissism is in fact the best description of our corporal existence. In that late work he no longer speaks of own body (corps propre), probably because he increasingly realized that strange or foreign elements will always continue to play a part in our experience of our own body. What is own is not own without a reason. In his course lecture about the mirror stage in children he spoke already about an alienation (aliénation) from the self (Merleau-Ponty, 1951: 136). What is own is shaped by the immediate sense of ourselves, but this intimacy is pried open by the mirror image. With the possibility of an outward perspective on ourselves, our ownness takes on a dimension of

7 Before he was appointed at the prestigious Collège de France in 1952, from 1949 MerleauPonty lectured in developmental psychology and pedagogy at the Sorbonne.

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strangeness. Narcissism, then, refers to what is strange in what is own, to the exterior of the interior, the Körper of the Leib. No matter how we look at it, our ‘own’ body will always be a thing among things, a Körper. Our thing-like nature is affirmed by the visibility and palpability of the body. Also when no actual others are present who may look at me, I may still experience my being seen. In this respect, Merleau-Ponty (1961: 129) referred approvingly to the painter Paul Klee, who once said that at times he felt being watched by the trees when walking through a wood. That we are visible cannot be concealed. The ambiguity of our corporal existence is that we are seeing-being seen, or sensing-being sensed. As seeing or sensing I experience myself as a Leib, but as being seen or sensed I am merely a Körper. Above I indicated that we do not need a real mirror to have an image of ourselves; those born blind and never having been able to look into the mirror may also form an image of their appearance. Our visible and palpable exterior is not dependent on a piece of grinded glass. Human existence is not shaped through the existence of mirrors (ibid.: 125). The reverse is true in fact: the mirror is the effect of our seeing-being seen. ‘The mirror emerges because I am a visible seer, because there is a reflexivity of the sensible; the mirror translates and reproduces that reflexivity,’ and the mirror illustrates and amplifies ‘the metaphysical structure of our flesh (chair)’ (ibid.: 129). Put more simply, people started making mirrors because they can see and because they are visible. Pure minds, without embodiment, have no use for a mirror. A pure mind will never encounter another pure mind, because they cannot see or sense each other. The most fundamental meaning of narcissism is that as human beings we are each other’s mirror. I look at the other to recover something of myself in what I see. The knowledge I have of my own visible body is always imperfect; for instance, I will never be able to see my own back or eyes. Just like a mirror image, the other appears as a visible unity and I identify with it. The other as mirror renders my own visibility to myself complete. But the mirror that the other holds up for me offers me much more of course than just my own complete visibility. The other may have all sorts of features that within my community and culture are valued highly, such as being slim and muscular, and I may also start to identify with these features. Looking at someone else in this way means that you want to be like this other person. Here too we may rely once more on psychoanalysis. As discussed above, in the mirror stage (6-18 months) the young child develops into an ‘I.’ At a later stage, also called ‘oedipal stage’ (3-5 years), the socalled ‘Über-Ich’ (or superego) comes into being because the child starts

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identifying with rules and norms imposed by parents and/or educators. This ‘Über-Ich’ forms our conscious; it is that little voice within us that makes itself heard whenever we do something that we feel to be wrong: the voice that perhaps gives us a sense of guilt right after we decided to stay in bed just a little longer and skip the day’s first class. Freud (1923) refers to the superego also as the ‘ego-ideal.’ According to psychoanalysis, the rules and norms with which we identify in our very first years are crucial for the rest of our lives. Most of us will probably have experienced that it can be hard to break with some norm on which we were raised – even if we no longer agree with it. The ‘ideal’ way of how we should be and act, then, is largely shaped at an early age, but this ideal is not fixed forever. Our whole life we continue to identify with ideals around us, and this also allows us to adjust our own ‘ego-ideal.’ These ideals around us concern not just behavioral rules, but also ‘ideal body images’ (Weiss, 1999). Although ideals of corporal beauty and appearance may differ from one culture to the next, there is no culture without such ideals. We may view them as the blowup images in a mirror that others hold up for us. Today’s visual culture is pervaded with images of course. Not a single day will pass without us being confronted with images of bodily perfection that our culture promotes – straight white teeth, unwrinkled, slim waist, athletic physique, and so on. Without their prevalence, Merlin would never have adopted the desire to change her body. She grew dissatisfied with her old mirror image, could no longer identify with it: she did not want to look that way anymore. Relentlessly, after all, so many other images of perfection circle around us with which to identify.

The power of the gaze When opening a newspaper or magazine today, when turning on the TV set or computer, or when soothingly stroking our smartphone and iPad screens, we might well get the impression that making ourselves visible is a major tool for acquiring power and status. The more often someone’s face pops up in (electronic) newspapers, on TV shows or popular social media, the more important this person is. This is only true in part, however, for visibility may also indicate weakness. A major power tool of Hades – the Greek god whose name means ‘the invisible’ – was a magic helmet that made one invisible. At one point, he lent this helmet to Perseus, which allowed this hero to be the only person who could escape the gaze of Medusa, after which he

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managed to behead her. Everyone feared the eyes of the three Gorgons, of which Medusa is the best-known, because their gaze caused everyone and everything to turn into stone. Only by being invisible one could escape such a fate. I would like to suggest that Medusa represents the other side of our visual culture. I wonder whether our era will also have a Perseus who can free us from her piercing gaze. The pleasure most of us gain from displaying ourselves seems well reflected by the eagerness of many to participate in all sorts of TV shows or to post and email photographs and videos on the internet. Yet we appear to ignore thereby that we also subject ourselves to the gaze of an anonymous audience, which has quite some power. How the power of the gaze operates has been described in a perceptive way by Sartre (1943). To him, every other human being is a dangerous Medusa. Every gaze is a threat to my existence: the gaze of the other turns me into a thing. Being visible is a weakness or even our very first original fall, our chute originaire (Sartre, 1943: 312). This French term refers to both the Christian notion of the sin of Adam and Eve and the Heideggerian idea that people tend to be ‘fallen into the world.’ This means we humans always tend to renounce our own existential freedom. Our life is marked by the fact that we are not thing-like, but that we are free and have possibilities. At the moment when we do view ourselves as a thing, we do not exist in an ‘authentic’ way but in a ‘fallen’ way. Why this is the case becomes clear if once again we return to Sartre’s dualist ontology of the ‘for-itself’ (pour soi) and ‘in-itself’ (en soi). If I am conscious of something, such as when perceiving a table, as consciousness I am of a different order than the table. The table is merely a thing, something that cannot relate to itself and that is unfree. This Sartre calls being ‘in-itself.’ In contrast, consciousness exists ‘for-itself’: it is not a thing, not something, but freedom. This antithesis between free consciousness and unfree thing is hardly problematic when it only pertains to my mere perception of a table. It grows more difficult when I – free consciousness – encounter another human who on the outside perhaps looks like a thing, but who like me also has a free consciousness. His or her freedom now poses a threat to my own freedom. For I can maintain my human existence as a free consciousness only when in an encounter with someone else I rob this person of his mode of being ‘for-itself’ (or his freedom) and degrade him to a thing ‘in-itself.’ That other person will effectively adopt the same attitude regarding me. We can never mutually recognize and acknowledge each other as being ‘for-itself.’ This means that our relation with the other

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is always discordant. To ensure our own freedom, we will need to conceive of the other as unfree thing. This ongoing struggle for our own existence we mainly fight through our eyes, or rather, the gaze (le regard). How the other threatens our existence becomes clear in the phenomenon of shame. Shame is the feeling that belongs to our original ‘fall’ or ‘being fallen.’ Shame is not just an inner feeling but it is a form of intentionality. I am ashamed ‘of something,’ namely of myself. Shame thus implies a certain consciousness of self and the powerful aspect of this conscious feeling is that it changes our mode of being. This is elaborated by Sartre in an elucidating example (pp. 283-85). If I am very jealous, for instance, I will secretly peep through the keyhole to keep an eye on my partner’s activities. Yet it may well be that I myself am not aware of my jealousy at all. This would mean that my jealousy is merely a non-reflective form of consciousness: I am jealous but do not know my own jealousy. Right when I am peeping through the keyhole I suddenly hear footsteps in the corridor. At that moment I may be overcome by a sense of shame. The footsteps tell me after all that someone else might perhaps see me peeping here. The footsteps remind me instantly of my own visibility. Even if there will be no actual other seeing me here, the gaze of the other is already present and at work. This gaze is in effect merely the possibility of my being seen – my being visible. This gaze dethrones me of the position of being merely a consciousness: I have to face the fact that I am also a visible thing. The sense of shame changes my consciousness from a non-reflective into a reflective one: I become conscious of my own being jealous.8 This means that I become aware of how someone else can see me. Shame is shame about oneself; it is the recognition that I am the object as it is perceived and judged by the other (Sartre, 1943: 286). Shame is the feeling of the fall, not because we sinned or made some mistake, but simply because we are thrown into this world amidst all other things and because we need the mediation of others in order for us to be a thing among those other things. The fall of Adam and Eve was also accompanied by a sense of shame (Sartre, 1943: 312). They ran from Eden while trying to cover their genitals because at once they became aware of their nakedness. The paradisiacal state in fact consisted of them being unaware 8 Jealousy, according to Sartre, is one of the most negative human emotions because it keeps us from being genuinely free. To Sartre, existential freedom also meant sexual freedom, meaning that you do not formally connect with someone else and that you do not let someone else do so with you. From experience, however, Sartre knew too well that in realizing this freedom it is virtually impossible to do away with feelings of jealousy (Rowley, 2005).

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of their visible nakedness. Paradise is a state of which we can only dream. For us there is only hell – and that hell is the other. Above I argued that the other can be a mirror for me; I may look at him or her as a model to be followed. Sartre shows the other side of the mirror. I complement my visibility not so much by looking at the other and identifying with him or her, but my visibility is uncovered by the other who looks at me. The other exposes me. From the angle of Sartre’s theory, we can say that the one who has the power of the gaze is the most powerful, rather than the one who is most visible. It is somewhat like the psychological game of who can continue to look longest at the other. When two people are looking at each other, one of them will eventually cast down their eyes. Every child knows that the one who stops looking is the loser. The one casting down his or her eyes no longer looks but is only being looked at and is therefore downgraded from consciousness (pour soi) to thing (en soi). Medusa is the winner. In fact, Sartre is not just negative about the gaze of the other, for that gaze may also cause me to be proud of myself, rather than feeling ashamed. Being proud of yourself means that you see yourself as the other can see you as well. Actually, pride and shame are very close together. My ten-year-old neighbor will perhaps be quite proud of himself when balancing his bicycle on one wheel for a hundred meters along our street, and he will enjoy people looking at his performance. But if in front of all other neighborhood kids he falls down in a clumsy way, right after having boasted about his skills, he will rather be ashamed. What matters in both pride and shame is that they are caused by the fact we may be looked at by others. Both feelings refer not to someone’s existence ‘for-oneself’ (pour soi), but to one’s existence ‘for-the-other’ (pour autrui). Although visibility plays a crucial role in Sartre’s description of shame and pride, narcissism is not at issue. Narcissism after all does not refer just to our being visible; it implies that the one who sees and the one being seen are inseparably linked to each other. In contrast, Sartre radically separates seeing (the gaze) from the visible. Consciousness (‘for-itself’) sees; the thing (‘in-itself’) is being seen. These two modes of existence, rather than go together, mutually exclude each other. Where Sartre views these two modes of being as opposites, Merleau-Ponty assumes that the one who sees is visible and vice versa. We are not either seeing or visible, but we are seeing-visible. Sartre is actually a Cartesian who cannot detect himself in his own mirror image, and he is thus far from being a narcissist. Merleau-Ponty starts from the essential recognizability of the others because these others, just like

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me, have a thing-like character, because we all have a visible exterior, while Sartre excludes the possibility of mutual recognition. In my opinion, Sartre’s dualist ontology does not hold regarding, for instance, the experience of one’s body as a Leib. In the previous chapter I explained that the Leib experience presupposes and affirms the experience of the Körper. From the Sartrian ontology, it is not possible to interpret the difference between and the unity of Leib and Körper. Sartre would refer to the Leib experience as being ‘for-itself’ and to the Körper as being ‘in-itself.’ In his view, the two cannot be united. We have seen, however, that a Leib must go together with a Körper. Still, I do not want to discard his theory altogether because it also reveals the gaze, assuming it can be separated from its own visibility, as a very forceful instrument of power. With Merleau-Ponty we may assume that our seeing tends to imply a being seen, but it is certainly possible to create situations in which seeing becomes invisible and thus very powerful. The power of the gaze made invisible has been analyzed in an exemplary way by Michel Foucault (1975) in his book on the emergence of the modern prison in the 18th century. In this study he reveals the emergence of a new kind of power that mainly involved the rendering visible of bodies. The period commonly identified as the Enlightenment marked a major turn in the thinking about the body. In the wake of the views on the body as machine by Descartes and De Lamettrie, the body began to be increasingly conceived as a decipherable body. It was no longer a dark something, but a machine that could be analyzed. In addition, there was the new notion that the body should be useful. The latter we can see in institutional changes aimed at shaping the body, such as the modern army, the modern hospital, and the modern prison. In the early seventeenth century the view still prevailed that good soldiers had to be men with particular qualities, while from the eighteenth century one assumed that basically any man could be transformed into a soldier. The body was thus no longer regarded as something unchangeable, but as something that could be altered, manipulated, disciplined. In the eighteenth century the body was discovered as ‘object and target of power’ (Foucault, 1975: 136). The body’s decipherability and usefulness were combined on the basis of obedience. A body is obedient when it can be subjected, changed, perfected, and used. This obedience is realized through disciplining. When we think of disciplining, tough corporal punishment comes to mind quickly. This is not the case in the body’s disciplining during the modern era. Disciplining is not repressive but productive. It is aimed at people’s inclusion, their meeting

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the norm. Discipline constitutes docile bodies. This is well-illustrated by the prison system’s changes during the eighteenth century. As a model for modern prisons, Foucault takes the panopticon of Jeremy Bentham. This is a round building with a watchtower in the center, while prison cells are located in the outer ring that one can inspect from the watchtower. Inmates in their cell cannot see the overseer, but they know that this person will see them. This drastically differs from the pre-modern dungeon in two ways. The dungeon commonly was a dark cell in which inmates were detained, robbed of daylight, and kept hidden. In the panopticon inmates are also locked up, but they are no longer kept hidden in darkness. On the contrary, they are made radically visible. ‘[The inmate] is seen, but he does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication’ (ibid.: 200). It is a mistake to think that the pre-modern dungeon was the preeminent means of power to subject people. ‘Full lightening and the eye of a supervisor capture better than darkness, which ultimately protected. Visibility is a trap’ (ibid.: 200, my emphasis). What Foucault describes here we may in part compare to Sartre’s idea of the gaze that sees all yet is itself not visible. In the panopticon seeing is separated from its own visibility: ‘The Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen’ (ibid.: 201-202). Panoptic literally means ‘visible everywhere’: the inmate has nowhere to hide. It is essential to the panoptic system, however, that something remains invisible, and this is the gaze. The invisibility of the person who looks turns this gaze into a special instrument of power. Because of his radical visibility, the inmate knows that he is subject to surveillance at any time, but because he cannot see the overseer, such person does not have to be present at all times. This in effect renders the overseer superfluous, a situation that is similar to the operation of a video camera of which you do not know if it is really making a recording. For this reason the most characteristic element of panoptic power is the automation of power. Power, rather than being in the hands of a certain person, works through an orderly arrangement of bodies in space. The panopticon does not work because there are overseers that can see; it works through the particular arrangement of people, causing them to have a sense of being visible all the time. Another striking feature of panoptic power, then, is that it is internalized rather than being imposed from outside. When subjected to being seen and being aware of it, we spontaneously adopt power’s coercion and apply it to ourselves, becoming the principle of our own subjection (ibid.: 202-203).

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Some have compared Foucault’s description of the panopticon to George Orwell’s description of Big Brother. The basic concept of Big Brother after all is also an all-seeing eye. Still, this comparison falls short because Orwell’s Big Brother designates a certain person or power. To Foucault, the panopticon is the model of the modern disciplining power and this modern power differs from so-called pre-modern (feudal) power relations. In feudal power, one can point to a clear sovereign or power. This is still the case in Orwell’s Big Brother as well. Modern power is no longer in the hands of one particular person or party, but involves a nontransparent system that renders things visible. The popular reality-TV show Big Brother is already much more similar to the panoptic system described by Foucault. The residents of the Big Brother house know they are visible, but they are seen not by some particular individuals but by the anonymous gaze of TV viewers. The Panopticon, then, would have been a much more accurate name for the show. I would argue that all forms of reality television, but also displaying oneself on the internet, in front of a web cam or otherwise, involve locating oneself in a giant worldwide panopticon. It is a form of making oneself visible before an anonymous gaze. When I do so, I separate my visibility from my seeing, for I do not see who sees me. The question remains, of course, why many of us do this so eagerly. Why are we so exhibitionistic and do we put ourselves voluntarily in such a panoptic system that is a model of effective detention? I think that it is too easy to suggest that today’s people are ‘exhibitionistic narcissistic’ and have an excessive desire to put themselves on display. Indeed, vanity is of all times, rather than a characteristic feature of our era. The present eagerness to display one’s body has more to do with the fact that rendering the body visible results in insight and knowledge from which most of us expect to benefit. A nice example is modern medicine. We tend to be quite happy with the fact that today’s doctors are capable of revealing the inside of our body. Most of the time, we do not mind making our body available, also when we do not feel ill, as in preventive screening. In the latter case we subject ourselves collectively to a panoptic system because we believe our health will benefit from it. Subjecting oneself to the panoptic eye of TV shows or web cams may also be motivated by the expectation to gain useful insight into oneself. Dwelling in the Panopticon might be very educational and formative indeed. The panoptic system, in other words, implies a power that does not make one feel suppressed; it is a positive power to which one is quite willing to be subjected – a form of desired surveillance. The main effect of this surveillance is normalization. The inmates in the panopticon were incarcerated

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there not to exclude them forever from society, but to reeducate them in order to let them return to society. Those who are or became ‘abnormal’ have to become normal again, and being normal means that you meet the norm. Yet it is hardly a straightforward issue, of course, who should determine a society’s norms. Foucault argues that norms are carried through so-called ‘discourse.’ The French term discours has several meanings. It means ‘theoretical exposé’ or ‘address,’ but also ‘babble.’ In the work of Foucault both meanings play a role: norms are articulated in the sciences and humanities as well as in all sorts of everyday talk (such as in newspapers, magazines etc.). This is why discourse can be viewed as a dispersed network of claims and ideas on a particular subject at a certain time. But it is not possible to reduce discourse to the assertions of a single person. It is not possible to point to someone who determines a norm. Discourse is like ‘prevailing opinion,’ and this anonymous norm determines the Panopticon’s agenda. If such norm defines how I should behave, I also wish to behave in that way because I know I am visible. Discourse is like the mirror image with which I want to identify. Merlin’s makeover is a clear example of a process of normalization that can be fully explained panoptically. First of all, Merlin, like many others who participate in such programs, believes that she does not meet the norm for external beauty as put forward by discourse. Where Foucault still posited that discourse is largely shaped by the social sciences, today it seems rather that our current discourse is highly shaped by the visual media. Based on social scientific analyses, Foucault in particular studied the norms regarding disease, health, madness, and sexuality. Our visual culture has given rise to an unmistakable and omnipresent discourse on norms for our outer appearance. Of course, beauty norms have always existed – and we might even say that a society cannot exist without such norms (Wijsbek 2000) – yet it is characteristic of our era that a kind of meta-normalization has emerged. If fifty years ago a person had a hooked nose, he or she was ‘abnormal’ and had to live with it. Today such a nose is still regarded as abnormal, but there is plastic surgery to normalize the nose. This is fine of course, yet it is problematic that there has also arisen a normalization discourse on normalizations, implying that those who do not normalize their hooked nose are really ‘abnormal’. A person like Merlin seems a captive of this double discourse. On the one hand, she feels her appearance is not up to the norm, whereby she relies on all sorts of ideals of beauty as disseminated through visual media and other channels. On the other hand, she feels she can and should do something about her ‘deviation,’ whereby she starts from contemporary ideas about

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the normalcy of cosmetic surgery, as promoted in particular in popular media (to which Merlin’s own story contributes as well).9 That this double discourse is very powerful is shown from the fact that it is also at work in a locked bathroom, where no one can see us. The gaze of the other also operates when there is no one else present; merely the awareness that we could be looked at is enough. Quite often we experience that double normalizing gaze of the other when looking in the bathroom mirror and perhaps sigh that it really is time to start dieting again, go to the gym regularly, or pay a visit to a plastic surgeon. Our mirror image, no matter how much it is ours, is also available to all eyes that can see us. It is as if we have to share our mirror image with everyone who can see us, and this is why we want our image to correspond with what we all enjoy seeing. In most cases there is no harmony between ourselves and our mirror image until we have the sense that this image also corresponds with the norms of others. In psychoanalytical terms this means that we want to identify ourselves with particular ideals around us. Merlin, as many others with her who sign up for this kind of TV show, is even more attracted by the wondrous attraction of the Panopticon and decides to reveal her process of normalization to an anonymous mass audience. Because she cannot hide herself but is made radically visible, whereby that visibility is also kept hidden to herself until the climactic gaze in the mirror, she will do all she can to comply with the double norm imposed by this anonymous gaze. She will do all she can to look pretty in line with that norm, and she will do all she can to find it normal that she is being normalized. Merlin’s exterior is made sexy (‘hot’), and this is exactly what she wants because it is the prevailing ideal: having a ‘prefect’ physical appearance. In her case the process of normalization was very effective, because she had already developed a sense of being sexy before having the image that belongs to it. She already started feeling as prescribed by the norm. This process of normalization would have been partially successful only when in front of the mirror Merlin had said, ‘Gosh, I may look quite sexy now, but I do not feel that way at all.’ In that case there would have been no real identification with her mirror image. It is also possible that her assertion ‘I look as hot as I feel’ is based on a reverse process: at the climactic moment in front of the mirror, she sees she looks very sexy and to make this exterior fit with herself she says that she already felt that way. Regardless, one way 9 Recent surveys indicate that first-time patients seeking cosmetic surgery, and people who consider to pursue such an intervention are in the majority of the cases influenced by reality TV shows on cosmetic surgery (Crockett, Pruzinsky, & Persing, 2007; Markey & Markey, 2010).

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or another she has to identify with her normalized mirror image to indicate that it is normal to her to meet the norms. In today’s society, which is permeated with images, it is nearly impossible to ignore the influence of the discourse on external beauty and the desire to put ourselves in a panopticon. Nearly everyone finds it normal to be considered to be normal. The functioning of the panopticon offers a strange, even paradoxical turn to the options of all sorts of contemporary technologies. Various innovative (medical) technologies have made it possible, after all, to alter the body drastically. Technologies have rendered the perfectibility of the body into a reality. This implies that we have developed the competence to design who we are, instead of merely accepting who and what we are. However, as a result of the panopticon imposed on us by our visual culture, this so-called ‘freedom to self-determination’ reverts into ‘being determined who we are’ by something outside of us. The British sociologist Anthony Giddens (1991) suggested that since the 1960s we have been living in an era in which we no longer can derive our identity from fixed traditions and frames, but in which we need to create an identity on our own. He claims that our ‘self’ is a ‘reflexive project’: we create our self-identity by constantly comparing ourselves to ourselves, as if we are constantly looking in the mirror at ourselves. Giddens assumes this reflexive project mainly consists of making your own choices from an array of options. If fifty years ago our social identity was shaped by rigid frameworks such as church, family, and political party, today we need to make our own choices. The body is a perfect place of course for shaping our reflexive identity because we may shape and alter the body through exercising, dieting, cosmetic surgery, and so on. In Giddens’s view, ultimately we are what we make of ourselves. This view seems true in part only, for it completely ignores the role of the panopticon. We may say, for instance, that we have many more options today than a person had fifty years ago, but this does not automatically mean that we also choose more things in effect. That today we have the option to have our hooked nose corrected does not yet mean that we also believe such correction is necessary – just as it is unlikely that Merlin herself would have come up with the idea of a facelift. In contrast to Giddens, then, I would argue that we live in an era in which the possibilities for shaping our identity have perhaps decreased, rather than increased, because the ‘mirror that looks back at us’ has never had such powerful influence as it has today. I am not the one who decides in a reflexive way what I want to be, but it is the gaze of the other that does so. This gaze I also feel when I look at myself in the mirror, for this perspective on myself is not only mine but

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I share it with everyone who can see me. The mirror shows me my exterior and through my exterior I am at the mercy of others.

Own and strange in the mirror image The exterior given to me by my mirror image is that which I can call my Körper. It is my body as thing as others may see it as well. It is something with which I cannot simply coincide; it is something outside of me, something strange and therefore it is not my body as Leib. At the same time, I can easily invoke this Leib experience by simultaneously looking at myself and touching myself. I can then sense that this image is part of me. However, as I explained on the basis of Clint Hallam’s case, a Leib experience does not yet guarantee that I actually experience my body as wholly my own. A spectacular example is a scene from Face/Off (1997), a movie by director John Woo. In this movie, John Travolta is detective Sean Archer, the good guy, who wants to put bad guy Castor Troy, played by Nicholas Cage, behind bars, not least because he murdered his little son. When eventually Archer has shot Castor Troy, a problem arises because in some unknown location Castor placed a time bomb, and only his brother Pollux Troy knows where. Because Pollux wants to talk with his brother alone, it is decided that Archer will be equipped with the face of Castor (who is believed to be dead) and enter prison as an undercover. Coming before the first real face transplant (performed in 2005), we see in this movie a futuristic facial exchange, whereby Sean is given the face of Castor while his own face is stored in a fluid until the undercover operation is over. When after a while the bandage is removed from his face, he looks into the mirror. Even if Sean knew what awaited him, this experience is too much. When looking into the mirror, he sees all he does not want to be – the face of the murderer of his son – and he madly smashes the mirror to pieces. After being calmed down by a syringe, the scene ends with Sean’s words (or: we see Cage but hear Travolta’s voice): ‘when this is over, I want you to take this face … and burn it.’ The reaction of Sean to his new look is unmistakable: he cannot cope with his new face; it is foreign to him and does not belong to him. In the film we see a radical change of person: Archer receiving the outward appearance of Castor Troy and vice versa (after waking from his coma, Castor manages to fetch Sean’s face). Such exchange is not really possible of course, regardless of all the advances in today’s plastic surgery.

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Eight years after Woo’s movie, the first face transplant took place in November 2005. In this case, too, the mirror image played a crucial role at various moments. Then 38-year-old Isabelle Dinoire was maimed by her own dog in May 2005. It is in fact a rather odd story. Evil tongues said that Isabelle took an overdose of sleeping pills to end her life and that her dog had bitten her awake, which in effect saved her. The attending physician, Jean-Michel Dubernard, softened the suicide story – because it would indicate psychological instability and that is of course not a solid base for a face transplant – and said that Isabelle was simply soundly asleep when she was bitten by her dog. At any rate Isabelle was bitten awake, and at that moment she was not in pain; but when she looked into the mirror her maimed face shocked her. Her dog, which afterwards she still thought of as a nice pet, had destroyed a large part of her face, including her nose, mouth and part of her lower jaw, and thus partially robbed her of her outward identity (Cf. Châtelet, 2007). The partial face transplant followed in November that same year, whereby Isabelle received several parts of the face of a slightly older brain-dead woman: her nose, lips and tissue surrounding the mouth. The risky surgery nevertheless succeeded, and soon after Isabelle’s new face was shown to the world press. Although her face looked a bit odd because she could not fully close her mouth yet, her face basically looked ‘normal’ and at least it was no longer maimed. Sometime after the surgery Isabelle told her own story, which reveals the hardships involved. The first two days after the surgery she did not dare to look into the mirror. And up to two months after the operation she virtually locked herself up in her hospital room because she wished to avoid the gaze of others as much as possible. One year after the operation a new photo of Isabelle was released, and we see that the scars are nearly gone while she can more or less close her mouth now, and she can smile again. Compared to her face before the dog bite we notice that both the nose and mouth are somewhat smaller. But it did not involve a total change. People who knew the Isabelle from before the accident will probably easily recognize her. Her ‘new’ face looks much more like her ‘old’ face than the face maimed by the dog. It is an illusion to think that a face exchange as occurred in Face/Off can be accomplished through plastic surgery. Physicians have indicated that in such transplants the new appearance will in fact be a combination or a hybrid form of the donor’s face and one’s own face (Brill, Clarke, Veale, & Butler, 2006; Okie, 2006). Objectively, there is no large difference in Isabelle’s case between her former face and her new face; it is no larger, seemingly, than between Michael Jackson’s earlier face and his later one. Still, these two cases differ

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radically: Isabelle’s mirror image carries traces of the strangeness of another person. I do not think that we explain this strangeness very adequately if we view it as the result of a transfer of character features that comes along with the transfer of organs or body parts; as if the recipient of a pig’s heart valve would be more likely to start grunting, or as if the recipient of someone else’s retina would afterward see the world through that person’s eyes, etc.10 The other’s strangeness is not present in the host in that way. Merely some matter of the other, his or her Körper, is added to the host’s own Körper – a true Fremdkörper. Its oddest aspect is not so much its being a Körper (for this also applies to one’s own body), but the fact that this piece of matter as such has become completely superfluous. The ‘owner’ does not need it anymore, because this piece of Körper was in fact removed from a possible Leib experience of this ‘owner.’ Death causes the Leib, or lived experience, to vanish. Transplantation causes the Körper (or part of it) to become part of another Leib. In both transplantation and cosmetic change by means of, for instance, implants or Botox, matter is added to matter, but the big difference is that in the first case matter is animated, or appropriated, for a second time. Two years after Isabelle Dinoire’s transplant, her story was published in Le baiser d’Isabelle [Isabelle’s Kiss], a book authored by Noëlle Châtelet which also includes Isabelle’s own remarks and considerations. The book narrates the process of appropriating and incorporating a new nose, new lips, and new skin tissue. The author tells that only after a while, after the reinnervation of the tissue, Isabelle was able to experience itches on her nose as itches on her nose (pp. 274-275). The incorporation of the new lips initially filled her with disgust; when touching them from the inside with her own tongue, she experienced them as atrocious Fremdkörper (corps étranger) (p. 239). They only gradually became her own, and with the growing possibility of kissing – one of the most complex orbicular muscular movements – the incorporation neared completion (p. 251). It seems that the recovery and increase of function of the transplanted parts support the process of truly appropriating them. A telling exception here was Isabelle’s negative experi10 A study by Sanner (2001) indicates that people who believe that the transfer of organs (or body parts) corresponds to the transfer of the donor’s (personal) qualities to the recipient, do not view the body as a machine. Instead of the idea of the body as a machine of which parts are replaceable, they embrace the idea of the body as a substantial whole, and that mixing of parts will result in another whole. I believe that Isabelle Dinoire’s case makes clear that these two attitudes toward one’s body do not necessarily exclude each other. Isabelle does not suggest that she has received some of the personal qualities of her donor, but nevertheless, she feels a strong connection to her, as if she were her twin sister – her soeur jumelle (Châtelet 2007: 261).

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ence of having two little bristles growing on her chin. Whereas the doctors were enthusiastic about this hair growth (‘C’est une fleur qui pousse!’) as indicating the complete recovery of skin function, Isabelle never had hair growth on her chin before, and therefore she felt the hairs not to be her own. As she says, they still belong to her donor (p. 296). All in all, Isabelle managed well to appropriate the strangeness of the new face. Compared to other people she has probably developed a very typical awareness of her own face. Bodily experiences in her face do not easily slip into the background of her consciousness because she is very careful about it and constantly afraid that it might be damaged (p. 264). Despite the fact that this part of her body is virtually never ‘absent’ (Leder 1990), she feels at ease with her mirror image. Her mirror image is hers. Although both are changed, her exterior and interior life fit together. In my view, the operation did not change her into someone else. Although her outward appearance was tinkered with and strange parts were added, we always embody to some extent the strangeness of matter, of Körper, and this is why the degree of self-estrangement does not directly depend on strange matter potentially added to us, but rather on how we can deal with otherness or strangeness. An indication for such dealing is the valuation of one’s own mirror image. If we can live with our own mirror image, the strangeness of our own body will not be a problem. At the same time, there are many cases whereby one does not just coincide with one’s mirror image. In the previous chapter I referred to Clint Hallam and his hand transplant, but quite often cases are involved in which no material change of the body took place at all. There are people who for one reason or another have trouble dealing with their body’s exterior, for whom the körperliche’s strangeness can even be intolerable.11 An example I briefly mentioned above is body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). It is marked by the fact that someone abhors his or her own outward appearance, while others will not notice anything wrong with it. BDD patients experience their

11 Obviously one can also think of the phenomenon of transsexuality here. A case in point is Maxim Februari’s (2013) personal account of his transition from female to male (by use of hormone treatment). As he aptly describes, the fundamental problem he experienced before his transition was that his body was ‘broadcasting signals’ (looks, voice, gait, posture, gestures) that other people interpreted as belonging to a female body, whereas he experienced himself as male. Transsexuality, then, is not so much about the kind of genitals you have, but more about how you can physically manifest yourself in a world in which we, unavoidably, attribute different social roles and expectations to males and females. One may thus say that for transsexuals their Körper may become troublesome if it is constantly interpreted in undesired ways.

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exterior, their mirror image, as a strangeness that cannot be integrated with their sense of ‘ownness.’ Many psychologists struggle to find the cause of this disorder and look for methods to treat it. A very interesting psychological study on BDD has revealed that ‘normal’ people often rate themselves more attractive than others would do, whereas people with BDD lack this ‘self-serving bias’ in body image. People with BDD do not so much suffer from a distorted image of their body, but more likely from ‘depressive realism’ (Jansen, Smeets, Martijn, & Nederkoorn, 2006). We could thus say that ‘normal’ people, people who do not suffer from BDD, in fact always view their own body (their own mirror image) through rosy glasses, causing most to be rather satisfied with themselves. People who suffer from BDD (or eating disorders) lack such rosy glasses. It appears, then, that people with BDD have a better sense of reality than normal people, and by taking this reality too literal they run into problems. In other words, our valuation of our own mirror image is not simply based on accurate perception of it. There must be more to it: a pair of rosy glasses that makes it all look nicer than it is. Perhaps such glasses are an effect of our narcissistic existence. I do not only see my own mirror image, but I also like it, I am a little in love with it and therefore, as these things go when love is at play, my perception is slightly opaque. Regardless, to counter the ever-present risk of self-alienation, I need to be able to love my own mirror image, no matter how odd this is in a way. Isabelle Dinoire managed to tolerate her new mirror image and start loving it, meaning that her sense of ownness was not ruined by the strange new elements attached to her face. To Sean Archer, however, it seemed impossible to tolerate and love ‘his’ strange face and therefore the movie could only have a happy ending after he got back his former face. And what about Merlin? Weary Merlin from before the makeover, in her drab underwear, was presumably a person who did not love her mirror image. This suggests there was a strangeness in her that she literally did not like to see. This intolerable strangeness had to be glossed over by the wonder doctors of the makeover team. And their effort paid off. Instantly, ‘made-over’ Merlin loved her new sexy mirror image, even to the extent that it was not strange at all anymore. From the outside, after all, she looked exactly the way she felt from within: ‘hot.’

4

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Turned inside out After nine weeks of pregnancy I was allowed a peek into my belly. The ultrasound waves penetrated my skin and bowels to uncover a territory of my own body hitherto unknown to me. This mapped territory would have remained unknown to me in fact without the explanations of the obstetrician. The waves penetrated deeper still, also through my unborn baby’s skin (or is it just membrane?) to record a tiny beating heart. Actually, I hardly discerned anything in the irregular, grayish, and black images on the monitor. But the weakly blinking light of hope was accompanied by the sound – reinforced by doptone – of an eager heartbeat of some 140 beats per minute. The image had an alienating effect on me. As if I could look through myself into the future and beyond my own life: ‘If all goes well with my baby,’ I thought, ‘this heart will perhaps beat for as many as eighty years. Mine will have stopped beating by then for a while already.’ As a mere link in the succession of generations I was lying there, looking at the black and white proof of life, with a blob of cold gel on my belly. I saw life, heard it beat, but did not (yet) feel it. Although we take it for granted that we can see the inside of our body, this has only been possible since 1895, when Wilhelm Röntgen invented X-rays. This technology marked the beginning of a new anatomy. If beforehand one could analyze dead bodies only, Röntgen’s invention made it possible to look into living bodies. Until the 1950s, medical imaging would still be in its infancy, however, and only few people actually got the opportunity to see what is inside of their body. From the 1960s, medical imaging technology has exploded, and now it will be hard to find anyone in Western countries who has never had a medical image made. There is a range of sophisticated machines that rely on various techniques to uncover the inside of the body: ultrasound, endoscopy, and all sorts of scans such as MRI and PET.1 Ultrasound examination has become a standard procedure in obstetrics, while endoscopy is used for minor joint surgery – so-called ‘keyhole surgery’ – and for examination and treatment of intestinal problems. Injuries among athletes are diagnosed quickly with the help of MRI scans, while PET scans 1 For a brief and clear description of various contemporary medical imaging technologies, see (Van Dijck, 2005).

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are used for detecting aggressive cell division and diagnosing various forms of cancer. And periodically the dentist will X-ray our teeth to check for decay – whereby we can clearly see how our jaw is part of our skull. These various forms of medical imaging serve certain diagnostic or therapeutic purposes, but they also contribute to how we see ourselves. Apparently we have come to find it normal to look into our own inner body, and we no longer find it scary or unpleasant to behold our own bones, our own skeleton – our own image of death. Perhaps these images are reassuring to us. By acquainting ourselves with our inner body in a clean and sterile way, perhaps our inside seems less detestable, while the physical nature of who we are will weigh less on us – as if the strangeness of our inner body becomes less strange. Because sights of the inner body will also spark the imagination of most of us, these medical imaging technologies are not just used for clinical purposes. From time to time, for example, we see a TV commercial of socalled healthy yoghurt that restores the intestinal flora of our bowels, or an animation of how some cream reduces the pain of aching joints. These commercials often make use of images – no matter how silly – of the internal body. We see with our own eyes that eating yoghurt makes the bad bacteria disappear while sustaining the good ones and that pain automatically vanishes after applying cream to our elbow because of the way the nervous system operates. We can see it, so it must be effective. This commercial rhetoric is based on several effects. First, the images are clean: our inner body is presented as sterile and aesthetic. Moreover, the images give us the sense that this is how things work. Rather than a random idea of the body, images are a depiction, a reflection, showing things from the real world. Images appear to make a direct claim to truth, and in this respect they can easily outstrip words, arguments, and theories. Such as in the case of a salesman who explains to a woman why his brand of detergent works better: the story truly gains authority only after visual animation allows us to see for ourselves how at a micro level the particles of detergent successfully fight the dirt on a piece of clothing. Images, it seems, embody the truth. Valid knowledge of the body preferably goes together with images of the body. I have never seen an anatomical handbook without illustrations. When something may be wrong with us, today we find it ever more normal that images provide conclusive evidence about our condition. If doctors previously relied on their interpretation of our account or on a physical examination, today a doctor’s word alone is not enough anymore to convince us. We want certainty, which means one or more images. If our doctor is unwilling to provide this evidence we can always go to a commercial

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imaging center for a complete body check. Some of these centers will advise you that it is wise to have your body checked periodically, much like your car, just to see if it still runs well. Indisputably, the development of medical imaging technologies has boosted the quality of medicine: many disorders can now be diagnosed sooner owing to these techniques. Instead of opening up a body with a surgical scalpel, it is now possible to look into it first without violating the skin, or only in a minimal way (as in endoscopic surgery). However, the unstoppable development of invasive visualization has also increased the power of the ‘medical gaze.’ Foucault (1963) has argued that the emergence of the modern hospital in the 18th century gave rise to a medical gaze that was geared not exclusively to clinical examination of a body, but also to unraveling it. This unraveling of bodies is not only at the service of an individual’s health, but also generates knowledge that may be used for quite different purposes. For instance, insurers, mortgage banks and people who sell life insurance are quite interested in medical data, obtained through the latest forms of (preventive) examination, but they will not only use this knowledge, as medicine does, to improve or insure our physical health (Van Hoyweghen, Horstman, & Schepers, 2006). Having more knowledge about someone’s body implies having more power over that body. The development of invasive imaging technologies has made it easier to uncover bodily matters hitherto hidden and thus it has increased the power of the medical gaze. Rather than being a neutral development, the raised transparency of the body has mediated and transformed our body. As one study revealed, individuals who have undergone endoscopic examinations also start talking differently about their body (Radstake, 2007). In this chapter I will explore how internal body images serve as intermediary in our interpretation and knowledge of the self, and how they contribute to our self-image. My thesis is that bodily representation through modern medical imaging technologies comes with two, mutually linked, temptations: it appears to suggest that we can analyze and fathom our own body in all its facets, and, second, it offers us more understanding of our ‘inner’ self. This double promise is invoked in particular by the rapid developments in today’s brain research. Aside from doctors, who use the various scanning devices to diagnose and cure brain disorders, neuroscientists and psychologists also employ them productively in their quest for ‘consciousness’ and the ‘self.’ If only we penetrate our body deeply enough and analyze our brain in painstaking detail, we will eventually run into our most inner self. My argument below challenges this promise of total body analysis that would lead us to the discovery of some inner self.

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When we deal with the inside of our body that can be made visible through various medical technologies, this pertains to our physical or spatial interior. Just like other physical objects with cavities, the body has an interior space that offers room for various things to go in and out of it. This is the space under the skin, which is linked to the outside world by the body’s openings, such as the mouth, anus, nose, and pores. It is this space that the endoscopic camera enters and that also fuels our imagination, as is nicely revealed in the science fiction movie Fantastic Voyage (1966). In this movie we see how four people are shrunk to a size that allows them to travel the interior body of a nuclear physicist in their miniature spaceship inserted by an injection needle. The mission of this space voyage through the inner body is to remove a tumor from the scientist’s head.2 The body’s inside is a place where all sorts of dark processes take place that we like to visualize and about which we also fantasize as if involving behavior normally ascribed to human beings. For example, the activities of the white blood cells are depicted as if involving some sort of military strategy. But there are other fantasies about our inner body as well. They pertain not so much to our spatial interior, but to what I would like to call our psychological interior. This domain does not really take up space, yet we still assume that it is somewhere hidden within us. There has to be something, somewhere deep within our body – perhaps in the brain, or perhaps not so much localized but symbolized by the heart – that we call our innermost self. It is the ‘site’ from where we experience, want and desire things – the location that allows us to call ourselves ‘I.’ This psychological interior is our most intimate part, that which makes all of us unique. While my outer appearance, my behavior, is visible and observable to everyone, access to my psychological interior seems limited to me. After all, when I have particular thoughts, no one but me knows what I think. When in pain, no one but me knows how the pain feels. And when I enjoy drinking a cup of tea, no one else knows how much I enjoy it. Similarly, as Thomas Nagel (1974) has suggested in a famous essay, I will never know what it is like to be a bat. Although little can be said against this, I would still like to show that such subjective experiences do not simply imply that we have an interior that is separated from our exterior indeed. The intimacy of our psychological interior, however, is not broken by medical imaging technology. For no matter how deeply this technology penetrates our skin, it will never penetrate the interiority of our innermost feelings and 2

For a nice analysis of this movie, see Van Dijck (2005).

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levels of consciousness. Even if one assumes that levels of consciousness can be reduced to brain activity, which can subsequently be visualized through a scan, this still does not automatically imply that the levels of consciousness are made visible. It would be nonsensical to deny that levels of consciousness are linked to brain activity, but it is even more nonsensical to believe that the registering of brain activity can reveal how I feel my pain or how much I enjoy my cup of tea. It is therefore not possible to deploy medical imaging technologies uncritically in examinations of our psychological interior. They are deployed first and foremost for examining our spatial interior. A physician will be interested, for instance, in whether there are polyps in our intestines, or whether the fetus in the womb has sufficiently grown or whether sudden speech impairment is the result of a cerebral infarction. The meaning of our spatial or physical interior, then, is not directly reconcilable with that of our psychological interior. Still I would like to clarify here that our psychological interior must be related to a certain kind of spatiality, that it is not just a space without space. We can have no experience, no levels of consciousness without a spatial body. That the psychological dimension somehow goes together with the physical or spatial dimension becomes plausible if we conceive of the body not as substance but as subject. In Chapter 2, I gave a description of the physical subject based on the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty. In this chapter I further explore the materiality, ‘outwardness’ and strangeness of this physical subject by addressing a number of ideas from the contemporary French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy. I would like to argue that it is not possible for our socalled psychological interior to exist apart from our body’s materiality (or spatiality). This subsequently implies that this so-called interior is not just a private ‘place.’ There will always be a strange and external dimension, even in our innermost feelings. Finally I will argue that nice, clear images of the interior of our body show nothing but this strangeness. Even if they depict living bodies, the imaging technology’s invasive gaze merely blows up the inanimate, strange side of our body. Importantly, Nancy’s view of subjectivity implies a break with the prevailing notion that it is possible to locate the true self in our ‘interior,’ a notion based on the views of Augustine and Descartes, which I address in more detail below.

The inner self as unassailable stronghold The word ‘interior’ has a spatial, but also a psychological meaning. This is reflected in its etymology: ‘interior’ is linked to ‘intimacy,’ the Latin intimus

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being the superlative of interior (Nancy, 2001: 31). Intimacy, in other words, is that which is most interior. Our intimacy lies hidden in our innermost interior, and as such this is the part that is – or ought to be – most private. That which is intimate should be private, not public. Making intimate information public is a violation of intimacy. What is intimate belongs to me, to the sphere of my ‘ownness.’ This is why we say that the innermost dimension of intimacy constitutes who we are. This meaning of interior thus refers to myself, my ‘me-ness.’ There has always been a close tie between the concept of ‘self’ and this assumed psychological interior. In Western philosophy, we see that the idea of self or person was developed in earnest only after the Confessions by Augustine (354-430 AD), in which he explores his self by descending into the depths of his memory. From that time, the notion evolved that we will find our true self by gazing inward. The mode of thought sparked indirectly by Augustine’s self-examination was developed more systematically only in the 17th century in Descartes’s philosophy. In his Meditations the quest for true knowledge goes hand in hand with withdrawal into the self.3 In this text Descartes invites us to break with our common way of thinking. Normally we will start looking around us when trying to find out how things work. We begin to observe things, collect data and map them, and subsequently draw conclusions from them. This method based on external observation in particular falls short in Descartes’s view, because thus we will never arrive at certain knowledge as aspects of it will always be subject to doubt. External observation is a major human knowledge strategy, but in his view it does not lead to scientific, indubitable knowledge. Descartes discovered the indubitable foundation of knowledge only after he turned his gaze inward. We can doubt our perceptions, our ideas and even our so-called innate knowledge, such as the fact that 2 + 3 = 5 because there could be an evil spirit at work that is out to deceive us. The only thing that cannot be doubted is that at the moment of doubt I am the one who doubts. The mental activity of doubting itself cannot be doubted. The first certainty for Descartes is therefore the certainty of ‘I.’ I must exist, also for there to be an evil spirit that may want to fool me. Yet the key issue of course is what exactly Descartes means with the word ‘I.’ It is not a physical 3 I limit myself here to Western philosophy. As known, in particular in Eastern philosophy the withdrawal into the self for reflection or contemplation – meditation – is a tested means, which I will not further address here. It is perhaps interesting to point out that in contemporary research of forms of self-consciousness (and self-awareness) the introspective gaze as developed in Western philosophy (and psychology) is linked to related ideas from Eastern philosophy. See, for example, (N. Depraz, Varela, F. en Vermersch, P., 2003).

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I because all that is physical can be doubted; nor is it an animal spirit that we should imagine to be some sort of fire because all that is conceivable is also subject to doubt. The indubitable I is merely a res cogitans, a thinking thing – something that thinks rather than something that is thought. Specifically it applies to ‘having an experience’ (Descartes: AT 29), a notion that needs some more elaboration. For example, when I look out the window on the upper floor of the library and I see water flowing in the Maas River, I have an experience. But this experience as such is merely based on the external perception and therefore subject to doubt. Perhaps, for instance, I am seeing a mirage rather than water. At the same time, there is also an indubitable element tied to my experience. This becomes clear when I put the stress on ‘I’ in the sentence ‘I see the water of the Maas River.’ It is not so much about the fact of what I see, but about the fact that I see it; it is my experience. The indubitable element in this experience is that I have the experience of having an experience. In other words, I am aware of the fact that I am conscious of something. The indubitable ‘I’ here, according to Descartes, involves our reflective consciousness, also called self-consciousness. The way of thinking that Descartes thus hands to us leads from consciousness to self-consciousness; from attention for that which is outside of us to that which is inside of us. Only I can become aware of this ‘I’ or ‘self.’ Like me, others can see the river’s water and they may also see that I am looking at the river and therefore assume that I see it, but they can never become conscious of my experience of being the one having this experience. Nor can I fathom the self-consciousness of others. The Cartesian method leads to a divided experience. The experience of the water doubles in a). the experience of the water and b). the experience of the one who experiences. The experience of the water is accessible to others and can be shared with others, but the experience of the one who experiences is exclusively accessible to the person involved. Descartes is only concerned with this last experience because only this one is indubitable. This implies that what he calls ‘experience’ is separated from the experiences of others and implies being fully withdrawn within the innermost dimension of intimacy. The intimacy of this ‘I’ is undivided; it comprises a complete self-absorption from which all others are excluded. Consciousness of myself means full intimacy with myself. It also implies knowledge of myself that cannot be transcended by any other knowledge, because after all it is the only knowledge that is indubitable. As indicated above, self-consciousness means ‘I am aware of the fact that I am conscious of something.’ This sentence contains two ‘I’s. In the intimacy of our self-consciousness these two fully

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coincide. Put differently: the one I is identical with the other I, or ‘I = I.’ The one seeing the water is the same as the one who is conscious that she is seeing the water. Thus we can say that a person’s identity, in the logic of Descartes, is constituted through inner self-consciousness. I am I, and not someone else, because I merely have my own experiences. I remain I and do not become someone else because I continue to be the keeper of my own experiences. 4 Descartes’s way of thinking thus gives rise to a theory of personal identity that is immune to bodily changes. The reflective ‘I’ or ‘self’ he describes has no physical dimension after all (for that would be subject to doubt); it is just my experience of my experience. Even when our complete body is altered, or when one consciousness is transported to another body – as some philosophers have us imagine through their thought-experiments – we may still have the experience of an ‘I’ that experiences something. In other words, the Cartesian indubitable ‘I’ remains the same as long as it can experience things. The matter of the body is irrelevant. The dualism of Descartes consists of the fact that the ‘I’ of thought, the cogito, can exist as an autonomous substance – as res cogitans. Descartes is often seen as the father of modern philosophy, and one of the main features of this philosophy is its characterization of the ‘I’ as subject. Descartes himself, however, did not use the term ‘subject’ as such. He speaks of res cogitans, res meaning ‘substance.’ Still, the concepts of ‘subject’ and ‘substance’ are related. The term ‘subject’ is derived from the Latin subjectum, which is derived from the Greek hupokeimenon as used by Aristotle. In this original meaning, ‘subject’ means ‘the underlying’ or ‘that which forms the basis of.’ The term has a logical and an ontological meaning. Logically, ‘subject’ means that part of a statement to which we attribute certain qualities. For instance, when we say ‘x = blue,’ ‘x’ is the subject of the statement. Ontologically, ‘subject’ means that which exists autonomously, or the so-called first substance (protè ousia). This is used by Aristotle to refer to the individual life of something that for its existence is not dependent of something else. The first ousia indicates the essential aspect of something, but this essence is always tied to concrete, individual 4 Descartes does not address the issue of personal identity. The first philosophical analysis of personal identity is given by John Locke (1632-1704). Locke also suggests that a person’s identity – remaining the same – is based in self-consciousness. Yet in his view this self-consciousness is not simply a substance that coincides with itself. To Locke, self-consciousness rests primarily in memory as a faculty.

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existence.5 This notion of individual, autonomous being is often referred to in Latin by the term substantia. Thus we see that the terms subjectum and substantia are related to each other. However, in the above-mentioned meanings of these terms – as used in particular in medieval philosophy – there is still not a ‘subject’ yet as we understand it today. In philosophy before Descartes both subjectum and substantia mean in particular ‘that which forms the basis of.’ At that point, this term did not yet mean human ‘I’ in our usage of the term. According to Heidegger (1961), Descartes’s analysis of the cogito in his Meditations marks a turning point: the traditional meaning of subjectum and substantia is put at the service of the modern meaning of subject. The thinking I that finds truth only and exclusively through withdrawal within the self turns into a subjectum, turns himself into that which is as the foundation of all knowledge. The ground for all is no longer sought in something (essential) that exists in a certain way – the essence of beautiful things, for instance, is no longer sought in some idea of Beauty as advocated by Plato – but it is sought in one’s own thought or consciousness, because this is the only thing of which we can be certain. In this way Descartes has radicalized the ancient idea of Protagoras that ‘man is the measure of all things’ (Heidegger, 1961: 122). Descartes sought to define a ground – a subjectum – for truth, and he found it in thought, cogitare, more in particular in cogito. As indicated above, this involves not just an ‘I’ who thinks, but above all an ‘I’ who also ‘thinks himself’ or is conscious of himself at the moment of thinking. Cogito is me cogitare (ibid.: 107). The cogito is the same as self-consciousness. The question is what this ‘I,’ or this subject in the modern sense, exactly amounts to. What is the ‘self’ of self-consciousness? Of what are we conscious when we are conscious of ourselves? Descartes writes that this ‘I’ is a substance, a thinking substance (res cogitans). The modern subject, or the ‘I,’ is equalized here with something that exists autonomously, is sufficient in itself. Moreover it is that which is always present for itself. Conceived as substance, the ‘I’ or the ‘self’ coincides with itself entirely. Fully turned inward, it is hermetically sealed off from all outside itself. The ‘I’ is imprisoned within itself. 5 Aristotle distinguishes himself in this from Plato. According to Plato, the essences (Ideas) exist separately from concrete life. For example, Plato speaks of the idea of Beauty or the Good. This applies in his view to the essence of all beautiful things. According to Aristotle, Beauty cannot exist apart from something in the here and now that is beautiful. The first ousia is thus not a free-floating idea in a heaven of ideas, as with Plato, but it is the essential that manifests itself in an individual thing.

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Perhaps we recognize something here in Descartes’s manner of philosophizing. After all, we all have the experience that what we think or experience is not just accessible to others and that it is well enclosed within us. This is hardly a problem of course, but what is problematic is that Descartes also makes a claim about our interior’s special way of being. He does not simply assume that we think and have experiences; he also assumes that this thinking part in us exists in a specific way, different from all physical aspects of our being. Claiming that I am the only one who knows or experiences the joy of my cup of tea suggests that I have an experience that is only accessible to me. But this does not automatically imply that the ‘I’ who experiences this is also accessible to myself only, or that this ‘I’ has such mode of being that it always remains sealed off to others.

Seen from the outside Descartes’s characterization of the soul or mind as thinking (or experiencing) substance has been of great importance for the development of psychology. If previously psuchè also referred to the soul as life principle, the thinking of Descartes marks the birth of the modern ‘psyche’ understood as our mental faculty. He therefore counts as one of the main ‘pioneers’ of modern psychology (Fancher, 1996). However, his notion of an enclosed consciousness or psyche posed a challenge to experimental psychology. After all, it meant that one can gain information on someone’s mental life only through introspection, which ultimately implies that we can only study ourselves. This was in fact what Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), one of the first experimental psychologists, did in his psychological laboratory. He and his colleagues spent hours listening to a metronome, having it tick at different speeds all the time. With each rhythm they asked themselves what kind of emotions it triggered in them, and among other things they found that fast rhythms evoke a sense of excitement while slow rhythms arouse a sense of relaxation (Hunt, 1994). In this experiment, the researcher simultaneously served as object and subject of research. This subjective way of doing psychology, however, was seen as barely scientific. In response to introspective psychology so-called Behaviorism emerged, in particular through the efforts of John Watson (1878-1958) and Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904-1990). Behaviorism dismissed the idea of a self-enclosed psyche as some singular substance, but started from the notion that the psyche is shaped through behavior and behavioral dispositions. This perspective on the psyche enabled a genuine scientific psychology,

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allowing it to become the study of behavior, and behavior (unlike the enclosed inner psyche) lends itself very well to observation and analysis by others from outside. Rather than positing some impenetrable inner life as source of our actions, Behaviorism was merely interested in how we manifest ourselves to the world. The behaviorist approach of our mental life gained ground in philosophy as well. One of the best-known representatives of so-called Logical Behaviorism is Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976). Behaviorism aimed its arrows in particular at the Cartesian heritage of the notion of the psyche as res cogitans.6 No wonder, Ryle earned himself a reputation by all-out rejecting what he called the Cartesian myth (Ryle, 1949). In his view, Cartesianism caused a mystification by making a distinction at the wrong level. Descartes posited that the body and the psyche are substances, albeit two radically separate ones. Ryle did not distinguish the physical and the mental as separate, and argued that their distinction has to do with a distinction in the language, or between different categories. When we talk about the body, we use a physical vocabulary and when we talk about the mental we use a mental vocabulary. Yet the different vocabularies do not simply refer to two different kinds of reality. This may be elucidated through the following example. I can go to a shop and say that I want to buy a left and a right glove, but I can also say that I want to buy a ‘pair of gloves.’ Everyone will recognize that these refer to the same thing. Because no one would think of other gloves but a right and a left one, we may as well use the word ‘pair’ here. In Ryle’s view, the same applies for the use of mental verbs (such as believing, desiring, thinking, planning, etc.) and physical verbs (such as walking, talking, bicycling, doing something, etc.). From a Cartesian perspective, it is assumed that mental verbs refer to an inner activity not perceivable to others and that only physical verbs refer to observable behavior. Ryle proposed that it is not about two different realities (a mental and a physical one), but about two ways of speaking about one and the same reality. Just like in the example of the gloves, mental or psychological is not some separate entity floating above the body, in the same way a ‘pair of gloves’ does not differ from ‘a left and right glove.’ If we hold on to a mental vocabulary that would refer to some separate sphere of reality, we must view the mind or consciousness only as 6 It should be added here that Descartes’s philosophy can also be seen as a root of Behaviorism. This does not so much concern the way in which Descartes defines the mind, but his description of the body as machine. Some behaviorists assume after all that human behavior can be explained because we are machines that can be conditioned (cf. Fancher, 1996).

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some mysterious ghost that resides in the body’s innermost realm – a ghost in the machine. This mystification needs to be countered by translating mentalist claims (‘John knows that 3 x 5 = 15’) into hypothetical claims about behavioral dispositions (‘If John is asked how much is 3 x 5, his reply will be 15’).7 From the angle of Philosophy of Mind, the branch of philosophy that is explicitly geared to interpreting mental life, several critiques on Behaviorism have been formulated since the 1950s. The main criticism is that Behaviorism tends to consider actions as equal to physical motions. Still, Behaviorism has not fully disappeared. For example, Dennett (1991), who does not want to call himself a behaviorist, has argued that ‘consciousness’ or ‘self’ is merely an illusion or fiction that is a product of how we interpret ourselves. Although we may have subjective experiences, this is not to say that there actually is something such as consciousness. I am but an intricate machine that behaves in a certain way, but I interpret myself (and others) as if I am an intentional being with a rich mental life. To Dennett, this interpretation (of himself and others) is merely based on an analysis of that which reveals itself on the outside (behavior and utterances), not on introspective methods. Whether we call it ‘behaviorist’ or not, in this case too it involves a perspective on the ‘psyche’ from outside. Similarly, below I present an ‘outside’ perspective on the (subjective) experience of one’s own body. Although this is a direct challenge of the notion of our interior as an unassailable stronghold, I do not argue that our having subjective experiences is an illusion. That I alone know how much I like a cup of tea or that I alone can feel my body or my pain is certainly true. My point is, however, to demonstrate that even though there are certain internally felt experiences, they do not originate in a closed and private interior. Physical experience – also the experience of our own body as felt from within – implies a ‘from outside.’ This physical outwardness, I argue, is also exactly that which we can call the strangeness of our own body. From a slightly different philosophical perspective and vocabulary I will further explain below how the distinction and the convergence of Leib and Körper imply strangeness and outwardness in the heart of one’s own body. In the previous chapters I argued that the idea of the body as machine is quite useful in all sorts of contemporary medical applications and interventions. When the machine does not operate optimally, a part may be replaced. One piece of matter can be replaced by another piece of matter. Today’s 7

This example I derived from Van der Kleij (2003: 186).

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medical imaging technologies, then, perfectly fit the Cartesian idea of the body. Considered as ‘machine’ the body is no longer something opaque but allows insight. (cf. Foucault, 1975). It is possible to analyze and gain a perfect understanding of a machine, no matter how intricate it is, as well as of how it works. MRI, PET, endoscopy, and ultrasound are primarily analytical tools that offer much insight into all parts of the machinal body and they also do so in a clean way – (virtually) without cutting or blood. Initially it seems, then, that these imaging technologies cause the Cartesian dualism of body and mind to grow more extreme. On the one hand, there is the mind that is enclosed within a hidden interior being and therefore sealed off from any outside perspective, while, on the other hand, there is the body that has grown ever more transparent. This antithesis disappears through materialism. According to De Lamettrie, the soul or the mind is nothing but the organization of bodily matter, and for this reason some mysterious immaterial substance does not exist. In contemporary views regarding the relationship between the mental and the brain we hear an echo of this materialism. For example, some neuroscientists (and philosophers) believe that it is possible to reduce a mental condition to brain activity (Churchland, 1989). This means that one more or less assumes that our mental realm is anchored somewhere in matter or that it can be reduced to matter. Through the enormous development of imaging technologies of especially the brain, some assume that we will gain ever more insight into the mind (Damasio, 2010). Starting from a materialist view, the carefully closed interior (since Descartes) can be pried open through advanced scanning technology. I will not further elaborate to what extent brain research has really provided us more insight into our mental realm. It is more interesting to me here to consider to what extent a materialist view is reconcilable with self-experience. Is there still room for a subjective feeling of oneself if all is matter? In my view, Jean-Luc Nancy presents a form of materialism that also leaves room for the existence of subjective experiences. This materialism is quite different, therefore, from that of De Lamettrie or that of contemporary neuroscientists. The latter have a very specific view of matter. They consider matter to be the res extensa as described by Descartes. Nancy precisely criticizes this idea of matter. In his view, matter, which bears all experience and meaning, is no substance because substance is something that exists autonomously and is enclosed within itself: ‘“Matter” is not above all an immanent density that is absolutely closed on itself. On the contrary, it is first the very difference through which something is possible as thing and as some’ (Nancy, 1993: 57, my emphasis). This material thing or something,

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that which in the terminology of Descartes we would call the res extensa, becomes possible only though difference. Matter is difference. This form of materialism may be called ‘differential materialism’ (Raffoul, 1997: xxix). The question is, of course, what exactly is meant by this ‘difference.’ Nancy has written many different texts. Characteristic of his way of writing is that it is aphoristic rather than strictly argumentative. This implies that his views on matter and the body are dispersed throughout his sizable oeuvre.8 Far from exhausting it, I will only focus here on several of his ideas regarding the body.9 A central notion for my project is Nancy’s idea of ‘matter as difference.’ I develop this notion to clarify that our experience of physical identity rests on difference: we can only be ourselves because we differ from ourselves, or, put differently, our body is our own, because it is strange. As regards the extent in which we can make contemporary medical images of our own body transparent to ourselves, I will defend the thesis that even the most invasive imaging technologies are still not capable of doing away with the strangeness of matter. Or even: this kind of images confronts us with our own strangeness more than ever. The notion of ‘matter as difference’ perhaps becomes clearer when we first assume that matter is not the same as substance. Criticism of Descartes’s dualism commonly goes hand in hand with criticism of the notion of the mind as being an enclosed substance. It is characteristic of Nancy’s dismantlement of Cartesianism that he precisely rejects the notion of the body as substance. For example, in his essay On the Soul (1994) he holds a plea for the physical as being a subject: ‘I’d like to show that the body, if there is a bodily something, is not substantial but a subject’ (p. 123).10 In this usage of the term ‘subject’ it is relevant to realize that this term is no longer connected with the original meaning of ‘substance’ as described by Heidegger (1961). When Nancy uses the term ‘subject,’ he refers to the ‘I’ without a self-enclosed character. To him, being subject means ‘being open.’ This indicates in particular that the 8 My analysis in this and the following chapter mainly draws on several chapters from The Sense of the World (1993); Being Singular Plural (1996); his early book Ego Sum (1979) and various essays published since the 1990s: Corpus, On the Soul, The Extension of the Soul, and The Intruder. All these essays were translated into English and collected in the volume Corpus (Fordham University Press, 2008). To my knowledge, no English translation of Ego Sum is available. 9 For an introduction to and overview of Nancy’s entire oeuvre, including his philosophy of the body, see, for instance, James (2006). 10 I should point out however that Nancy does not always use all these concepts in a systematic way. In Being Singular Plural (1996) he writes that matter is neither substance nor subject (pp. 83-84).

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subject does not coincide with itself, but relates to itself. More specifically: it is about a material subject that does not coincide with itself. What he means, exactly, becomes clearer when we set his view alongside the view of, for instance, Sartre. According to Sartre, matter is that which exists ‘in itself’ (en soi) – a stone that is just a stone, for instance, and that cannot relate to itself, cannot feel itself: this stone is completely enclosed within itself. In contrast, the open material subject of Nancy relates to itself, feels itself. Substance and subject are opposites, in the same way as closed and open/opened. Nancy argues that the body that is viewed as substance is not worthy of the name ‘body.’ He connects substance with the term ‘mass’ (la masse), and a body reduced to mass is in fact a body that is not worthy of being a human one. In a provocative way he says ‘Where there’s a mass of bodies, there’s no more body, and where there’s a mass of bodies, there’s a mass grave’ (p. 124). For this reason it is also possible to refer to mass or substance as ‘pure’ matter, matter without difference or even indifferent matter: matter that cannot relate itself to itself. It is matter that actually doesn’t matter. The mass is the matter of the cadaver. In another vocabulary, we might call it a pure Körper, a Körper without life, without a Leib. The opposite of the ‘mass’ of indifferent matter is the ‘crowd’ (la foule) of bodies as subject. It is essential to our bodily being that this does not imply an isolated existence. According to Nancy, it is nonsensical to talk about ‘the’ or ‘a’ body. There are always more bodies than one: ‘Of the body, there is always a lot. There is always a crowd of bodies’ (p. 124). This crowd implies that bodies constantly touch each other. The bodily life in a crowd is that of being touched, être touché. My body is no indifferent matter because all the time I am touched by other bodies, and these other bodies do not necessarily have to be another human body. I am also touched by the floor that I feel against my feet when walking or the keys of the keyboard against my fingertips and I experience that I am not just mass. I am more than mass because I can experience this being touched. Nancy’s materialism thus starts from a multiplicity of bodies that touch each other all the time. The idea of multiplicity and crowd also recurs in his analysis of human society – a main theme in his work. People are not indifferent to each other because they are physical beings that can be touched. His theory of the touchable body serves as basis of his socio-political and ethical views regarding human society. I will not further elaborate on this so-called social ontology here, but concentrate on the meaning of the touchable materialist body for the experience of our own self.11 We can draw a 11 For a clear analysis of Nancy’s philosophy of community, see, for instance, Devisch (2006, 2011).

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parallel between the way in which the ‘we’ is thought and the way in which the ‘I’ is thought. Both have an open structure rather than a closed one; both are based on a difference. The ‘we’ implies the difference between self and other, and the ‘I’ implies the difference with oneself, what I indicate as the difference between what is own and what is strange in us. Mostly we use the term ‘difference’ as follows: I have two chairs and because these two are not the same I say that there is a difference between the two. My sister and I are not the same: there is a difference between us. Identical twins are the same in qualitative terms, yet not numerically because they involve two individuals. In this case I can also say that there is a difference between the two. A ‘difference’ thus appears to be something that you determine a posteriori. First you have two chairs and next you establish that there is difference between the two. Contrary to this view, Nancy argues that ‘difference’ in fact comes before different matters: first there is ‘difference’ and based on it there are matters that differ from each other. The difference between me and the other (such as my sister) is not so much derived from the existence of me and that other (my sister). The difference between us comes before our individual existence. The same applies to the relationship between what is own and what is strange. There is not first ‘own’ and ‘strange’ and subsequently the difference between the two. Precisely through a prior difference we can talk about what is own and strange as different from each other. This difference is formed by the ‘physical I.’ The body is this difference; it continually goes on to differ from itself: the body is différant (Nancy, 1993: 35).12 The material body never coincides with itself. Let us further analyze the nature of this difference of matter – a difference that continues to differ – that allows me to experience myself as ‘I’ or ‘self.’ This difference is given with the fact of us being sensory creatures. We are material bodies that just like all other matter can be touched, but in addition we can sense or feel being touched: through our experience of our touchability, we have a relationship with our own materiality. To indicate the particular nature of this relation, Nancy also uses the word partage.13 This French term stresses the double nature of the relationship: 12 Following Jacques Derrida, we need to add here that ‘difference’ is not something that is simply given. Difference refers to the process of differing. To indicate this with a suitable word, Derrida has proposed to write the French noun ‘différence’ as ‘différance’ – a difference that you can read but not hear. The letter ‘a’ is reminiscent of the present participle of the verb ‘différer’: ‘en différant.’ The difference involves a difference, then, that continues to differ (Derrida, 1968). 13 The term partage shows up everywhere in the work of Nancy. In most cases it is used to refer to characteristically inter-human relations in a society. As indicated above, we may

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partage refers to what is divided and to what is shared. In English one could say that the body is ‘divided’ within itself. If therefore our body is not one with itself, this dividedness does not cause it to fall apart either. The body also represents a certain unity because its parts ‘participate’ in each other – they ‘share’ something. We share that which separates us. We differ from ourselves because we can sense our own matter. We are matter and we sense matter. The difference of the body is given with feeling – le sentir. The body that senses its own matter is the sentant that simultaneously senses (sent) and is sensed (senti) (p. 127). The convergence of these two sides of feeling is touch (la touche). Being a body or a subject is being a touch.

Touch Touch and touching are the key concepts of Nancy’s materialism. Only matter can be touched and only matter can touch other matter. Matter can be touched and touching as a result of its quantitative quality, which is primarily described as outwardness or exteriority (extériorité). Through his ‘quantitative (quantitive), atomistic philosophy of nature’ (1993: 62), Nancy seeks to demonstrate that experience or consciousness (of oneself) is based not so much in animation of inorganic matter, but in the fact that matter differs from itself and therefore takes up space. This taking up space is not just the same as the extension of the res extensa, because this, after all, is a substance that coincides with itself. This extension, which is based in difference, is called espacement – spacing or spread (Nancy, 1993: 35). This spread or extension has to do with the fact that I can sense myself, my own body, only on the outside: ‘I am an outside to myself’ (Nancy, 2008: 128). When I touch myself, as in the famous example by Husserl of hands that touch each other, this auto-affection does not just result in a subjective interiority. To be able to touch myself, I need to have an exteriority (that can be touched) and I have to be ‘outside’ of myself (p. 128). Of course, we do not just have experiences of something that literally touches our skin. We may be ‘touched’– être touché – in many other ways; for instance, we may be deeply moved when hearing a piece of music. Likewise, we have particular internal physical experiences, such as a sudden stitch in our side. Should we see this as a disqualification of the theory of exteriority draw a parallel between how he conceives of unity (and difference) of a society and unity (and difference) of a self or I. The term partage is quite suitable for expressing the differential identity of an I or self.

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as the basis of physical experiences? Don’t we always experience a certain intimacy in our internal physical feelings as well? In this respect Nancy refers to the description of health according to the 18th- century biologist and physiologist Marie François Xavier Bichat: when we do not feel our stomach, heart, and intestines there is a ‘silence’ of our organs. In his view this may well be called an intimacy (p. 129). But this intimacy eventually means nothing but a non-experience. It is a condition in which we do not experience anything, and in such situation there is no body as subject. This intimacy that cannot be experienced merely plays out at the level of our mass, or substance, not at the level of the subject. When in full health, we perfectly coincide with ourselves and do not experience anything. We can only speak of a body when it undergoes a certain experience, and experience is only possible when the body is ‘outside’ of itself. Also when I feel my heart or stomach, I feel it from outside, not from within. The internal body’s matter is as much determined by outwardness. If since Augustine and Descartes subjectivity and personal identity were always connected with interiority, Nancy describes the subject as ‘a “self-sensing”, a “self-touching” that necessarily passes through the outside’ (p. 133). The question is, of course, to what extent his theory of the exteriority of experience can also apply to experiences that are mostly seen as strictly subjective and can only be experienced from within, such as pain and pleasure. Such private feelings, however, presume a certain intimacy, whereby the subject is fully withdrawn in itself. After all, no one else but me can experience how much I enjoy my cup of tea. Although Nancy does not say much about this, he suggests that when I say ‘I suffer’ or ‘I enjoy myself’ ( je jouis), there is not automatically an ‘I’ that coincides with itself or that is ‘identical’ to itself. In both cases there are rather two ‘I’s that differ from each other (yet they are as much alike as two drops of water).14 In the case of ‘I suffer,’ the one I rejects the other I, and in the case of ‘I enjoy myself’ the one I exceeds the other I’ (Nancy, 2008: 169). He does not explain this any further, but it seems to me that the verbs ‘reject’ and ‘transcend’ underline how forcefully we may distance ourselves from ourselves – how large the difference can be between ‘I’ and ‘I.’ It seems a difference is at stake here between the ‘I’ that utters the claim and the ‘I’ that has a particular experience.15 This is comparable to what 14 Two drops of water are assumed to be qualitatively identical, but not numerically (or quantitatively) identical. 15 In Chapter 5, I will further deal with the meaning of uttering the word ‘I.’ In speech, this personal pronoun refers directly to the person speaking. The special nature of the (performative)

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I suggested above in relation to the meaning of self-consciousness for Descartes. In this case, too, two ‘I’s were involved: ‘I see the water in the Maas River’ and ‘I am conscious of the fact that I see the water in the Maas River.’ The crucial difference is that within the Cartesian idea of reflectivity it is assumed that these two ‘I’s are the same, numerically identical, thus forming a self-enclosed immanent substance. These two ‘I’s are identical because both exist apart from embodiment. To Nancy, there is in fact a difference between the two ‘I’s because the I that suffers pain and enjoys itself is essentially physical. After all, only a body that takes up space and has an outside, which can be touched, can suffer pain or enjoy itself. This may be elucidated by returning to the terminology from previous chapters. The difference between the two ‘I’s’ can be compared to the difference between Leib and Körper. Rather than using these terms, Nancy relies on the notion of ‘corpus.’ He explicitly distances himself from the views of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, claiming that their analyses of self-touching always return to ‘a primary interiority’ (p. 128). As I have shown in previous chapters, however, Husserl’s and Merleau-Ponty’s description of embodied self-experience do not imply such a presumed interiority. Both Husserl and Merleau-Ponty already underscored the double-sidedness of embodied selfexperience which implies that a presumed ‘inner’ Leib-experience always goes together with the Körper-experience from the outside.16 So, despite Nancy’s own reluctance to be bracketed together with phenomenologists, I believe that his idea of ‘corpus’ may very well be translated as Leibkörper.17 Corpus is the body as material thing, as Körper, but it also includes the experience of Körperlichkeit – it also comprises the sense of one’s ‘potential to sense,’ one’s touchability. When I am in pain, this means I experience utterance is that it does not refer to something that existed before the utterance already; ‘I’ is realized only by uttering ‘I.’ 16 My view that Nancy’s ideas on embodiment can be interpreted in the light of Husserlian phenomenology is confirmed by interpretations of Husserl’s philosophy that underline noncoincidence in the constitution of one’s own body. Maccan (1991), for instance, claims that the constitution of one’s ‘own’ body is phenomenologically impossible, and Costello (2012) powerfully describes that the perceiving and embodied subject is ‘layered’, whereby its layers never totally overlay one another. 17 Nancy actually does not waste many words on his relation to phenomenology. Derrida, who devoted a major study to Nancy’s philosophy of the body, has quite a large stake in sharply delineating the thought of Nancy from the entire Western tradition, including Merleau-Ponty’s analyses of corporality (Derrida, 2000: 183-215). As I argued in more detail elsewhere, Derrida’s reading of Merleau-Ponty is not convincing in all respects (Slatman, 2005). Personally I, too, find it more productive when philosophers are able to interpret their indebtedness to precursors instead of wanting to underline the presumed originality of their own work.

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my painfully touched Körper. But the ‘I’ uttering this experience appears as Leib, not as Körper. In phenomenological terms, we might explain Nancy’s two different ‘I’s as the difference between I as Körper and I as Leib. Because our physical experience of ourselves is based on a difference (between Leib and Körper) we cannot simply assume a shielded interior or interiority. Interiority means after all the immanence of coinciding with oneself. We may counter here that a subject who is internally divided also does not yet provide any insight into the subjective experiences of the other. Even when we assume that the moment I experience something I do not coincide with myself, that I can experience myself only from outside of my Körperlichkeit, this is not to say that someone else, an outsider, would also gain access to my so-called subjective experiences from outside. Nancy’s theory of exteriority does not add an outwardness to my feelings that would make them equally accessible to someone else. How much I enjoy coffee or chocolate remains my secret, regardless of whether this is truly an interesting secret. It is not Nancy’s intention, however, to deny that the quality of an experience is subjective. Rather, he wants to indicate, it seems to me, that even if we all have feelings that can only be felt by us, this does not mean that this kind of subjective feelings spring from an assumed interiority. In his crusade against the rigid notion of the existence of interiority, Nancy refers in various places to Augustine. This comes as no surprise because, as I indicated above, Augustine’s way of philosophizing provided a major contribution to the emergence of the idea of personal interiority. Augustine renounced the extension of the body – probably because in his early years, before his conversion, he enjoyed it so much. He even characterizes this extension as being a ‘tumor,’ an ‘excrescence’ or protuberance that is by definition not good (Nancy, 2008: 123-24). The body that grows, extends itself, and proliferates in space is immoral. To Augustine, the good moral life has to be found in its interior amalgamation. To counter this notion, Nancy posits the idea of the body as ‘exposed.’ In the context of an elaboration of the Christian morality of the virtuous body, he argues that we cannot think of the body in any other way but as ex-position: that which is outside of itself. After all, if we eliminate the body altogether at the expense of a mind that coincides with itself, we lapse into the order of indifferent mass. To Nancy, material and immaterial substances are actually the same. Both are mass. In a provocative way, then, he says that a body is that which is ‘neither shit (merde) nor mind. Shit and mind are the excretions (excrétions) of the body’ (p. 127). If Augustine believed that he honored human dignity by looking for goodness and decency in the mind that coincided with itself, he completely

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missed the point, according to Nancy. Augustine thus reduced our being human to that which is of the same order as excrements. It is striking, however, that Nancy has also found evidence for his idea that ultimately interiority is nothing but exteriority in the work of Augustine. In his Confessions, Augustine writes about God, ‘Thou wert more inward to me than my most inward part,’ ‘te autem eras interior intimo meo’ (III, vi, 11). This interior intimo meo, according to Nancy, is crucial for the way in which we understand ourselves and our own assumed interiority (Nancy, 2008: 170). Our own interiority, in which there is ‘room’ for God, is so intimate that this interiority has become unfathomable. At issue here, then, is an intimacy that is more profound than each and every form of interiority. Such an Augustinian God lives in all of us (Nancy, 2001: 31). Intimacy is the superlative of interiority, and in the view of Nancy this means that the intimate literally exceeds interiority and breaks it open as a consequence as well. This is why intimacy is not something that sits safely hidden somewhere in an interiority that is impenetrable from outside. Intimacy in fact breaks our coinciding with ourselves – such as in the case, for instance, of an intimate sexual relation with another person, but also an intimate relation with a deity as in prayers, or the intimate relation with yourself as expressed by writing in a diary, a journal intime. Nancy rejects the notion that these forms of intimacy would be about a fusion with another person, God, or oneself, because it also always involves a partage of our self and something else, of what is own and what is strange. I share something with someone else because I am separated from it, not because I am fused with it. With reference to a term of Jacques Lacan one could say that intimacy is about extimacy (Nancy, 2001: 45). The most intimate is not on the inside, but on the outside. Augustine’s claim that God resides in us more inwardly than the most inward part implies that our inwardness is in fact too limited. God does not fit into it at all. God is exteriority – exteriorité. God is the strange par excellence and as such cannot be simply integrated within our own self. The same applies to the relation to another person or our self. Just like God, another person represents strangeness to me, as is true of myself. The strangeness within the intimacy of my bodily feelings, within the experiences through which each time I know it involves ‘my body,’ equally has to do each time with my body’s strangeness and outwardness. In the intimacy of my experience of my ‘own’ body I am outside of myself – I am ex-posed. Being exposed is characteristic of human existence. Exposed means exhibited, uncovered and also being out in the open. Because I do not coincide completely with myself, I am not simply in charge of my own home. I am

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exposed to what is strange, other within me. My own ‘I,’ which I experience on the basis of an assumed interior sense, is exposed to outwardness, to what is strange or other. In its most extreme form this strangeness within us means death or the inanimate, thing-like character within our own living body. Perhaps it is this which eventually comprises the difference of matter: a body lives because it experiences things and because it is ‘touch,’ but its experience also comprises a sense of death. I live, my body is ‘lived experience’ or, in another word, a Leib, but at the same time it is also and will always remain a Körper. After this analysis of the body’s exteriority, we can now return to the meaning of images of the internal body. Such images, like the photos of our skull at the dentist’s, are blowups of the inanimate, thing-like in each of us. In this respect, we might well view contemporary medical visualization as an affirmation of the ‘exposed body.’ Anatomy, the science of death, turns the body’s ‘exposition’ into a literal affair. That which is visualized is nothing but matter coinciding with itself, the Körperliche of the body. Hans Castorp, the protagonist in Thomas Mann’s novel The Magic Mountain (1924), did not yet quite know what to do with the X-ray of his own thorax – at that time a fairly new technology for screening patients with lung complaints. He felt that such an image was wasted on people, as if he was looking into his own grave (Van Dijck, 2005). We, 21st-century people, have become much more familiar with such images. Our body’s interior, flaccid parts held together by a skeleton of bones, like the bones that hold together salmon meat in a tin can, will always have an element of strangeness to us. But perhaps it has become more normal to us to come face to face with that strangeness.

Recognition without narcissism Medical images of the interior body have grown so common today that they are not used for medical goals only. The invasive imaging technologies also seem to offer possibilities for new forms of self-portrayal. As described above, (clean) images of the internal body have a powerful effect and therefore they are used profusely in all sorts of commercials. But many contemporary artworks show traces of medical visualization as well. Art and anatomy share a long tradition. We only need to refer to the anatomical sketches by Leonardo da Vinci or The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp (1632) by Rembrandt. Aside from the fact that anatomy needs artists to draw illustrations – the illustrator with specific art training is

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still indispensable for making anatomical atlases – the world of anatomy has been a welcome source of inspiration for artists. Perhaps an obvious contemporary example, even if its status as art is disputed by many, is Körperwelten (Body Worlds), a traveling exposition by Gunther von Hagens that was first on display in 1995. At this exhibition one can shiver at or enjoy plastinated bodies in all kinds of poses. Those who look forward to being plastinated and exhibited in a nice posture after their death can fill out a form for donating their corps to the artistic practices of Dr. von Hagens. Some find the plastinated bodies repulsive, others believe them to be kitsch, a flirtation with death from a distance. Still it is hard to deny that these bodies hold up a mirror to us, for they show exactly what we look like beneath the skin. At the same time, we do not associate them with our self-portrait, because it is not us of course. We are alive and these ‘stuffed’ corpses no longer are. Things are different, however, in representations of the living body. The specific nature of contemporary imaging technologies is that they can depict the interior of the body while it is alive. With such technology an artist may truly provide us an image of ourselves; an image in which we perhaps recognize something of ourselves, even if in a strange way. A nice example of such ‘self-portrayal’ is the artwork Corps étranger (1994) by Mona Hatoum, a British artist (of Lebanese origin).18 Corps étranger means ‘strange body,’ and at first sight it thus appears to refer to the opposite of Merleau-Ponty’s corps propre, or ‘own body.’ Yet such distinction would be misguided here. After all, the body represented by Hatoum is her own body. The artwork is a video-installation. It consists of a round cabin with two, 55 cm wide entrances. The cabin, with a height of 3.5 meters and a diameter of 2.4 meters, is fully dark on the inside; on the floor there is a round projection screen with a diameter of 130 cm, while sound speakers have been put at ear height in the cabin’s double outer wall. When standing outside of the cabin, you do not see or hear what goes on inside. When next you go in, it seems as if you are sucked into a strange body. On the floor’s screen, on which you more or less have to step because of the cabin’s narrowness, endoscopic images of a body are projected. In a continuous loop, the endoscopic camera enters the body through different body openings (anus, vagina, esophagus) and after going into it a little further the camera is taken out again, moves across the skin, etc. At the moment the camera is outside the body you hear the much reinforced sound of breathing and when the camera enters the body again, this sound changes into that of 18 This work is part of the collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, but it is frequently lent to other museums. In 2004 I saw the work in the Kunstmuseum in Bonn, Germany.

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the pounding heart. Hatoum had the images made of her own body, and the sounds too are recordings of her respiration and heartbeat. But how ‘own’ is this body? Most spectators will probably recognize that Corps étranger is about images of a human body. The slightly better trained viewers among us may notice that the images depict a female body and perhaps they will also identify in which internal passageway the camera finds itself at any given moment, but they will not recognize much more than that. Although it is nice to know that the body shown is that of the artist herself, it might as well have been the body of another person. At the same time, I would like to argue that Corps étranger is an interesting new ‘self-portrait’ indeed. Normally, self-portraits have to do with narcissism because they require the use of some sort of mirror, while its reflection is considered as the artist’s external image. When we look at Corps étranger, however, it rather seems we have to do here with a Cartesian gaze. After all, Cartesians who look into the mirror will not recognize anything of themselves in what they see. They only see a model, an extended body of which they may think it is them, but they do not experience it as their own. This is also what the endoscopic images of Corps étranger look like: pieces of body, fragments of extension that in fact could belong to anyone. Even if these images seem to tell something about one’s individual body, it will be hard to identify with them. In this sense these images are by no means narcissistic (Slatman, 2004, 2007). Yet unlike an anatomical show of ‘stuffed’ corpses, this artwork depicts something of life. It is in fact crystal-clear that the depicted body is not dead. We see veins saturated with blood, mucus, moist mucous membranes, the occasional contraction of certain body parts (which are perhaps not recognizable to most viewers), but above all we hear the pounding of the pumping heart and the murmur of breathing. All of us surely have something in common with this strange body. The artist herself once said in an interview that the word étranger in the artwork’s title refers to the endoscopic camera that penetrated her body. In her view, the penetration by this ‘strange body’ also implies the ultimate form of violation of bodily integrity, if not rape, because not a single part of the body can remain hidden (Archer, 1997: 138). This comment suggests that with this artwork she in facts voices criticism of our panoptic society, in which even our best kept secret – our internal body – is being fully uncovered and revealed. Fortunately, the artist does not have the final say about her own work. Her view, after all, is merely one interpretation among many. As a viewer of this artwork, at least, I would offer another reading, as well as another interpretation of the word étranger in its title. It is too simple

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an idea that today’s imaging technologies – such as endoscopy – render bodies truly transparent. It may seem that all details of a body can now be mapped neatly, but its visualization has become so technical that most people will hardly see any meaning in the images. Without explanation by an expert, mostly we cannot see what the images depict (Van Dijck, 2005). Moreover, I would suggest that the penetrating camera is not capable of fully appropriating the internal body. There is, in other words, always something unfathomable, beyond any technology’s scope. Several art critics, just like Mona Hatoum, seem to view her artwork as a critique of the panoptic or even voyeuristic gaze characteristic of our society, a feature to which this kind of medical visualization seems to contribute as well. It was pointed out, for example, that the setup of this artwork reminds one of the setting of a (pornographic) peep show (Layer-Burcharth, 1997). We can enter the narrow dark cabin and enjoy our peeping at an exposed body, which is fully visible but which itself does not see anything – just like the inmates in Foucault’s Panopticon. This comparison is hardly valid in my opinion, however, because the narrow space, where the spectator has to nearly stand on the passing images, leaves no room for peeping. There is, in other words, not enough distance to be able to peep. If for whatever reason you want to peek at your neighbor, you will not be able to when he is up close, right in front of you. For the same reason I neither agree with the characterization of Corps étranger as an objectified image. Laura Marks (2000) has made a distinction between ‘optical’ and ‘haptic’ (or ‘touching’) images. One speaks of an optical image when there is a certain distance between the viewer and the object looked at. The distance turns what is seen into a clear (and manipulable) object. The haptic image, in contrast, is realized when the gaze skims over what is looked at, almost touching it. If Marks argues that Corps étranger is a clear example of an optical image as the image is objectified completely by the medical gaze, I disagree and am rather inclined to call it a ‘haptic’ image. Yet within medical practice, one could call endoscopic images ‘optical,’ because doctors use them in fact to objectify the body. In Hatoum’s artwork, however, there is no objectifying optical gaze anymore. This artwork, then, is not simply a reflection of medical practice, but it ‘plays’ with certain bodily experiences that can be invoked by this medical visualization (Van de Vall, 2008). When entering the cabin of Corps étranger, one hardly has a sense of going into a medical office, where, like a physician, you can look at an internal body in a clinical and detached manner. Instead, you are sucked into that other, strange body – and through the dominant sound of the pounding heart you even get the impression that you are in fact inside that body, like an unborn child in the womb.

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Unlike Hatoum, I interpret the title’s ‘étranger’ not as the strange and penetrating camera, but as the strange aspect of our own body that cannot be appropriated by this invasive gaze. The images I see involve the thinghood, the Körperlichkeit of a living body like mine. The work reflects my own thing-hood – one that not just concerns the dead body but also the living one. Descartes and also Socrates would probably argue that this ‘inanimate’ aspect of me – this visualized matter – has little to do with my true ‘I.’ The thesis defended in this study is that Körperlichkeit is in fact important for my own ‘I’ because ‘I’ am constituted by the matter that forms me, even when it involves matter that is foreign to the body. In other words, I am this material body. Corps étranger provides us with a strange image of our body. Within psychology, the term ‘body image’ is used to indicate a conscious perceptual experience of one’s own body or a cognitive, affective or behavioral attitude to it (Pruzinsky & Cash, 2002). Although the term is not univocal, psychologists stress that ‘body image’ pertains to a conscious experience all the way through. Also in philosophy, ‘body image’ refers to a certain degree of self-consciousness, albeit prereflective or implicit (Gallagher 2005). Nearly always the internal body falls outside the scope of this representation, because we are not conscious of the operation of many internal organs. Therefore, the internal body, with its dirty slimy matter and hard bones, is not only ‘strange’ because it mostly consists of ‘inanimate matter’ that possibly allows us to look ahead at the unknowable strangeness of death, but also because mostly we are not conscious of this. The internal body can also be the place where all experience (or touch) is absent – where ‘the silence of healthy organs’ reigns, as Bichat called it. This means, in other words, that the unconscious matter of the internal body also refers to what Nancy has labeled the body as ‘mass’ – pure Körperlichkeit separate from the experience of Leib. It is possible to say, then, that through the representations of the interior body we are made aware of this side of our own body, which thus becomes part of our own body image after all. I would rather say, however, that through this representation its strangeness is highlighted once more: I am made aware (visually) of something that I cannot feel or experience. This realization implies in no way that suddenly I can feel my interior. Evidently, there are many parts in my body that I cannot (and perhaps never do) experience as mine but that still belong to me. Corps étranger, therefore, is not an extension of my body image, but confronts me with the fact that my body comprises so much more than I can possibly experience

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as own. Medical images do not enrich the experience of what is own: they underline and enlarge the strangeness that belongs to me. Or to phrase it differently, they reveal the myth of a presumed primary interiority (Slatman, 2009b). During the ultrasound of my own pregnant belly I saw many things that I could not (or not yet) feel. The ultrasound technology has come to play a major role in today’s obstetric care and monitoring, but, tellingly, the question, ‘Do you feel something as well?’ or, more specifically, ‘Do you feel life?’ has remained at least as important. Unlike the X-ray of Hans Castorp’s thorax, in most cases the ultrasound of an unborn child is not associated with looking into your own grave. After all, it is an image of new life, and it is a dynamic image to boot. With a little luck you can see a 12-weekold fetus move in an ultrasound recording, and with a little imagination you see it wave at you. The so-called ‘sensing of life’ occurs much later in pregnancy – a feeling of which at first you doubt whether it is some irregular bowel movement or indeed a kicking baby. From the perspective of Nancy’s philosophy outlined above, it is not possible to distinguish the two. The moment I feel something in my body, it withdraws itself from the unconscious mass of an unsensed ‘intimacy.’ At that moment, my body divides itself, starts differing from itself. We could say that at that moment my body starts feeling its own strangeness. This strangeness, which Nancy also calls ‘intruder,’ may pertain to my own matter that touches me as well as to the matter of my baby. When I was pregnant, someone once asked whether I could write a philosophical analysis of pregnancy. I thought about it for a while, but eventually decided that I had no real special story to tell about it. Even though pregnancy is a very special and at times even wondrous bodily affair, which is also ground for wide-ranging fantasies, when you are pregnant yourself, you seem to experience most bodily changes as rather normal. Of course you will wonder about your more and more swollen belly, but pregnancy does not involve some permanent state of wonder. In pregnancy one’s body becomes alienated from itself, but this kind of self-alienation occurs in most experiences of the body, in women as well as men. This is why I disagree with feminist thinkers who claim that pregnancy as phenomenon offers women a special form of bodily self-consciousness (Irigaray, 1984; Kristeva, 1975). The pregnant female body would be reflective in a unique way: it can experience itself through something else (i.e. the fetus) beyond itself. Men would lack such reflectivity by definition.

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Without denying that pregnancy involves a very special bodily event, I would characterize feeling new life as feeling what is strange in what is own. Such experience of strangeness is not destined to be experienced by pregnant women exclusively. The strangeness of the ‘intruder,’ which is overridingly evident during a pregnancy, is present in all experiences in which we are conscious of our body. There is no experience of our own body without strange intruders. The strangeness of the body is of all times, but perhaps the ever-present intruders become visible more clearly all the time due to the ongoing advances in medical technology. In the next chapter I further discuss the contemporary challenges posed by strange intruders to our body’s ownness.

5

My Strange I

Prosthetic wings People are flawed birds. All of us really would like to fly as high as possible, but we have lost our godly wings, according to Plato. The weight of our body condemns us to a life on earth, from where we can only long for all the good and the beautiful found in the heaven of ideas, high up above us. Aristotle would say that earth is the body’s ‘natural place’ and therefore a body will fall down without ever being able to rise up on its own. Since Newton’s formulation of the law of gravity in the 17th century, we assume that gravity is responsible for keeping us firmly glued to the earth and we can only free ourselves from it at the expense of great effort and energy. In French, the term for getting off the ground, as in the case of an ascending airplane, is décoller, which literally means ‘de-sticking.’ The weight of our body causes us to be stuck on earth, yet owing to our technological acuity we have managed to fly after all. A rather special form of ‘de-sticking’ took place on 26 April 2007. The British physicist Stephen Hawking is known for his pioneering scientific study of gravity and so-called ‘black holes,’ but he is perhaps even known better for his doing this research while being severely paralyzed by ALS.1 He was literally released of the weight of his body for a full half minute when he made a zero-gravity flight, organized by the Zero Gravity Corporation. Weightlessness is realized by flying at an extreme altitude followed by a downward dive in a free fall, which for a short period cancels out gravity.2 In principle, every person (with sufficient money) can go on such a flight. Hawking’s flight was special, however, because it is virtually impossible for his nearly fully paralyzed body to move, which is why he, more than a non-paralyzed individual, is normally a victim of gravity. Paralyzed people do not necessarily experience their body as heavy, though. The neurologist Jonathan Cole (2004) has written about his own zero-gravity flight, whereby he imagined that odd sense of weightlessness to be similar to the feeling of having a nearly fully paralyzed body. Weightless1 Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease is a disorder of the neurons in both the spinal marrow and the brain stem responsible for motions (the so-called motor neurons). This disorder causes severe paralysis of both muscles of the limbs and muscles used in swallowing, breathing, and speech. 2 See the website of Zero Gravity Corporation: www.gozerog.com.

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ness makes it seem as if your body has become absent, not there anymore, and perhaps this is also how a paralyzed person feels: as if your head is some kind of balloon that is floating. Cole also writes that he very much liked the feeling of being weightless, but the difference with paralyzed individuals is of course that they are in a permanent condition of having ‘lost’ their body – which must be far from a pleasant experience. If the weightless flight causes you to lose your weight, you also lose the sense of your own body; you lose the physical zero point from which to orient yourself because the body has no anchor anymore while nothing touches it. Gravity keeps all of us glued to the earth. But most of us who are not paralyzed can move their body on their own across the earth’s surface. Non-paralyzed persons at least have the ability to play with or fight against gravity. Paralyzed persons largely do not experience their own body, or only as feather light, and therefore they perhaps feel less pressure of gravity, need many adjustments to engage in that same fight. Nearly all of Hawking’s movements are enabled by technology. Not only his limbs are paralyzed; because his disease is progressive he also had to undergo trachea surgery, causing him to lose his power of speech. Language is often claimed to be a feature that sets human beings apart from animals. For example, Aristotle’s traditional definition of man is zooion logon echon: a living being gifted with reason. In Latin this was translated as animal rationale. Language is essential to human beings. If one loses the power of speech, this does not yet imply the loss of the power of language, but this power is severely limited. As a result of his paralysis, Hawking has lost the ability to write as well. The only way to communicate is through a computer with speech synthesizer attached to his wheelchair. He can select words from the screen by clicking with his hand – one of the very few movements he can still make. If subsequently he has formed a sentence, it can be spoken through the synthesizer. Hawking has claimed to be very happy with this device, which is so advanced that it does not sound like a robot. He only regrets that the synthesizer has given him, a British man, an American accent.3 To be sure, Stephen Hawking’s life has grown technologized through and through. For all his actions and words uttered he depends on technological aids, and to ensure the proper functioning of all this equipment he has hired a special ‘graduate assistant,’ which has also rendered his technologized life dependent on people who can guide and monitor it. At the same time, in particular the various technologies allow Hawking to lead 3

See his own website: www.hawking.org.uk.

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a more human existence, a life less challenging. In a way, technology gives us wings – prostheses that make us forget our nostalgia for the Platonic divine. Technology can ensure that our powers of reason (logos) – thinking, reasoning, speaking, and writing – are optimally developed. In a short article on the importance of speech recognition technology – tellingly called ‘Speech Reaches the Stars’ – it is argued that Hawking started communicating (and reasoning) better with the speech computer than before, when he had to rely on his own weakened voice. He eventually owed it to this technology that he could write his bestseller A Brief History of Time (1987). 4 Hawking is what he is thanks to technology. In some sense this is true of all of us, given our technologized society. Many of our (human) faculties are optimized by technology: we travel faster by car than by walking; we can kill more effectively with a weapon than with our bare fists; we can communicate more and faster by means of the internet and a telephone than by arranging to meet others in person all the time, and so on. The mediation that occurs when uttering the word ‘I’ is most intriguing, in my view, in the technological life of someone who like Hawking depends on a computer for communication. ‘Space, here I come,’ he said after his weightlessness flight via his computer, in an accent that is not his own. What does it mean when someone or something says ‘I’ in your place? Does the thing saying ‘I’ also belong to yourself? Or is the I-speaking thing merely a tool that in and of itself is not so relevant? Perhaps we are initially inclined to say that Hawking’s speech computer only makes it possible to express or translate the thoughts and ideas in his head. That we do so is related to the common view of language that conceives of words as signs that refer back to particular thoughts: thought precedes language. First there is a ‘thinking I’ or a self-consciousness and next there is the utterance ‘I.’ In this chapter I argue that this view of language needs to be put into perspective. I will do so by discussing several ideas from Émile Benveniste, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Jean-Luc Nancy. Based on an explanation of Nancy’s idea of (technological) ‘intruders,’ I argue that Hawking’s speech computer should be in fact seen as part of his own ‘I.’ This argument culminates in a paradoxical view of our physical identity: I am the (strange) body I have.

4

See www.speechtechmag.onlineinc.com.

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The speaking and spoken I According to the French linguist Émile Benveniste (1958), all languages have personal pronouns. In some Asiatic languages (and also in Latin) their actual usage may be avoided, but then they are still used implicitly. Personal pronouns are truly constitutive for language in Benveniste’s view. Language is only possible because all speakers posit themselves as subject by referring to themselves as ‘I.’ The referential character of the word ‘I’ is very special because it refers neither to one particular individual, nor to a concept. The word ‘I’ only has an ‘actual reference’ (référence actuelle). This means that it refers to the action of individual (referential) speaking; it refers to the speaker who says ‘I’ (Benveniste, 1958: 261). Through language, and more in particular the concept of ego (‘I’), we can shape ourselves as subject. Rather than there first being an I or ego that subsequently says ‘I,’ I establishes itself in the act of uttering. This act involves a performative utterance. Performative language use does not merely refer to existing entities in the world, but creates something in the world. A well-known example of performative language use is the promise. A promise only comes into being when uttering the words ‘I promise you that …’ This promise did not yet exist before its utterance. Elsewhere, Benveniste (1963) has defined his view of performative language use in discussion with the British language philosopher John Austin. In his famous How to do Things with Words (1962), Austin introduces the distinction between constative and performative language. An assertion is a description of a certain state of affairs, such as ‘the tree is green,’ ‘I felt class was boring.’ A performative statement is, for instance, ‘hereby I open the meeting’ – by making this statement I create the meeting, which did not yet exist before the statement. According to Austin, however, the distinction between the two kinds of statements is not always as clear. He suggests, for example, that the assertions ‘close the door’ and ‘I order you to close the door’ are both performative. In his view, then, there is no clear criterion for performative language use. Benveniste disagrees with him. He claims that the imperative statement ‘close the door’ is not a performative utterance because it includes no reference to the activity of the utterance (the activity being a command), which in fact is explicitly the case in the utterance ‘I order you to close the door.’ Benveniste argues that an utterance is performative only if the activity of the utterance corresponds to what is uttered. Therefore a performative utterance is always carried by a personal

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pronoun. Performative language is not just creative language use; it always refers back to the activity of speaking – the uttering (énonciation).5 In contemporary philosophical debates on self-consciousness, which mostly criticize Descartes’s idea of the enclosed thinking substance, we see that the role of performative language is emphasized. For example, Harré and Gillet (1994) refer to the ‘discursive mind’ to suggest that the mind or consciousness is not something that comes before language, but is in fact shaped by it. In this formation of self-consciousness, personal pronouns play a crucial role, because by saying ‘I’ I posit myself as I and also localize myself. Bennett and Hacker (2003) criticize the view that the ‘self’ would be a separate entity (in our brain). In their view, self-consciousness is not the consciousness of the ‘self,’ but refers first and foremost to the control of personal pronouns. When I say ‘I,’ this refers not to an ‘I’ or ego in me; the personal pronoun is not a name. Learning the (proper) use of personal pronouns is also relevant in children’s development as social beings. When, for example, a child is able to say ‘I’m in pain’ instead of only ‘pain,’ it also learns the meaning of ‘mamma’s in pain.’ Through the skill of expressing its own pain, the child learns to describe others in pain as well (Bennett and Hacker, 2003: 347). In this respect, Benveniste (1958) also argues that ‘I’-’you’ are complementary, suggesting that the formation of a subject by uttering ‘I’ by no means implies that this subject is withdrawn or locked within the self. From the start the subject is social, open to the otherness around him or her. As indicated, personal pronouns remain implicit in some languages. Perhaps the most suitable example here is Descartes’s Latin phrase cogito ergo sum – ‘I think, therefore I am.’ The first-person singular personal pronoun in Latin is ego. This word is used rarely, however. The person to which the verb applies is expressed in its conjugation. Cogito, which means ‘I think,’ is a conjugation of the verb cogitare. It is not necessary to say ego cogito. In cases where ego is indeed used, it serves to emphasize ‘I.’ If in his famous claim cogito ergo sum, which we can read in his Discourse on Method, Descartes does not use the word ego, he does use it in a passage in his Meditations, where he pursues founding principles on which to base all sciences. Through his experiment on the crucial role of doubt Descartes 5 François Dosse (1992) points out that in that period (1950s-60s) Benveniste was an outsider within French linguistics, which at the time was dominated by (post)structuralism that had declared the death of the ‘speaking subject.’ He was one of the few French thinkers with an interest in the British ordinary language philosophers who in their study of ordinary language use were inspired by Wittgenstein’s view that meaning is realized by using language.

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arrives at a first indubitable certainty, namely that there must be an ‘I’ that can doubt. The turn from uncertainty to certainty we find at the beginning of the second meditation. Significantly, in this passage Descartes does not speak about cogito, but he in fact uses the term ego. The transition from doubting toward the first indubitable certainty is reflected in the following quotation: ‘So that, having weighed all these considerations sufficiently and more than sufficiently, I can finally decide that this proposition, “I am, I exist”, whenever it is uttered by me, or conceived in my mind, is necessarily true’ (AT VII: 25). The Latin text reads ‘ego sum, ego existo.’ Normally, sum and existo had sufficed, but Descartes adds ego, thus stressing the ‘I.’ In his book Ego Sum (1979) Jean-Luc Nancy extensively deals with this text by Descartes, arguing that the personal pronoun ego has a specific meaning. Most importantly, ego does not have the same meaning as ‘thinking substance’ or res cogitans. In Nancy’s view, this ego is not something closed (and hence it is not a substance), but something that has an open character, which he calls subject. So instead of criticizing Descartes for his concept of enclosed consciousness, as most critics do, Nancy aspires to demonstrate that Descartes’s text itself provides an alternative.

Thinking is speaking The quotation from Meditations literally reads: ‘When I utter or think “I exist,” this is true.’ The utterance or thinking of the phrase ‘I exist’ makes me exist. I do not need to exist first as ‘I’ in order next to be able to say ‘I.’ This quotation indeed involves a performative utterance. In this respect, Nancy, in line with the ideas of Benveniste, stresses that the creative nature of this statement is largely based on the word ego; sum and existo are determined by ego, rather than the other way around (Nancy, 1979: 135). The open and social character of ego is given with the utterance itself; ego is a subject who utters (sujet d’énonciation). In this quotation, however, Descartes does not only speak of ‘utter’ but also adds ‘or conceive in my mind.’ Nancy, in his analysis, assumes that in essence these two actions – uttering and thinking – are the same. Without explicitly mentioning it, he thus breaks with the common view that language (including uttering) is only regarded as a translation of thoughts, and therefore as secondary to thought. To follow Nancy’s reasoning, we therefore first need to address the relationship between thought and speech in more detail. Specifically, we need to consider how tacitly thinking ‘I’ corresponds to the explicit utterance of ‘I.’

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The language view Nancy leaves behind is also called ‘mentalist.’ This view we find among many traditional philosophers, such as the British empiricist John Locke, who claimed that words are sensory signs of thought or ideas.6 Applied to Hawking, from this view one would consider his speech computer merely as a machine capable of coding his private thoughts in a public language. Typically, this mentalist view starts from thought as being of an order different from language. Thought would come prior to language. This implies that language is seen as an extension or means of thought: first you think something internally, and, next, through language, you can utter, express that thought. This view has been contested by various philosophers. For instance, Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1945) has argued that thought and speech cannot simply be separated. Language is not an (external) ‘sign’ of (internal) thought. He illustrates this by setting up a comparison with how we experience music. When listening to a piece of music we can distinguish between a series of tones on the one hand and the meaning of a piece on the other. The tones may be compared to words or linguistic signs; the meaning of the piece of music may be compared to thinking, an idea, or reflection. Put differently, the tones have a physical presence – we can hear (or read) them. The meaning of the piece, however, has no physical presence; being more than the succession of tones, its meaning coincides with the mental experience of it. Merleau-Ponty argues that the musical meaning of a sonata can never be isolated from its different tones. The tones, then, are not just the ‘signs’ of the sonata; only through the tones can there be a musical meaning. In the same way, the meaning of a thought may be realized only through language. Thus thought and language are put on a par. Thought is a form of expression, of speaking already. That we commonly assume that something precedes our speaking is because we can reflect and reason on issues tacitly, and utter our thoughts only later on. We call this reflection but it is in fact simply a form of speaking: ‘What misleads us … and causes us to believe in a thought which exists for itself prior to expression, is thought already constituted and expressed, which we can silently recall to ourselves, and through which we acquire the illusion of an inner life. But in reality this supposed silence buzzes with words (est bruissant de paroles), this inner life is an inner language’ (Merleau-Ponty, 1945: 183, translation adapted and my emphasis). It is therefore misguided to hold that thought implies

6 Locke writes: ‘The use, then, of words is to be sensible marks of ideas; and the ideas they stand for are their proper and immediate signification,’ quoted in Stokhof (2000: 27).

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a self-enclosed ‘silence’ that comes prior to language articulation in some specific social context. Ludwig Wittgenstein (1953) has similarly contested the notion of an enclosed space of consciousness or thought. It is common to say that feelings such as pain are subjective and therefore not really measurable or understandable by others. Pain is a form of self-consciousness that would be entirely closed and private. Similarly, the assertion ‘I am in pain’ would actually be an assertion within a private language that can be really understood only by me. Wittgenstein disagrees with this, and he explains his view with the following example. When we assume that our consciousness is a kind of box and that the contents of our consciousness – that which we think, want, feel, etc. – is a beetle in that box (§ 293), this potentially means in the Cartesian view of the self-enclosed thinking substance that we all have our own box, and that we cannot look into each other’s box. In this situation, we all would say that we only know what a beetle is by looking at our own beetle. Potentially, then, we all have a different thing in our box. If we were to assume that each time the word ‘beetle’ refers to such a private object, that word can play no role in a language we share with others. Wittgenstein uses this example to demonstrate that the assertion ‘I am in pain’ is all but enigmatic. One could say that we can never grasp its full meaning because pain is strictly a private feeling: I can only feel my own pain and never that of someone else. Preeminently, pain would be the beetle in the closed box. But if pain is really a private mental object, we would never be able to understand each other when someone claims to be in pain, nor would a child ever be able to learn the meaning of the word ‘pain’. Yet we know what the word ‘pain’ means and we also know how we can use it. The meaning of the word ‘beetle’ or ‘pain,’ then, cannot be explained as a reference to an assumed private object, but their meaning is achieved by using the words in a specific language game, while such a game automatically is a social practice as well. So by demonstrating that the meaning of words is realized in specific social contexts, Wittgenstein crosses out consciousness and its contents as private object: the assumed thing in the box is dropped from the consideration as ‘irrelevant’ (§ 293). The assertion ‘I am in pain’ does not refer to a certain enigmatic mental entity within me; in any specific language game this claim does take on a particular meaning.

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For – sum The analyses of Merleau-Ponty and Wittgenstein clarify that language does not simply refer to prior isolated thought. Thinking is itself a form of speaking. This view is corroborated by Jean-Luc Nancy, if implicitly, when he claims that Descartes’s ‘thinking in my mind’ does not essentially differ from ‘uttering.’ Also thinking ‘I am, therefore I exist’ is an utterance that occurs in silence. Even if no one else overhears these words, merely to be able to ‘think’ these words, this thinker needs to be embedded in a social context, which makes it clear that the meaning of ‘I’ is related to that of, for instance, ‘you.’ The notion of ‘I am, therefore I exist’ will never spring from a purported private consciousness. By equalizing thought and language, or rather, thinking and speaking, we will also have another description of ‘I.’ After all, this I is not only thinking, a thinking substance, but at the same time speaking as well. Rather than a substance, it is a subject who speaks. Descartes’s text centers on finding the first indubitable evidence, which most claim is the thinking substance. But if we deviate from the common Cartesian interpretations and put emphasis on the above quote, we see that in fact it involves another kind of evidence. The evidence of the ego of the speaking ‘I’ is another evidence than the thinking (or doubting) ‘I’ that is conscious of his own thinking.7 Instead of the evidence of thinking ‘for itself,’ this in fact involves the evidence of the unity of the relation between body and thought (mind) (cf. Nancy, 2008: 138). Contrary to most Cartesian interpretations, Nancy thus argues that the turn from doubt’s uncertainty to a first indubitable certainty at the beginning of the second meditation is evidence not of our self-consciousness, but of the unity of body and mind. Descartes himself explicitly discusses this evidence in his correspondence (1643) with Princess Elisabeth, without convincingly explaining it. As mentioned above, Descartes will argue in his Passions of the soul (1649) that body and mind are connected through the pineal gland. Based on the quotation from the second meditation Nancy arrives at a very different description of the unity of body and mind. An aphorism by Freud that recurs in Nancy’s texts is: ‘Psyche ist ausgedehnt, weiß nichts davon’ (Nancy, 1979: 61; 2008: 21, 144). The unity of body and mind consists of the self-extending mind or thought, while thought itself does not encompass this extension or embodiment. It should be stressed 7 For the explanation of the indubitable certainty of thinking, see the section on the interior as an unassailable stronghold in Chapter 4.

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here that Nancy does not assume that first there is internal thought, which subsequently would extend itself. Thought is extended from the start. This extension or externalization is simply thought that utters itself through a mouth that opens and closes. The mouth ensures the connection of thought to the body’s extension, or, put more precisely: the speaking mouth is the embodiment of thought. The extension of the mind or thought is formed by the mouth which is the place of contraction and relaxation of muscles and air/breath. ‘The opening of the mouth is the unlimited and incommensurable extension of thought’ (Nancy, 1979: 161, my translation). It is a place that actually is not a place – and that non-place immediately forms at the moment of a newborn’s first cry: life begins because matter speaks. With a reference to Paul Valéry, Nancy speaks of an ‘oral-verbal space’ (espace buccal) as the most curious inventiveness of living beings, as the space where tongue and language reside (habitation de la langue). The mind extends itself through speech, the opening and closing of the mouth. Where Descartes localized the extension of the mind in the pineal gland, Nancy argues that this extension takes place in the act of speaking. This is not meant to refer to the mouth’s physical localization. Rather it refers to what is physically relevant in the activity of speech: the generation of material signs, the emitting of sounds. Sounds are physical signs, but these signs do not exist autonomously. Nor do these sounds refer back to some original thought that would precede them; thought can only realize itself in the materiality of sounds (or other signs). Here we may refer again to the example of the sonata and the sounds. The musical meaning of a sonata – which itself is not physical – can only be realized through physical sounds. The mouth is the ‘place’ where thought is ‘outside,’ where thought externalizes itself. This is precisely what happens, according to Nancy, in the quotation by Descartes. The human ‘I’ utters, externalizes itself, by the articulation of ego. At the moment I say ‘I,’ I am no longer a cogito withdrawn into myself, but my thought is extended, my mind is embodied in the matter of the sounds I emit. Saying and thinking ‘I’ constitutes the unity of body and mind. This unity does not exist as a substance; the ego does not coincide with itself, nor has it the permanent mode of being of a substance. The ego exists as the ‘convulsion’ of ‘orality’: it exists only when it is uttered, cried out, whispered, moaned. This is why the first evidence of cogito ergo sum, which of course has been cited to death, needs to be revised. In common readings of this statement the ‘I’ (or ego) in cogito is understood as a thinking substance (res cogitans). In contrast, the ego that, according to Nancy, surfaces as a spasm of ‘orality’ exists indubitably, but

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is no substance. The ego in cogito should be thought of as ‘for,’ i.e. ‘I speak’ or ‘I utter’: ‘Hence cogito, or from now on, for (I say, I tell stories, I discuss, I perform, I am performing) is the performative of performance’ (Nancy, 1979: 123, my translation). Language is not just a means we can use to express our thought or our selves. There is not first a self that subsequently is expressed. This self, this ego, can only exist because it is being uttered. What does this mean for people such as Stephen Hawking who can express themselves only through technological mediation? We would perhaps be inclined to believe that speaking via a speech computer presupposes explicit (internal) thought because this mode of expression, unlike our casual talk whereby we constantly say ‘I,’ comes with a well-considered choice of words. It is plausible that Hawking first forms the sentences that ‘he’ wishes to utter in his head. But, as made clear by Merleau-Ponty, this assumed silence ‘buzzes with words.’ Also the forming of words and sentences in your head is a form of uttering, speaking already. According to Paul Valéry, the oral space is the space inhabited by la langue. In French, langue means both tongue and language. The two do not coincide. Without tongue or with a paralyzed tongue there is still the possibility of language. The oral space stands for the embodiment, externalization of the mind. This can be realized through speaking, but also through mimics, gestures, or other forms of expression. People who cannot speak have an oral space as well. We might say that in the case of Hawking this space is severely constrained, even to the extent that his utterances were to go unnoticed if he would not rely on aids. The speech computer extends the oral space by rendering the utterances manifest; it is like a tongue that can make a language sound. It forms a ‘place’ where the mind is embodied, externalized. I would therefore suggest that this technology is not just an appendix of Hawking’s ego, but that this ego achieves its full mode of existence only through this prosthesis. Without this technology, the performativity of speech would be stuck in a buzzing in the head, virtually incomprehensible and invisible to others. More than once Hawking has been portrayed as ‘a thinking head’ on a body that does not function anymore – as the preeminent victory of thought over the body. Dr. Robert J. White, who argues that it is possible to give fully paralyzed people a healthier body by means of a head-body transplant, has claimed that Hawking would really benefit from having a different body transplanted under his thinking head, a body from a braindead person whose body has become useless to him. This would not resolve Hawking’s paralysis, but he would get a body with healthier organs, which

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would increase his longevity, or rather that of his thinking head.8 I do not know whether Hawking himself has ever read this, but on his website he at least indicates that he scorns the notion that his brilliant mind would be imprisoned in a useless body. In my view, then, the characterization of ‘thinking head’ on a body (or on a computer) is far from adequate. Hawking is first and foremost a ‘speaking someone’ – and this speaking attains its full scope through a prosthetic tongue.

Living with intruders The speech computer of Stephen Hawking is an extreme example of the possibility of adding all sorts of matter to our body – the Greek word prostithenai, the root of the word ‘prosthesis,’ means ‘adding.’ The added element is something strange or foreign, and one may ask how what is strange relates to what is own. Often, the successful use of all sorts of prostheses is couched in terms of appropriating a strange element, making it your own. This notion of appropriation tends to refer to functional adjustment to a new situation. Appropriating something is making something your own. For instance, I can learn a new dance based on lots of exercise. After having learned it, made it my own, I no longer have to worry about all the steps because my feet will automatically know what to do. The thing one’s body has functionally adapted to does not require explicit attention anymore. One will not even notice it any longer. In this way, for instance, I appropriated my glasses; most of the time I am no longer aware that I am wearing them, and I even forget to remove them when taking a shower or going to bed. In the same way one can say that individuals may adapt to walking with a lower leg prosthesis, making it their own, even if wearing this prosthesis will be more challenging than wearing glasses. Functional adjustment to a prosthesis is very important of course, but there is much more to it (Moraal, Slatman, Pieters, Mert, & Widdershoven, 2013). My thesis is that the relationship between ‘own’ body and strangeness cannot only be theorized in terms of functional appropriation. Also when I fully make a prosthesis my own in a functional sense, this is not to say yet that all strangeness has thus evaporated. This view I derive from Nancy’s text The Intruder, which was published originally as L’intrus in 2000. An English translation of it is included in the collection Corpus (Nancy, 2008). 8 White told this in the Sunday Telegraph Magazine interview to which I referred in the introduction.

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In The Intruder he illustrates a philosophical theory of bodily identity with the biographical account of his own heart transplant, which he underwent in 1990. The example of the heart transplant seems to suggest directly that ‘the intruder’ refers to the strangeness of a strange organ, the organ of someone else, of a dead person. This is true only in part, however. The term ‘intruder’ refers here to multiple sorts of strangeness that we may be faced with during illness, operations, medication use, recovery, but also when we are healthy. Strikingly, Nancy often uses terms to underline the outside or externality of the body. In contrast, the term ‘intruder’ refers to its interior as well as its exterior. In its most direct meaning it is about something that penetrates by moving from outside to inside. Still this term should be understood more broadly. Nancy uses it to refer to all sorts of intruders that penetrate our body from outside, but he also indicates that there are always intruders within us already. There is no interior without intruder: the ‘intruder’ is there from the start, underscoring that our so-called interior represents a disrupted state by definition. More than all other concepts used by Nancy in his texts, ‘intruder’ comes with a suggestion of foreignness or strangeness. In general we might say that what is strange is that which comes from others or from outside, as well as that which is in me that I cannot really grasp. Forms of strangeness may come from both within and outside; and both forms of strangeness are thus referred to as ‘intruders.’ Let us now have a closer look at what the various forms of strangeness exactly comprise, and subsequently how internal and external forms of strangeness are connected to each other. In the account of his heart transplant Nancy describes a certain oscillation between what I would call ‘internal’ and ‘external’ forms of strangeness. A first strangeness is that of the healthy heart: the heart was a strange element because it was not noticeable and hence not present. This is the unfelt strangeness of the body – a body as substance, not as subject, immersed in the silence of the healthy body. I call this an ‘internal’ strangeness because it is already there, rather than coming from outside. But this internal strangeness has an external (or outward) character as well because it pertains to the Körperlichkeit of the body; and this always has an extension and thus an outwardness. In the previous chapter I explained that this form of strangeness can be stressed and blown up by images of the internal body. Through these images I become acquainted with parts of my body that I cannot really experience myself and that therefore are strange to me while nonetheless belonging to me.

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When subsequently the heart becomes diseased, another estrangement occurs; this too is an ‘internal’ intruder. The strangeness of the ill heart offsets that of the healthy heart, and this also partly explains why the strangeness of sickness can bring persons closer to their self: “‘I” am, because I am ill’ (Nancy, 2008: 163). When ill we actually can feel our body, and a difference emerges between sensing and being sensed. In this sense, illness is a form of touching. Through being touched we feel our own touchability. Illness well illustrates that that touch does not literally have to come from outside the body. Ultimately, touch implies a relationship with the Körperlichkeit of my body: I start feeling my own matter, which I could not feel when in good health. There are also forms of strangeness from outside, such as a heart or other organ from a donor. Yet many more things can be added to the body, such as medication, and this strangeness easily exceeds what is ‘own’ to us as species. For example, Nancy refers to the immunoglobulin (antibodies) derived from rabbits for ‘antihuman’ use administered to him to counter rejection of his transplanted heart. In a transplant, it is necessary to bring about self-estrangement. One’s immune system, which should normally offer protection to one’s self, must be suppressed in order for the strange new element to be tolerated. More than the foreign heart, the intruder revealed itself in the case of Nancy as a result of the undermining of his own immune system. However, the medication that ensured the suppression of the immune system also lowered protection against other unwanted intruders. On account of this reduced resistance, he contracted cancer, ‘the ragged, crooked, and devastating figure of the intruder. Strange to myself, with myself estranging me’ (Nancy, 2008: 168). As Nancy argues, the continued existence of an individual comprises an intricate process involving strangers and forms of strangeness (ibid.: 164). This process can be partly unraveled by categorizing intruders as either ‘internal’ or ‘external.’ Put briefly, internal intruders originate in one’s own body mass – the pure Körper, but also the Körper that starts feeling itself as such (and is therefore Leib as well), for instance through the experience of bodily discomfort, pain, illness. An internal intruder is not necessarily noticeable – its not being noticed is in fact part of its strangeness. A clear example is a tumor. This lumping mass of cancerous cells can silently be present for quite a while. This is perhaps the nastiest side of this disease: it first reveals itself silently, which actually means it does not reveal itself and one believes oneself to be healthy. Eventually this growing internal intruder will reveal itself in the form of physical discomfort.

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External intruders are all kinds of forms of matter that can be added to the body – in short, all kinds of prostheses. Concerning the relationship between internal and external forms of strangeness, an external intruder, a prosthesis, will replace or at times even remove something of the internal strangeness. In addition, the tolerance of the strangeness of the prosthesis is enabled by the strangeness that is always in us already. Appropriation of the strange, which basically implies embracing the strange, is possible only because as a rule we have an inalienable strangeness in us. Because we are also Körper, an extension, a lumping of cells – which often we do not even feel – it is possible to add Fremdkörper. Conversely, this also means that even in the case of full adaptation to a prosthetic device, it will continue to have a certain measure of strangeness, namely the inner strangeness of being a thing-like something. Thus we see that the strange dimension of one’s own body does not just consist of ‘body-foreign elements,’ but that there is a kind of interplay between a strange dimension coming from outside and a strange dimension that is always already there. In this dialectic of internal and external ‘oddities,’ technology plays a crucial role. It is technology, after all, that allows us to add all sorts of strange elements, prostithenai, to our body. On account of the high-paced technological development of our era, this adding has taken on spectacular forms. The functioning of Stephen Hawking is one example. Technology is not just applied to the body’s mechanism – the so-called locomotor system – but may also be deployed to optimize someone’s mental functioning. Such intervention is perhaps even more remarkable. Consider, for instance, the so-called technique of Deep Brain Stimulation, applied in case of obsessive-compulsive disorders, Tourette syndrome and Parkinson’s disease. This involves locating an electrode deep in the brain to activate that location with electricity. Patients can adjust the current through a switch implanted near the collarbone. At a specific current, patients will feel more relaxed and are less inclined to compulsive behavior (Greenberg et al., 2006). Because such ‘prostheses’ are extreme, some have wondered whether drastic technological intervention does not result in an ‘other I’ (Schechtman, 2010; Slob, 2004). Indeed, contemporary technology radically appears to alienate the body from itself, but we should not forget that man has always been the most terrifying and most troubling forger who ‘denatures and remakes nature’ (Nancy, 2008: 170). Technology has always been part and parcel of human life because it contributes to making life easier and postponing death. Our forebears went out to look for food carrying clubs and stones. But orthopedic prostheses, too, have been around for a long time. For example, a mummy from Cairo’s Egyptian Museum dating from the period

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1069-664 BC has a toe prosthesis made of wood and leather. Recent research applying gait analysis techniques to a replica of this ancient prosthesis has established that the device was highly efficient and functional, and was thus not primarily used for cosmetic reasons (Finch, 2011). In our era, however, technology has received another meaning. Characteristic of contemporary technology is that, paradoxically, it has rendered death more visible than ever, for ‘to defer death is also to exhibit it, to underscore it’ (Nancy, 2008: 165). In the modern era, technology has taken over the role of religion. If religion offered us a vision of the infinity of a life after death, technology merely promises a postponed death. The most characteristic strangeness of our time is not the bizarre nature of technological feats, but our sustained effort to defer death. At the beginning of The Intruder, Nancy posits that the intruder is a stranger or strangeness that will always remain strange and that we cannot make our own. This is the case, I believe, because there is interaction between forms of strangeness from within and outside. If the intruder would only be something from outside, a strange element added to the body, strangeness disappears as soon as it is incorporated. When a stranger knocks on our door and we let him in, he is in fact not a stranger anymore, and if we were capable of truly incorporating a strange element – an implant, transplant, or prosthesis – it is no longer strange anymore. The intruder, however, remains strange because once it is in our body, it is integrated in the internal strangeness formed by the körperliche dimension of the body. In its ultimate form, the strange nature of our Körperlichkeit involves the strange nature of death. To us, living individuals, death represents the strange par excellence. After his heart transplant, Nancy’s son characterized him as mort-vivant: a living dead person (Nancy 2008: 170). In multiple respects this adequately describes the situation. With a heart that is so diseased that its replacement is crucial for survival, one is first bound to die. It is abnormal in fact to live on when having a heart ‘programmed to live 50 years.’ One lives while one should have been dead already – like living on borrowed time. But mort-vivant also refers to the dead donor body. You live because someone else has died. The one heart, donated and accepted, connects the dead with the living. In a more fundamental way, however, mort-vivant does not refer merely to the borderline case of life and death that is characteristic of organ transplantation. When we receive the heart of another person we are confronted with the materiality of our own body, and its replaceability. That Körperlichkeit, even if it is the precondition of life, has a dead and thing-like nature. It is

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this thing-hood that reflects its strangeness and that corresponds to the internal strangeness described above. We all carry along this strangeness; it is our own. If we may not always be aware of it, an extreme intervention such as a heart transplant brings it home to us, unequivocally. However, also in Nancy’s text the heart transplant he underwent merely serves to illustrate this argument. The heart transplant merely figures as an eyeopener: ‘[N]ever has the strangeness of my own identity, which for me has always been nonetheless so vivid, touched me with such acuity … Between me and me, there had always been some space-time: but now there is an incision’s opening, and the irreconcilability of a compromised immune system’ (Nancy, 2008: 168). Not only those who walk around with an organ from a dead person are living dead; all of us carry along an inanimate and thing-like Körperlichkeit with us.

What is strange and what is own It is quite possible to consider my argument above merely as a confirmation of what philosophers have been saying all along. After all, what Plato called the weight of the body may well be understood as akin to our carrying along our inanimate and thing-like Körperlichkeit. Likewise, it seems reasonable to argue that this whole notion of the body as machine or thing (chose, res) perfectly follows Descartes’s logic. Indeed, basically I agree with this description of the body: we have ample reason to view the body as weighty and machine-like. This is also reflected in my reliance on the notion of körperlich. However, my position differs from this classical view on two crucial points. First, I argue that our own body is not just a Körper (thing), but also a Leib (lived body). Secondly, I argue that the body’s weight, its machine-like nature, or, in short, its körperliche dimension, is not something that we should only value negatively, as Plato did (as well as Sartre). We should not try to distance ourselves from the thing-like nature of the body, in part because such effort is doomed to fail anyway. To gain a good understanding of ourselves, we in fact need to understand that this strange thing-like nature intrinsically belongs to us, is our own, is inalienable. It is not something that we can disown. To further clarify the relationship between what is own and what is strange, it is productive to look carefully once more at 1) the connection between body and thought, and 2) the experience of our own body.

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In both Plato and Descartes there is an effort to keep the weight and thinglike nature of the body at bay. From my perspective, they view the body only as strange, as a strangeness that stands in the way of our owning it; as if saying: even though we carry along this weighty and thing-like body, it does not really have much to do with who we are. In their view, our identity (our ‘sphere of ownness’) is only and exclusively constituted by thought, the mind, reason. With other living beings we share the fact of having a body, but the big difference of course is that as an animal we are also equipped with reason – we are rational animals. What is own to human beings is reason, logos, and only through reason we demarcate our sphere of ownness. Above I discussed Nancy’s reading of Descartes, but when looking at the common interpretations of Descartes once again we see quite clearly how thought determines the sphere of ownness. The concern for methodical doubt works towards the aim of arriving at basic, indubitable evidence. It is also obvious, however, that this method is accompanied by a crossing-out of all that is physical, of all the körperliche, all extension. After this process of crossing out, eventually the thinking mind is what will remain: the ‘I’ as res cogitans. It is this ‘I’ that determines the sphere of ownness. Everything outside of this domain of thought is foreign to this ‘I’ or ‘self-consciousness.’ Apparently, the distinction between body and mind determines the distinction between what is strange or foreign and what is own. This even appears to be quite a robust distinction, since it has governed Western philosophy for centuries. It is possible, however, to raise questions here, and we may do so in various ways. At the start of this chapter I addressed the significance of language. Below, I would like to show that if we consider human beings as beings who own a language, it is not possible anymore simply to make a strict distinction between body and mind. Traditionally, mankind has been defined as being equipped with reason. Strikingly, this reason has been subsequently divided into a thinking part and a linguistic part. This is quite obvious, for example, in the mentalist view of language that has long prevailed in philosophy. As said, it assumes that language is secondary to thought – as if there could be thought without language. My argument has demonstrated, however, that we cannot separate thought and language from each other. Thought can only realize itself in language. Thought is a form of expressing oneself, and this means that it is not pure, not immanent or self-enclosed, but externalized and embodied. When we are thinking hard and we put in a concentrated effort that is fully geared to ourselves, whereby we do our utmost to cross out all extended matters (as in the Meditations by Descartes), there is still a certain

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extension because thought itself implies a spatial dimension. Eventually this also means that universal doubt can never be realized fully. We may doubt our body endlessly – for instance by believing that we are dreaming and that it is not our own body at all – but the activity of doubting itself always already assumes corporality. Thought itself in fact implies embodiment. Even Stephen Hawking is more than purely a thinking mind; through his condition, he represents a form of extended thinking that also extends itself in matter added by technology. When pure thought does not exist, while such thought was in fact seen as the manner in which we demarcate our sphere of ownness, we also need to ask ourselves if such domain of ownness exists at all. Put differently: what constitutes this ‘own’ I if not some assumed pure thought? Merleau-Ponty (1945) has also applied the term ‘own’ to our body – corps propre. My body is not just a body – it is my body, it is own to me. This puts into perspective the body’s strangeness as highlighted by Plato and Descartes. The body that I carry along with me is mine, it is my ‘metaphysical property’ (Harré, 1991). This me-ness of the body is the so-called experience of the body as a Leib (Husserl, 1952). As discussed in Chapter 2, this Leib experience is emphatically present when, for example, we touch our right hand with our left hand. We may consider the touched hand as a thing, a Körper, but this thing is not merely a thing because it can feel its being touched as well. It is also a sensing thing. This sensing does not pertain to something outside of our body, but in fact involves sensing one’s own body. I sense that I – not some other thing – am being touched; I feel my own touchability. This sensing is the experience of our own body as Leib or corps propre. This experience of me-ness is not limited to touching or feeling oneself. All forms of localized sensations – such as touch, pain, feeling cold or hot, but also the inner feeling of our own posture and motion – turn the body into one’s own body. The perception of one’s own body’s posture is called ‘proprioception.’ Literally this means perception of one’s own (proprio). Husserl’s description of the Leib experience is about a conscious experience, but proprioception involves a perception that in most cases we do not experience explicitly; it is rather preconscious or unconscious. Proprioception ‘tells’ us, among other things, what the different positions of our joints are. When I close my eyes and I bend and stretch my arm a few times, at any moment I can feel the position of my elbow joint, without having to feel it with my hand or look to it. This proprioception has to function continually in all my movements. I would not be able to walk without a proprioceptive feedback system that constantly registers the position of my ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders. But mostly the whole process unfolds unconsciously, or

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at least pre-consciously. If this were not the case, and if therefore we would constantly have a conscious experience of ‘now my right knee is slightly bent, and my left shoulder slants forward a little etc.,’ we would probably grow crazy. This example indicates that often the specific experience of me-ness or ownness is not present in the foreground at all. At any rate it is normal for the body to ignore itself, or, as some say, to be ‘absent’ (Leder, 1990). One’s own body may hide itself somewhere in the background. This is the case when we are fully healthy and thus not conscious of our body. We could say that as a result, our body remains lost in the strangeness of its imperceptiveness. Yet a touch will cause it to present itself in the foreground again. Touch is the contact with other bodies, with other things, as well as with oneself. A touch produces localized sensations: a pressure on the skin, a tingle, goose bumps, a vague sense of sickness in the stomach, a piercing pain in the leg, and so forth. These kinds of experiences make the body explicitly appear as own. But this ownness cannot do without strangeness. After all, a touch only occurs if the body is both sensing and sensed, and this eventually means in fact that it is a Leib and a Körper at the same time, or, put more precisely, that it is a Leibkörper, a corpus. What is own goes together with what is strange: without the strange and the thing-like of the body no localized sensation or touch can occur. The intrinsic nature of this combined reality may be further elucidated by the following example. When getting goose bumps on my arms, I feel it as an experience in my arms. The experience of goose bumps is the confirmation that these are my arms. I cannot feel my neighbor’s goose bumps. But this me-ness is nevertheless accompanied with strangeness because goose bumps can only occur in or on a piece of matter that can be touched. This piece of matter I call the thing-like or strange nature of my body. It is strange because it is something with which I never coincide; I may identify with it, but I do not have to do so. It is characteristic of the strangeness of one’s body, then, that we can relate to it and that we may do so in various ways: I may observe it, examine it; I may value it in a particular way and I can either identify with it or not; but I may also distance myself from it. Suppose that in an accident I lose my arm and that after some time I may receive a donor arm from my neighbor who just died. After a fully successful functional recovery, at one point I notice I am getting goose bumps. Just like before the transplant, these are my goose bumps and not those of the woman next door, even if the matter affected by my goose bumps has changed. This example reveals two things: 1. the experience of me-ness can only take place if there is an extended body that can be felt, and 2. this extended

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body – which I call the body’s strangeness – is in many cases changeable and exchangeable. If we exclusively start from the second point, we perhaps conclude that the Körperlichkeit, the strangeness of the body, cannot really play a role in someone’s identity, which means we are actually back where we started, in a Cartesian position. After all, when I just as well remain ‘I’ and ‘my goose bumps’ remain mine, even after having received another arm, it does not really matter out of which matter my own body is composed. But this conclusion is too easy and does not take the first point seriously. If our identity is perhaps not automatically at stake in the case of a drastic change in our body’s matter, there should be functional adjustment as well as a feeling-based tolerance of the strange matter. Consider Isabelle Dinoire, who one year after her facial transplant said: this face is entirely mine now. Even in cases of tolerance, however, it is not true that the strangeness of the körperliche dimension has automatically gone or become irrelevant. In contrast, I believe that the constitution of our identity – shaping our ‘I’ – involves an ongoing process, whereby we constantly identify anew with the körperliche dimension of our body. And this eventually means that this Körperlichkeit is part of our ‘I,’ without coinciding with it. Nancy describes this in a pregnant way as follows: ‘I am the cancerous cell and the grafted organ, I am these immuno-depressive agents and their palliatives, I am these ends of steel wire that brace my sternum and this injection site permanently sewn under my clavicle, altogether as if, already and besides, I were these screws in my thigh and this plate in my groin’ (2008: 170, my emphasis). The matter of the body – which is changeable, replaceable, and strange – cannot be seen in isolation of ‘I’; the former is an essential part of the latter. Applied to the situation of Stephen Hawking, this specifically means: ‘I am the speech computer.’ The matter added by technology that offers support in saying ‘I’ belongs to that ‘I.’ I constitute my ‘I’ by uttering ‘I’ – ego. The ‘oral-verbal space’ of this utterance is constituted by a plastic and prosthesized body.

Epilogue In this study I have argued on the basis of several examples that what we call our ‘I,’ what is most ‘own’ of ourselves, only exists by virtue of embracing the strangeness of our Körperlichkeit. This argument has major implications for our notion of identity. Identity, derived from the Latin identitas, means after all being literally the same. Normally it is said that ‘I’ is an expression of identity. ‘I’ am identical with ‘I,’ or ‘I = I.’ It is possible to change most parts of the körperliche dimension of our body and replace them by other matter. Therefore we need to ask whether the ‘I,’ which over time has had to identify repeatedly with other matter, is still the same or identical ‘I.’ The issue of identity is as old as Western philosophy. Plato recorded a famous statement by the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, who probably lived at the end of the sixth century BC: ‘Heraclitus says, you know, that all things move and nothing remains still, and he likens the universe to the current of a river, saying that you cannot step twice into the same stream’ (Cratylus: 402a). Because everything flows all the time – panta rhei – everything changes all the time, we cannot step into the same river twice. A river is never identical to itself because the water that flows in it is always other water. If we interpret Heraclitus’s words in this way, we end up with quite a specific view of identity: something is only identical with itself when it consists of exactly the same parts at different moments. According to this view, we can step into the same river twice if the river at moment t 1 (river A) consists of exactly the same water as at moment t 2 (river B): river A = river B only when all the water is the same in both cases. Because this is not the case, there can never be the same river. It is easy to see this when applied to our view of identity: there would be very few things which can be said to remain identical over the course of time. The composition of everything in nature is subject to change all the time, and this also applies to our bodies. Not all changes are visible, but if we are to stick to the above criterion this also means that the slightest change of particles cancels out identity. Starting from this strict criterion, there is virtually nothing that remains the same. This is a conclusion, however, that in no way agrees with how we experience our self or how we experience and recognize things and others around us. Although flowing water is replaced by other water permanently, we will still recognize the Maas River as one and the same river and also distinguish it from other rivers. Although the composition of my body has changed in

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the course of my life, at times more or less gradually, I still experience myself as one and the same person, not as someone else. The small child on the yellowed photograph is me, not some other person. Of course it is possible to say that in the course of my life I changed qualitatively, but numerically I am still the same person. The criterion for identity derived from Plato’s rendering of Heraclitus, that something can only remain the same if all parts remain the same, seems too strict to be tenable. But if we reject this standard, we still have to find a way to decide when something remains the same and when it does not. We will need to find another criterion. This problem is nicely illustrated by the so-called paradox of the Ship of Theseus. This is a puzzle that preoccupied ancient philosophers and that was described, for instance, by the Greek philosopher Plutarch (46-ca.120 AD). Theseus, a Greek hero, had a ship with which he used to go on long journeys. On one of these journeys, the whole ship needed to be restored at sea, whereby all its wooden parts were replaced. The ship with which Theseus returned to the port of Athens (ship B) consisted of other parts than the ship on which he left (ship A). The question posed here was whether ship A and B are numerically identical. Following the above-mentioned strict criterion, the answer is that the ships are not identical. If in fact this were to be the criterion for numerical identity, the replacement of a tiny wooden part would already cancel their numerical identity. But if we reject this strict criterion, we are faced with the problem of where to draw the line. After how many replaced wooden parts will Theseus’s ship stop being his ship? Or, put differently, what cannot be changed if the ship is to remain the same ship? Our body can be radically changed by all sorts of technological possibilities and we may well conceive of it as a Ship of Theseus (Onfray, 2003). We might ask ourselves when the point is reached at which a person has changed not only qualitatively, but also numerically. Assuming that all organs of our body are replaced, is it still (numerically) the same body? The question can also be phrased differently: what cannot be replaced if we are to speak of the same body? Onfray (2003) replies that it is not possible to replace the brain because only the brain can ensure that other, foreign organs can be appropriated. The brain makes sure that we can adapt our body image all the time. The criterion for human identity, in his view, is thus given with the brain. With someone else’s brain I would no longer be the same. His conclusion, therefore, is that ‘I’ is determined by the brain: ‘I and Me? My brain, nothing else …’

Epilogue

167

Of course, our brain plays a crucial role in the experience of our corporal self. It is quite tempting to localize our ‘I’ there. Nancy (2008), however, claims about the possibility of a brain transplant that the brain can only survive with at least one other part of the body, or perhaps also within a ‘whole system of transplanted Fremdkörper.’ He goes on: ‘A “proper” life, not to be found in any organ, and nothing without them’ (p. 166). Where Onfray defends the thesis that ‘I am my brain,’ Nancy seems to argue, ‘I am my body, however changeable it is.’ Thus he’s burning the ship of Theseus behind him because it implies that in determining who or what ‘I’ is, it is not relevant to ask for what is the same. We no longer should conceive of identity as ‘I = I,’ but rather as ‘I ≠ I.’ I am I because I never wholly coincide with myself. We are invited to break with a long philosophical tradition, to conceive of identity – identitas – no longer as being the same or identicalness, but as difference. I am my body, but I do not coincide with it. There is always a difference between ownness and strangeness, between Leib and Körper. It is impossible to point to a single place where my ‘I’ would reside – not in the brain, nor in a so-called enclosed thinking substance. In this sense Nancy would agree with Dennett (1991) who has argued, albeit via a quite different line of reasoning, that there is no such thing as a ‘brain pearl’ or a ‘central controller.’ This does not keep us from speaking about ‘I’ or ‘self.’ This self, according to Dennett, does not exist in reality, but only as a fiction. The mode of existence of myself is the same as that of a character in literary fiction: my ‘I’ is the product of the stories that I and others tell about myself, whereby we do not control this storytelling ourselves. Although Nancy does not call ‘I’ a fiction, he does underline that it has no assignable place of existence despite the fact that we stubbornly continue to say ‘I,’ referring to, yet also performing our presumable ‘selves.’ As he said in an interview: ‘I am never “real”: I am always what others do to me. Now I reply to your questions, but one hour later I talk to one of my children, “I” am a different “I.” But there is nothing that might serve as a fixed place where all these “I’s” come together. Nothing at least but my body – which itself is wholly ex-posed to what is outside’ (Devisch, 2002: 32-33, my translation and emphasis). – ‘I ends up being nothing more than a fine wire stretched from pain to pain and strangeness to strangeness’ (Nancy 2008: 169). Our identity lies in the body’s matter, but there is no final, ultimate ‘loadbearing’ matter, or, in other words, there is no substance. The matter of the body – which can be replaced, cut away, molded, supplemented, and perfected – is an ‘unassailable (inexpugnable) niche from where I say “I”’ (ibid.: 170). We have a certain distance to our körperliche body. This is also

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why we say to have a body. The body I have is largely changeable and even replaceable. Still, having a body does not stand in opposition to being a body. Bodily identity eventually means merely that ‘I am the body that I have.’ I am this strange body.



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Index of Names

Aristotle 13, 69, 122-123, 143-144 Augustine 119-120, 132, 134-135 Austin, John 146 Benveniste, Émile 145-148 Chatelier, Denis 76-79, 81 De Lamettrie, Julien 42-44, 48, 51, 58, 104, 127 Dennett, Daniel 54-56, 126, 167 Descartes, René 35-44, 51, 58, 62, 69, 82-83, 94, 97-98, 104, 119-125, 127-128, 132-133, 144, 147-148, 151-152, 159-161 Dinoire, Isabelle 111-112, 114, 163 Echo 89-90 Foucault, Michel 104-107, 117, 127, 139 Freud, Sigmund 83, 89-94, 100 Giddens, Anthony 109 Hades 100 Hallam, Clint 80-83, 110, 113 Haraway, Donna 57 Hatoum, Mona 137-140 Hawking, Stephen 143-145, 149, 153-154, 157, 161, 163 Head, Henry 67 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 86 Heidegger, Martin 48, 101, 123, 128 Heraclitus 165-166

Husserl, Edmund 18-19, 45-48, 69-73, 75, 77, 94-97, 131, 133, 153, 161 Lacan, Jacques 91-93, 97-98 Le Breton, David 27-28, 78 Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm 94, 97 Locke, John 13-14, 18, 122, 149 Medusa 100-101, 103 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice 59-66, 68-69, 72, 81-82, 88, 97-99, 103-104, 133, 137, 149, 153, 161 Nancy, Jean-Luc 119-120, 127-135, 140-141, 148-149, 151-160, 163, 167 Narcissus 83, 89-90, 94, 97-98 Ovid 89-90 Perseus 100-101 Pistorius, Oscar 23-27, 34, 50, 52 Plato 28-34, 36, 89, 123, 143, 145, 159-161, 165-166 Ramachandran, V.S. 61, 72, 74 Ricoeur, Paul 94, 97 Ryle, Gilbert 42, 125 Sartre, Jean-Paul 47-52, 101-105, 129 Schilder, Paul 56, 60-61, 63, 72 Stelarc 57-58 Theseus 166-167 Verheyen, Philip 59-60 Wittgenstein, Ludwig 147, 150-151



Index of Subjects

alter ego 96-97 amputation 53, 59-60, 72, 76, 80, 83 animal rationale 144, 160 animal spirits 36-37, 41, 51 anorexia 89 ‘appresentation’ 95-96 beauty 85-86, 90, 100, 107, 109, 123 behaviorism (logical) 124-126 Big Brother 106 blind-born 93 body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) 89, 113-114 body image 66, 89, 114, 140, 166 body integrity identity disorder (BIID) 83 body schema 66-69, 78, 80-81 body-mind 127 cancer 64, 116, 156, 163 Cartesian materialism 42 cogito (I think) 47, 94-95, 122-123, 147-148, 152-153 cogito ergo sum 147, 152 corps étranger (strange body) 112, 137-140 corps propre (own body) 59, 69, 98, 137, 161 corpus 133, 162 cosmetic surgery 85-86, 108-109 cyborg 57 deep brain stimulation 57, 157 disability 23-25 endoscopy 115, 127, 139 enhancement 17, 24 être au monde (being to or in the world) 62-64 être en soi (being in itself) 48, 62, 101, 103, 129 être pour autrui (being for another) 50, 103 être pour soi (being for itself) 48, 62, 101, 103 être touché (being touched) 129, 131, 133, 141, 156, 161-162 extended phenotype 55, 56, 68 ‘exteriority’ 131-132, 134-136 Extreme Make-Over: The Swan 87 face transplant 76, 110-114 Face/Off (John Woo) 110-111 Fantastic Voyage 118 flesh (la chair) 97, 99 Fractal Flesh 57 ‘Frankenstein Syndrome’ 79 Fremdkörper 18, 20, 52, 71, 76, 79, 112, 157, 167 gaze 50-51, 85, 87, 100-106, 108-109, 111, 117, 119, 139-140 habitual body – actual body 63 hand transplant 76-82 handiness 58, 63, 65, 81 head-body transplant 18, 153 heart transplant 155, 158-159 ‘I can’ 65-66 identification 83, 91-93, 108

identity (numerical, qualitative) 13-20, 47, 56, 122, 128, 131-132, 145, 155, 159-160, 163, 165-168 identity and difference 128, 131, 167-168 immune system 18, 76-77, 156, 159 intentionality 46-48, 66, 96, 102 interiority 118, 131-135, 141 intersubjectivity 95, 97 intimacy 188-122, 132, 135, 141 introspective psychology 124 Körper 68-71, 73-79, 96-99, 104, 110, 112-113, 126, 129, 133-134, 136, 156-157, 159, 161-162, 167 Körperlichkeit 74, 98, 133-134, 140, 155-156, 158-159, 163, 165 Körperwelten 137 language game 150 Leib 68-75, 77-79, 81, 96-99, 104, 110, 112, 126, 129, 133-134, 136, 140, 156, 159, 161-162, 167 Leibkörper 70, 74-75, 96-97, 133, 162 libido 83, 91-92, 94 localized sensations 71, 77, 81, 161-162 materialism 42, 127-129, 131 matter as difference 128 medical imaging 115-119, 127 ‘me-ness’ 20, 70, 72, 74-76, 81-82, 120, 161-162 mirror image 82-83, 87-94, 97-100, 103, 107-114 mirror stage 92, 98-99 narcissism 83, 90-91, 93, 97-99, 103, 138 normalization 86, 106-108 organic repression 61, 63 ‘outwardness’ 119, 126, 131-132, 134-136, 155 ‘ownness’ 18-20, 42, 51-52, 58-60, 64, 73, 75, 83, 95, 97-98, 114, 120, 160-162, 167 pain 37, 43, 49-50, 58-61, 65-66, 71, 118-119, 126, 132-133, 147, 150, 161-162 panopticon 105-109, 139 partage (sharing and dividing) 130-131, 135 penis transplant 81 performative language (speech acts) 146-148, 153 personal pronouns 146-148 phantom limb 59-67, 72 physiognomy 85 pineal gland 41-42, 151-152 power (discipline) 100-106, 108-109, 117 pregnancy 115, 141-142 prereflective experience 61, 63, 66, 68, 140 prosthesis (leg, arm) 23-24, 58, 153-154, 157-158 reality TV 53, 85-88, 106, 108 res cogitans 38, 40, 98, 121-123, 125, 148, 152, 160 res extensa 40, 67, 81, 98, 127-128, 131 rubber hand illusion (RHI) 72-73 self-consciousness 74, 88, 97, 120-123, 133, 141, 145, 147, 150-151, 160 self-recognition 88 ‘sensings’ 71, 74, 77

180  shame 50-51, 102-103 Slow Man 76 soul 28-34, 36-45, 69, 124, 127 speech computer 145, 149, 153-154, 163 subject 20, 95-96, 119, 122-124, 128-129, 131-134, 146-148, 151, 155 substance 39-44, 69, 94, 98, 119, 122-125, 127-129, 131-134, 147-148, 150-153, 155, 167

Our str ange body

superego 99-100 The Fourth Hand 80 The Magic Mountain 136 The Matrix 33 The Truman Show 33 transsexuality 113 visual eugenics 85