Not a Sailor in His Ship: Descartes on Bodily Awareness

In Routledge Handbook of Bodily Awareness (forthcoming)
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Abstract
Despite his reputation for neglecting the body, Descartes develops a systematic account of bodily awareness. He holds that in bodily awareness each of us feels intimately connected to our body. We experience this body as inescapable, as infused with bodily sensations and volitions, and as a special object of concern. This multifaceted experience plays an ambivalent role in Descartes’s philosophy. Bodily awareness is epistemically dangerous. It tempts us to falsely judge that we cannot exist apart from our bodies. But bodily awareness isn’t all bad for Descartes. It helps us stay alive. Bodily awareness also serves as a corrective to overly disembodied conceptions of the self.
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