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(2001) Handbook of phenomenology and medicine, Dordrecht, Springer.

Dimensions of embodiment

body image and body schema in medical contexts

Shaun Gallagher

pp. 147-175

Perhaps the most general and most obvious fact about medicine is that it concerns the body. If one eliminates the body one eliminates the subject and object of medical science and practice. In contrast, philosophy has traditionally been dismissive of the body. One need not return to Plato, Plotinus, or Descartes to find representatives of this view. More recently, in the branch of philosophy known as philosophy of mind, and in the context of writing about personal identity, the philosopher Sidney Shoemaker (1999, 1976) distinguishes between three different concepts of embodiment: biological embodiment, sensory embodiment, and volitional embodiment. Shoemaker readily dismisses biological embodiment as being of any feasible importance to the issue of personal identity (he calls it a "radical" supposition to maintain that the biological body has relevance to this issue). The other two concepts of embodiment are analyzed in the context of functionalist thought experiments (involving such logical possibilities as body exchanges and brain transplants), putatively showing how unessential the body is to self-identity, understood as psychological continuity. Shoemaker, and others who frame their theories of personal identity in terms of psychological continuity, are not alone in this regard. Even theorists who reject approaches based on psychological continuity, and defend a biological approach to the question of personal identity, may dismiss the body as having relevance. Eric Olson (1997, p. 150), for example, captures the sentiment of numerous contemporary philosophers when he suggests that "the notion of a human body is best left out of philosophy, or at least out of discussions of personal identity."

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-94-010-0536-4_8

Full citation:

Gallagher, S. (2001)., Dimensions of embodiment: body image and body schema in medical contexts, in S. K. Toombs (ed.), Handbook of phenomenology and medicine, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 147-175.

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