A Ghost in the Shell or an Anatomically Constrained Phenomenon? Consciousness through the Spatiotemporal Body

Phenomenology and Mind 22:104 (2022)
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Intuitively, we can conceive of the existence of a conscious state as a pure activity that does not necessarily require a body. This idea has found new support in certain recent theories that present the possibility of a totally disconnected and disembodied consciousness. Against this hypothesis, I argue that human experience is intrinsically embodied and embedded, though in a specific way. Using Sartre’s phenomenology of the body, I first analyze the concept of consciousness as intentionality and a world-disclosing activity, thus explaining how conscious activity can only be expressed through a body that is spatiotemporally related to the world. Then, I argue that bodily consciousness does not necessarily imply the actual presence of an anatomical body but, rather, a process of spatialization and temporalization through the “spatiotemporal body”. Finally, I test my thesis by critiquing some cases of apparent disembodied/disconnected consciousness, i.e., dreams, out-of-body experiences, and the brain-in-a-vat scenario.


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