The Lived-Body as Catalytic Agent: Reaction at the Interface of Medicine and Philosophy

  • Stuart F. Spicker
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 1)


Throughout the history of Occidental philosophy one generation after another (including philosophers as well as physicians) has had to suffer the tyranny of spiritualistic metaphysics, what Edmund Husserl, the founder of 20th century phenomenological philosophy, called “historically degenerate” metaphysics.1 I hasten to qualify this assertion by adding that such suffering, in my judgment, need not be alleviated by the questionable practice of euthanasia on the part of contemporary philosophers, although one may well make the case that negative euthanasia2 is justified in the case of a speculative metaphysics which has produced little more than an emptily formal ontology. Yet this harsh judgment need not entail the conclusion that Metaphysics überhaupt, to which some physicians and philosophers have, regrettably, an aversion, be henceforth rejected and abandoned. Indeed, it is one of the aims of this essay to make plausible and palatable the claim that Metaphysics or First Philosophy is in fact intimately bound to Medicine3 at their interface — the lived human body — and that this is at once identical with the initial aspirations of both philosophy and medicine, qualified by the exclusion of what Husserl called “all speculative excesses.” 4


Parietal Lobe Physical Body Abstract Entity Terra Firma Dominant Hemisphere 
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  1. 1.
    Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology,trans. by Dorion Cairns (Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1960), p. 139. In his analysis of the constituting of intersubjectivity in the “Fifth Meditation,” Husserl remarks that what he means by metaphysics is “anything but metaphysics in the customary sense” [Aber nichts weniger als Metaphysik im gewohnten Sinne ist hier in Frage]; for the sense of metaphysics has become “historisch entartete.” See the original text, Cartesianische Meditationen and Pariser Vorträge,1929, ed. by S. Strasser, Husserliana,Band I (Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1950), p. 166.Google Scholar
  2. 19.
    J. H. Van Den Berg, “The Human Body and the Significance of Human Movement: A Phenomenological Study,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 13 (December, 1952 ), 169–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 53.
    Josef Gerstmann, “Syndrome of Finger Agnosia, Disorientation for Right and Left, Agraphia and Acalculia,” Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 44 (1940), 398–408.Google Scholar
  4. 57.
    F. Grewel, “Acalculia,” Brain 75 (1952), 397. The reference is to S. E. Henschen, “Ueber Sprach-, Musik-and Rechenmechanismen and ihre Lokalisation im Gehirn,” Zeitschrift ges. Neurologie and Psychiatrie 52 (1919), 273.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stuart F. Spicker
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Connecticut Health CenterFarmingtonUSA

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