There’s no Ghost in the Machine, and it’s no Machine either!
Re-orienting Philosophy of Mind through ‘Lived Body’
University of Calicut, Calicut
Consciousness/Mind - a theme which has dominated the philosophical circles ever since the modern period, still remains too 'hard a problem' to be solved. The core theme has sprouted numerous branches and sub branches and has produced considerable volumes of literature around it over time. However the long journey seems to have got bifurcated into ‘two cultures’ , namely the sciences vs. humanities in the broadest epistemological sense, analytical vs. phenomenological , and materialist–reductionist vs. dualist in the philosophical sense, behavioral-functional vs. enactive-reflexive in the psychological sense and so on, basing the differentiation largely on the idea of objectivity and subjectivity.
When the quest to discern the same phenomenon bifurcates into two traditions, even being aware of their inevitable convergence as to the ultimate goal, such bifurcation should be based on some misjudgments and misconceptions. A close perusal from a first person point of view informs us that any objectification starts with the suspension of that very being, who is attempting the objectification. That very being which serves as the subject has to be objectified as a body in the first instance!. This insight has the clue in it as to the reason for the present impasse that consciousness/mind research is trapped in. It is nothing but the wrong concept of the body in both the traditions. The common mistake has been to view the body as ‘objective body’- the body as seen from an observer’s point of view, where the observer may be a scientist, a physician, or even the embodied subject herself! .Once body is conceptualized thus, then there is no other option than to embrace either dualism or materialist reductionism when it comes to a theory of consciousness/mind, both of which have proved to be futile so far in that endeavor. And interestingly, the former approach has resulted in the famous ‘ghost in the machine’ ideal, and the latter in reducing human existence to the idea of ‘a highly evolved and stupendously complex machine’!
However, capitalizing on its unique insight as to human embodiment, Existential phenomenology can be seen to have responded to this impasse and tackled it successfully. And it is Maurice Merleau Ponty who has contributed heavily in this endeavor. He has drawn a distinction between what is conceptualized in Phenomenology as the ‘lived body’ and what the specatorial stance lead to, termed as the ‘objective body’. Building on Heidegger’s revision of subjectivity as a self-world relation rather than a consciousness apart from the world, Merleau Ponty has elaborated the concept of Dasein through an existential phenomenological rehabilitation of the human body, and provided it as the pre-categorical ground sought by Husserl and Heidegger that crosses between subjectivity and objectivity. He has further adopted and developed the Phenomenological concept of ‘operative intentionality’ as it reveals in the ‘lived body’, to express the continuity of the surface and depth of the world and that of human body.
Thus the Pontian insight as to the primary way of being in the world as a ‘lived body’ -i.e., the body understood as an embodied first person perspective or embodied consciousness as such, is capable of bringing about a reorientation in the field of Philosophy of Mind. A blue print of such a reorientation is intended to be developed in the present paper.