Embodiment, sociality, and the life shaping thesis

Michelle Maiese

pp. 353-374

What Kyselo calls the "body-social problem" concerns whether to individuate the human self in terms of its bodily aspects or social aspects. In her view, either approach risks privileging one dimension while reducing the other to a mere contextual element. However, she proposes that principles from enactivism can help us to find a middle ground and solve the body-social problem. Here Kyselo looks to the notions of "needful freedom" and "individuation through and from a world" and extends them from the realm of biological individuation to an individuation in terms of social interactions. However, I will argue that because Kyselo's solution to the body-social problem downplays the role of the living body, it actually is in tension with the enactivist framework. First, while enactivism places the living body at the center of selfhood and subjectivity, Kyselo's account treats the living body as mere means and mediator. Second, her claim that the self is socially enacted and individuated is in tension with the enactivist conception of autonomous agency, which centers on the autonomous organization of the living body. However, suppose we grant Kyselo's claim that we are necessarily social beings, but claim that the mind of a minded human animal constitutively extends to the limits of its living organismic body, but no further. My proposed "life shaping" thesis says that the self is not just essentially embodied, but also partially causally determined or shaped by social interactions, and thoroughly influenced by social norms and values. The life shaping thesis can explain how the self is individuated biologically, in terms of the autonomous organization of the living body, but nonetheless deeply embedded in the social world.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11097-018-9565-z

Full citation:

Maiese, M. (2019). Embodiment, sociality, and the life shaping thesis. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 18 (2), pp. 353-374.

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