BODY CONSCIOUSNESS A PHILOSOPHY OF MINDFULNESS AND SOMAESTHETICS PDF

It is generally thought that one aim of philosophy is to make us question assumptions, including the assumptions embedded in our social and political status quo. And typically the means by which we, as philosophers, achieve this aim is via arguments that work on the mind, arguments, for example, that illustrate how various stereotypical views of race are misguided. Racial hostility, Shusterman explains in Thinking through the Body , is difficult to cure in part because, at least at times, it arises not out of the conclusion of a misguided instance of practical reasoning but out of bodily experiences, from such things as the slightly uncomfortable and perhaps entirely unconscious bodily feeling of being around someone of a different race , pp. To cure racial hostility, then, we need, among other things, to cultivate our somatic awareness, to bring these bodily feelings to the fore so we can work towards countering the habitual ways in which they compel us to react , pp. Without changing these bodily habits, he points out, we will not be fully rational, for we will act in ways that do not comport with our explicit beliefs and desires , p.

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Further, work in this area can provide novel insights into personal identity, gender, linguistics, and philosophy of mind. This field is essential for philosophy since the acquisition of knowledge is largely contingent on sensory perception, which is in turn contingent upon the body. Somaesthetics can consequently play an important role in acquiring knowledge since its practices allow individuals to improve somatic functioning and, consequently, to improve perceptual accuracy.

More generally, one of the aims of philosophy is self-knowledge, and since the self is necessarily embodied, it is clear that philosophy must concern itself with embodiment. Somaesthetic practices such as the Feldenkrais Method, Alexander Technique, and Bioenergetics can increase body consciousness and can consequently give practitioners insight into the manner in which the body shapes the self. Shusterman made these points in earlier works such as Pragmatist Aesthetics and Performing Live ; however, whereas those earlier texts include essays on topics ranging from somaesthetics, to popular music, multiculturalism, and postmodernism, Body Consciousness focuses primarily on the philosophy of embodiment.

It is certainly an important argument to consider as contemporary culture often prescribes modes of embodiment and attitudes toward the body that warrant scrutiny and, in some instances, remedy. Shusterman persuasively argues that steps must be taken to critique existing practices and to study alternative practices that offer fulfilling somatic experience. Shusterman discusses the descriptive and theoretical accounts of embodiment given by these thinkers to the extent that the book would be a valuable resource for a Philosophy of the Body course.

Further, drawing on biographical sources, Shusterman considers the manner in which each figure lived out their embodiment. Shusterman demonstrates that the analysis of both analytic and practical somaesthetics discloses a relationship between theoretical accounts of embodiment and the manner in which one inhabits the body. Indeed, this reinforces the claim that steps should be taken to critically evaluate and continually reassess the concepts and values that underlie and inform somaesthetic practice.

Shusterman criticizes the somaesthetic accounts presented by Foucault and others because they share a tendency to overlook important aspects of embodiment. Such theoretical limitations, Shusterman suggests, often produce negative somatic effects.

Indeed, with these thoughts in mind, the reader will likely begin to wonder what more inclusive somaesthetic practices look like. This leads me to raise two interrelated issues. The Feldenkrais Method and, to a lesser extent, Zen meditation is the foil against which the theories and practices of the body philosophers are judged. It is also suggested that breathing and meditation techniques can also improve somatic functioning and the general quality of somatic experience 20, — With this said, after reading sustained criticism of limited somaesthetic practices and theoretical frameworks, the reader is left wanting more analysis of the more integrated somaesthetic methods such as Feldenkrais.

Of course, practices such as these avoid the limitations of other practices by functionally integrating the body, but since the specificities of the techniques and theoretical frameworks are not spelled out in detail, the reader is unclear as to how this end is achieved. Do they have similar analytic frameworks, or are they similar just because they tend to produce the same somaesthetic effects for example, more efficient somatic functioning, health, stress reduction, and somaesthetic experience?

Indeed, educators who practice somaesthetic disciplines other than those discussed by Shusterman—such as dance, theater performance, martial arts, and athletics—may very well wonder how their work fits into the picture that Shusterman paints.

However, orienting a wide array of somaesthetic practices is difficult if the details of the more holistic practices are not spelled out. I suspect that this issue is not addressed as emphasis is consistently placed on the Feldenkrais Method. I have concerns about lumping practices with diverse theoretical frameworks and practical methods together; however, my stronger concern pertains to a lack of justification for the use of Feldenkrais as the foil against which somaesthetic practices are judged.

Of course, Shusterman focuses on Feldenkrais since he is a Feldenkrais practitioner. However, if one is engaged in a critical endeavor for example, pragmatic somaesthetics then one must critique all the practices that are on the table.

Body Consciousness critiques the theoretical and practical approaches advocated by the body philosophers but does not address any theoretical or practical limitations of the Feldenkrais Method itself.

Hence, I am putting my previous point another way: more detail about Feldenkrais needs to be given in order to justify using it in a critical analysis. Early on, it is noted that moral philosophers should take the body into account not only because it plays a pivotal role in the pursuit of virtue and self-mastery but also because a robust understanding of embodiment can contribute to our understanding of the deeply visceral attitudes that individuals can harbor toward others Indeed, improved somatic functioning may benefit practitioners not only by allowing them to enjoy embodied experience, but it may also allow them to become better people.

More specifically, Shusterman argues that an enhanced awareness of somaesthetic feelings can provide individuals with the tools necessary for embodied self-awareness, which can in turn facilitate the pursuit of moral goodness. Body consciousness entails not only being aware of the joys of embodiment but also being aware of emotional states and the unconscious physical habits that keep individuals from executing voluntary actions I believe that Shusterman is correct here as his argument concerning the intersection of the body, ethics, and aesthetics rests soundly on empirical evidence.

He points out that classical Chinese philosophy especially Confucianism and Daoism emphasizes that cultivating the body is both a moral and an somaesthetic process ; however, those traditions are notoriously vague about the relationship between ethics and the body and ultimately seem to take it as a given.

Shusterman suggests that awareness of standards of somaesthetic goodness can facilitate tolerance as they often entail a questionable distinction between somatic purity and impurity. Homosexuality, for example, can be perceived as alien and threatening since the acts and appetites that characterize it manifestly deviate from established forms of bodily desire and behavior One way to remedy the problem is to become reflectively aware of the fact that the notion of somatic purity is at best questionable.

Indeed, Shusterman rightly observes that the body is a messy container that is continually absorbing and expelling materials However, since notions of purity and impurity are conceptual and are expressed symbolically , this reflective process may not remedy the deeply ingrained somatic attitudes that concern him. It is also suggested that somaesthetic mindfulness offers the means to recognize and control visceral reactions Indeed, meditation and stress management practitioners agree that regulating breath rate allows one to control the emotions.

That is, slowing and deepening the breath produces a calming effect and alleviates the muscular tension associated with emotions like anger. Perhaps these methods can be used to gradually undermine the physical foundation of negative moral attitudes. It seems clear that body consciousness would improve sensitivity to visceral emotions, but this raises a [End Page ] practical question concerning who practices these techniques. I am hesitant to make generalizations, but it seems that those who use somaesthetic methods to develop body consciousness would more than likely be less inclined to harbor racist or homophobic sentiments, as they would in some sense already be disposed to pursuing a plurality of value.

This not to say that such individuals would be free from narrow-minded attitudes and beliefs; however, they would value self-cultivation and self-knowledge, and such valuing is at odds, I think, with racist or homophobic attitudes. Indeed, body consciousness can be used to address racism and homophobia, but the question then becomes, How do we get the racist and the homophobe to practice the techniques that foster body consciousness?

This may be possible for example, someone who is worried by the effects of stress on health may be ready and willing to practice breathing methods to the extent of developing a rich sense of embodiment , but it would be pragmatically more effective to consider how body consciousness can be developed before racist or homophobic attitudes solidify, that is, to consider how body consciousness can be developed during childhood.

The way to foster the connection between moral sensibility and embodiment necessitates considering how children can develop sensitivity to and appreciation for embodied experience. This returns us to pragmatic somaesthetics for the techniques that Shusterman focuses on Zen meditation and Feldenkrais are not appropriate for children. Indeed, a pragmatic analysis must be undertaken that would consider which practices are suitable for children, would foster rich somaesthetic experience and an appreciation of otherness.

I will only speculate that athletics, martial arts, dance, and performance are more suitable not only because they can be fun but also because they offer the possibility of shared somaesthetic experience.

Ideally, they give bodies the chance to cooperatively work together in order to reach a commonly valued end. With this said, these issues do not detract from the argument of Body Consciousness, and the book takes significant steps forward in developing somaesthetics as a discipline. Indeed, these comments demonstrate that the book is thought provoking, and they leave the reader anticipating where Shusterman will go next.

It will be valuable for any who are interested in the philosophy of the body, aesthetics, and the intersection of ethics and aesthetics. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

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Body Consciousness: A Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics

Further, work in this area can provide novel insights into personal identity, gender, linguistics, and philosophy of mind. This field is essential for philosophy since the acquisition of knowledge is largely contingent on sensory perception, which is in turn contingent upon the body. Somaesthetics can consequently play an important role in acquiring knowledge since its practices allow individuals to improve somatic functioning and, consequently, to improve perceptual accuracy. More generally, one of the aims of philosophy is self-knowledge, and since the self is necessarily embodied, it is clear that philosophy must concern itself with embodiment. Somaesthetic practices such as the Feldenkrais Method, Alexander Technique, and Bioenergetics can increase body consciousness and can consequently give practitioners insight into the manner in which the body shapes the self.

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Body Consciousness : A Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics

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