The Ontological Dimensions of the Body

  • Richard M. Zaner
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 17)


There is an initial difficulty in attempting to study the body, one which, Sartre states, arises especially for Cartesian philosophy. If one begins by considering the body as a certain neurological-physiological complex defined by certain physico-chemical laws — in short, as a thing on a par with any other physical thing, although perchance more complicated — and in addition by considering consciousness as an interiority, then the effort to connect these two is doomed to failure. For, it is an effort to unite my consciousness, not with my body, but with the body-of-the-Other. My own body as it is for me cannot be apprehended in sensuous perception like other physical things, including the body of the Other. I do not sense my skeleton, my brain, my nerve-endings, and the like; and even coenesthetic, proprioceptive, and kinaesthetic data are not apprehended by me as objects.


Sense Organ Visible Object Physical Thing Ontological Modality Ontological Dimension 
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  1. 1.
    J. H. Van Den Berg, “The Human Body and the Significance of Human Movement,” PPR, Vol. xiii, No. 2 (December, 1952), p. 169.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    Van Den Berg, op. cit., p. 170.Google Scholar
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    Cf. above, pp. 65–69.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Van Den Berg, op. cit., p. 173.Google Scholar
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    Cf. the study by Ludwig Binswanger, “The Case of Ellen West: An Anthropological-Clinical Study,” in: May, et al. (editors), Existence, Basic Books (New York, 1958), pp. 237–364, esp. pp. 277–90 on the body.Google Scholar
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    This insight provides perhaps the closest connections between existential philosophy and existential psychology. As Buytendijk states: “…the observable relations between the animal and his milieu are never perceived as a series of processes, but always as phenomena connected in a significative manner to something else… in their behavior living beings manifest themselves immediately as subjects. The structure of behavior, as a relation of the subject to his world, is immediately evident.” Attitudes et Mouvements: Etude fonctionnelle du mouvement humain, Desclée de Brouwer (Paris, 1957), pp. 43 and 47. Cf. also Van Den Berg, The Phenomenological Approach to Psychiatry, Charles C. Thomas (Springfield, 1955), esp. pp. 28–47.Google Scholar
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    Van Den Berg, “The Human Body and the Significance of Human Movement,” op. cit., pp. 174–175.Google Scholar
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    Cf. above, pp. 77–79.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard M. Zaner

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