Sunday, September 18, 2011

Husserl's theory of the Other (2)

In Husserl's theory, 'Pairing' (Paarung) is the second phase of constitution of the other.

The other's body appears in my perceptual field, originally as objective and material. But it is constituted as a living body through analogy, that is, it is apprehended as an animate organism since it is similar to my own living body. The other's body is recognized as 'the other person's living body', paired to my own living body. There is a process of 'Pairing' of my body and that of the other. Husserl says:

...pairing first comes about when the Other enters my field of perception. I, as the primordial psychophysical Ego, am always prominent in my primordial field of perception, regardless of whether I pay attention to myself and turn toward myself with some activity or other. In particular, my live body is always there and sensuously prominent; but, in addition to that and likewise with primordial originariness, it is equipped with the specific sense of an animate organism. Now in case there presents itself, as outstanding in my primordial sphere, a body "similar" to mine --- that is to say, a body with determinations such that it must enter into a phenomenal pairing with mine --- it seems clear without more ado that, with the transfer of sense, this body must forthwith appropriate from mine the sense: animate organism.
[Husserl, E (1950/1988). Cartesian Meditation. (trans.) D. Cairns. London: Kluwer Academic. p.113]

In this passage, Husserl is simply claiming that I recognize the other's body as living body (Leib) because it is similar to mine. But how is the range of similarity asked here? For example, how about an animal's body?, a doll?, a robot? Do they have the body which can be paired to mine?

Anyway, what is important here is that we recognize the other person as an embodied being, before we recognize them as a mental being. The problem of other minds should be grounded on the embodiment.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The sense of body ownership

Today I've been preparing the poster that I'm going to present at the Japanese Psychological Association in a few days. My idea is about the recognition of one's own body, especially the sense of body ownership.

Recognizing the given body as "mine" or as "one's own" is not so trivial as it seems. For example, there are two contrasting, anomalous cases of body experience. One is the rubber hand illusion (RHI), the other is the case of depersonalization. I already wrote here on both cases. Please see;

rubber hand illusion


In RHI experiments, the participants feels touch on the rubber hand and also feels as if the rubber hand is the real one. In this case, "my body" includes the rubber hand, which is originally an external object.

On the contrary, the patients with depersonalization feel as if they were disembodied. They are difficult to have the sense of body ownership on their own bodies. There is almost nothing that can be felt as "my body", as the very sense of self is alienated from the body.

The sense of body ownership probably derives from the fact that one's own body is ambiguous as Merleau-Ponty described. On the one hand, body is the subject, which I live from within. I am the body and I perceive the world and act in the world as the body. On the other hand, the body appears as an object to me. I can see it in front of my eyes, I touch it with my hands.

Neurologically speaking, the subject side of the body appears as proprioceptive sensation and the object side of the body appears as visual or tactile sensation. Then, the multimordal or cross-modal integration of these sensations create the sense of body ownership in the brain.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Husserl's theory of the Other (1)

In the Cartesian Meditation, Husserl presented his theory of the other and the othernss. Bridging the gap between the self and the other was a very important issue for Husserl, because his phenomenology was often mistook as solipsistic. Though his attempt does not seem very successful, I think it is still worth reading in order to think over the current problem of the other mind.

First of all, the other person shows up in my perceptual field as a body ('Körper'). At this phase, the other is not yet a 'person' but a mere body that is material and objective. Then it is apprehended as a living body ('Leib'), receiving its 'liveness' transferred from my body. My own body is the only animate organism in my phenomenologically-reduced world. It is my body that provides the other body with meaning. Husserl writes as following:

Let us assume that another man enters our perceptual sphere. Primordially reduced, that signifies: In the perceptual sphere pertaining to my primordial Nature, a body is presented, which, as primordial, is of course only a determining part of myself: an "immanent transcendency". Since in this Nature and this world, my animate organism is the only body that is or can be constituted originally as an animate organism (a functioning organ), the body over there, wich is nevertheless apprehended as an animate organism, must have derived this sense by an apperceptive transfer from my animate organism, and done so in a manner that excludes an actually direct, and hence primordial, showing of the predicates belonging to an animate organism specifically, a showing of them in perception proper.
[Husserl, E (1988). Cartesian Meditation. London: Kluwer Academic. pp.110-111.]