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The intimate connexion: bodily awareness and bodily agency

Wong, H.Y.; (2009) The intimate connexion: bodily awareness and bodily agency. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the relation between bodily awareness and bodily agency. Descartes‘s observation that we are not in our bodies as pilots in vessels suggests two thoughts about the special role of the body in experience and agency. The first is that we experience our bodies ‗from the inside‘ and not just as one more material body amongst other material objects of perception (Feeling). The second is that we are able to act with our bodies in ways in which we are not with any other bodies or objects (Direct Control). My goal is to articulate the proper relationship between Feeling and Direct Control. There are three broad options: they are independent (Independence); Feeling is because of Direct Control (Enaction); and Direct Control is because of Feeling (Necessity). Independence cannot make sense of the rational role of experience in guiding action. Finding Independence unsatisfactory is the force of intuition toward articulating some kind of intimate connexion between bodily awareness and bodily agency. Enaction is subject to counterexamples from paralysed subjects, pain in body parts (such as internal organs) that we cannot act with, and double dissociations between bodily awareness and bodily action. The most attractive option is Necessity, but it is still empirically inadequate. Whilst the intimacy between bodily awareness and agency is not in doubt, the counterexamples suggest that their relation cannot quite be understood in the way that Necessity claims. I develop a view on which bodily awareness is necessary for bodily agency, but not for the online control of actions (as Necessity claims). Rather, bodily awareness plays an essential role in action planning, since to plan an action is to have some conception of what you can do – which requires body schemata and awareness of current bodily dispositions.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:The intimate connexion: bodily awareness and bodily agency
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Philosophy

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