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by Eduardo Jose E. Calasanz
Any philosophy of man is a systematic and holistic attempt to answer the question of “who am I?” In our day-to-day life, we may be so engrossed in our activities that we do not bother anymore to question what seems clear and obvious to us. The question of “Who am I?” is such a case. It is surprising to ask this to ourselves. At first glance, isn‟t this question so simple? What could be clearer and obvious to us than the reality of our “I”? But this is only at first glance, from a superficial and uncritical natural attitude. Certain events in our life (like sickness, failures, death) can awaken us and bring us to the limits of our ordinary experience. And then, the once-so-simple question deepens, begins to complicate, and beckons on us: who am I? An important aspect in answering this question is the experience of my body. If I were asked about myself, my answers inescapably have reference to my body. What are you? Man, because I have a form, activities and a body of man. Who are you? I am Juan Santos, tall, mestizo-looking long haired, with small ears and a big belly due to beer drinking (isa-pa-nga!). Where am I? Here, where my body is; look at me, look at my body. In these ways, I seem to say I am my body. But there are times too that know I am not just my body. I am a man also because I have an understanding and mind of man. When I say to my parents, “I love you,” this one loving them is not just this tall-mestizo-looking-long-haired-with-small-ears-fat-belly-etc.” body of mine but my whole spirit and will. And it can happen that while my body is in room B-109, listening to a boring lecture on the theories of Lobachevski or the poems of Chairil Anwar, I am taking a walk at the beach, along with my sweetheart, watching the sunset. On one hand, I recognize an intimate relation of myself with my body, and thus truly say: I am my body. Yet, on the other hand, I also know that I cannot reduce my whole humanity to my body. I am also spirit and will: my body is only something I have: I have my body. What is the meaning of this paradox?
Some Answers from the History of Philosophy Classical Views. Already in early times, the ancient philosophers of Greece tackled question of the human body. What is the body of man? Is it truly a part of his being man? Or it is just a contingent “addition” to his self? It is a bestial imprisonment of the human spirit or its perfection? According to Plato (ca. 430-350 B.C.), man is his soul. This is the essence of his humanity and the source of all his activities. In the Phaedrus, Plato uses the following metaphor.1 The soul is a charioteer of two winged-horses. One is sensible and flies high to the heavens to reach the light of truth and goodness. The other comes from a bad breed and because
Jr. 2 Phaedo. No wonder heavenly and earthly tendencies are in conflict in the spirit of man. appetite. St. that the true philosopher strives to evade body because Surely the soul can best reflect when it is free of all distractions such as hearing or sight or pain or pleasure for any kind—that is. when it ignores the body and becomes as far as possible independent. in it search for reality. courage. similarly a soul is not a soul if it is not the soul of a body. 3 De Anima II. and no form that is not the form in matter. we read the following observation: A further problem presented by the affections of soul is this: are they all affecttions of the complex of body and soul. Augustine (354-430) mentions that man can be divided into body and soul. Dy. 4 Ibid. They are one like the oneness of the ugly and his figure. because the end of the jar is to be filled with water and the end . The relation of the body to the soul is the relation of matter to form. Plato states in the Phaedo. But is it only the soul that is man. avoiding all physical contacts and asso ciation as much as it can. man is the whole of his body and soul.of neglect and sinfulness. because the charioteer is not a charioteer without the horse.C. 246-47. In the City of God. and its relation to the body similar to the relation of the charioteer to his horse? This is not possible. or is there any one among them peculiar to the soul by itself? To determine this is indispensable but difficult. had lost his wings and fallen to earth to assume human form. but if this too proves to be a form of imagination or to be impossible without imagi nation it too requires a body as a condition of its existence. the body and soul of man are only two aspects of the whole man. and its relation to the soul is similar to the relation of the jar with the water? Neither is this possible. e. In De Anima. anger. I.2 In death the true man is freed from his imprisonment to see perfectly the pure light of absolute truth. If we con sider the majority of them.). 1 Phaedrus. Consequently. and sensation generally. 2.. There is no sense in asking if body and soul are one. Likewise. It is possible * Reprinted with the permission of the author and translated from the original Pilipino by Manuel B.4 The Christian philosophers of the Middle Ages also dealt on the question of man‟s body. there seems to be in no case in which the soul can act or be acted upon without involving the body. 1. Thinking seems the most probable exception.3 there is no matter that is not informed by form. The taking of a human body is an unfortunate accident and a cruel imprisonment of the free and pure soul.g. that only the body is man. and no doubt the soul is more real and important. 65. In the view of Aristotle (304-322 B.
which rejects. II. which denies. And although perhaps. as I will soon show. Man is the unity of the body and soul. which imagines also. there is one truth that I can not deny or doubt: I think.. which wills. and which perceives. 7 Ibid. Descartes shows that even if I use the methodic doubt. 1a. 7. Summa Theologiae. Descartes continue to ask. since on the one hand I .”6 And in another place. XIX. they come from our senses which can be mistaken or can deceive us. He stresses. he further states that although the body is not part of the essence of the body.7 It is Rene Descartes (1596-1650) who sets the kind of questioning regarding the human body in the present history of the philosophy. and second. 75. 9 Ibid. I am (Cogito. 3. therefore. and he can exist only as this unity. 5 6 De Civitate Dei. Even the certain and universal truths of religion and mathematics I can think of as only imaginary. I only prove by my denial and doubting that I am thinking and existing. 1a. I have a body with which I am very closely united. which affirms. A prominent French philosopher and mathematician. In the first meditation. 4. and bones. In his Meditations on First Philosophy. Descartes adds that even we can prove the reality of the world and material things. he is considered the father of modern philosophy and analytic geometry. What is a thinking being? It is a being which doubts. ergo sum). he states the methodic doubt: we should doubt all that we know because. nevertheless. Even if I fully deny or doubt this. first.. f lesh. Thomas Aquinas (1226-1274) in the Summa Theologiae also said that the soul is not a man: “For just as it belongs to the nature of man to be composed of soul. 8 Meditationes de prima philosophia. 75. this can be just the result of a dream. But what is this I which I have proven to exist? And his answer: “A thinking being (res cogitans). which understands. I. the work of a bad spirit. nevertheless the very essence of the soul inherently needs to be one with the body. the real essence of man is still different from his body. Descartes explains the profound and real difference between the body and soul of man.5 The great St.”9 In the last meditation.likewise of the body is to be filled with the soul. or rather certainly.8 In the second meditation.
. 13 Letters to Regius. In Descartes view. and who make use only of their senses. do not doubt that the soul moves the body and that the body acts on the soul…. and finally. it is only the ship that damaged or “hurt” but not the captain who observes the damage. If we read Descartes himself. but unlike Descartes. But when my body is hurt. and replies to the fourth. One of them is Gabriel Marcel (1889-1973). another metaphor of Plato. for instance. the aim of philosophy is to reach clear and distinct ideas regarding reality. VI. and he does not really say that man is “a ghost inside a machine. pp. The Concept of Mind (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. extended. even if Descartes reco gnizes the unity of man‟s body and soul as a truth based on experience. and six objections. for instance. it is cer tain that this “I” (-that is to say. by a storekeeper in the market with whom I have quarreled. I do not say only my cheeks but I am hurt. my soul. 1970). But the truth regarding the unity of man‟s body and soul cannot fit into this frame of thinking. Laws. He mentions. but they are known very clearly by the senses. this unity itself of the body and soul cannot be known and discussed by philosophy due to its inherent ambiguity. have criticized the philosophy of Descartes. and even by the understand ing aided by the imagination.10 At first glance. but it is known much better by the understanding aided by the imagination. that we learn to apprehend the union of the soul and the body.e.11 If the ship meet a collision. When I am slapped. the things which pertain to the union of the soul and the body can be known only obscurely by the understanding alone.”12 In several writings.14 10 11 Ibid. body. a number of philosophers. for Descartes. those who never philosophize. 961. it is in dealing only with life and everyday affairs. and as such does not seem to differ from a complex machine like a computerized robot.13 However. Thus. he admits that the body and soul of man is real unity. he is a playwright . I am involved. Yet Descartes himself also admits that the answer is not as simple as that. that the relationship of the body and soul is like of that captain and his ship. he emphasizes that this is not a philosophical truth. exten sion. Mathematical truth is for him the model of philosophical truth. Marcel is a Frenchman. notably the phenomenologists. that we cannot say.have a clear and distinct idea of myself in so far as I am only a thinking and not an extended being.. and in refraining from study ing and meditating on things which exercises the imagination. fifth. XII. 13-25. I do not just observe the incident. 14 Letter to Princess Elizabeth. again in the Meditations. i. Hence. Gabriel Marcel. Ibid. my virtue of which I am-) is entire ly (and truly) distinct from my body and that it can (be or) exist without it. can also be known by understanding alone. In present times. we can see that his inquiry is rather complicated. 12 Gilbert Ryle. Like Descartes. and since on the other hand I have a distinct idea of a body in so far as it is only an extended being which does not think. Arnauld and Princess Elizabeth. 28 June 1643. In a letter to Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia. he summarizes his opinion regarding this matter: The soul can be apprehended only by the pure understanding. man‟s body is just a material thing. shapes and movements.
In using secondary reflection. eating. I take each of the parts (analysis). 1960). Marcel‟s philosophy of the body is an inquiry on the meaning of the experience of my body. An ob-jectum (“thrown in front”). would not progress without the sciences that study the human body). happy. the body studied in primary reflection is no longer my body but a body. We have to enter in a level of secondary reflection. Because I participate in the thing. Fraser (Chicago: Henry Regnery. my body that is uniquely mine alone.S. I. In this kind of reflection. Because this is an objective and universal idea. His propensity is not the clear and skeletal order of mathematics but life itself and the clear-vague world of drama and music. I recognize that I am part of the thing I am investigating. we can see that it does not make sense to separate the I and the body and to ask. we discover that what exists is not “a body” but “my body”—a body full of life. we have to go back and root our reflection on the concrete experience of my body. for example. and therefore. my discussion is sub-jective (“thrown beneath”). I have nothing to do with it nor does it have anything to do with my life. 15 . In this kind of reflection. this can be the body of anybody else. man‟s embodiment is not simply a datum alongside other data but the primary datum that is the starting point and basis of any philosophical reflection. physiology. I cannot tear it apart into clear and fixed ideas. I place myself outside of the thing that I am inquiring on. and consequently. and the other sciences. 15 Descartes failure. study their ordering (systematize) and arrive at some clear and fixed ideas regarding the thing itself (conceptualize). but this is not the whole truth. This way of thinking is on the level of primary reflection. “What is the relation of the I to the body?” The reason is because the body referred to here is no longer “my body” but the abstract “a body”. afflicted. lies in the imprisonment of his methodic doubt which aspires for mathematics-like truths. “A body” is an objective idea apart from me.. of nobody. In Marcel‟s philosophy. according to Marcel. Marcel summarizes his discussions on the body in Chapters 5 and 6 of The Mystery of Being. I have something to do with it and it has something to do with me. It has nothing to do with myself nor do I have anything to do with it. translated by G. Reflection and Mystery.and musician. In order to come closer to an understanding of the totality of all that exists (and isn‟t this the primary aim of philosophy?). etc. If we used secondary reflection and recognize the experience of my body as the starting point and the foundation of our inquiry. I have to describe and bring to light its unique wholeness in my concrete experience. sleeping. This is the body talked about in anatomy. There is a particular value in primary reflection on the body (Medicine. But in this manner.
then we can say their humanity is destroyed. it does not make sense too to consider the relation with my body as only an instrument. It can be in the house while I am in the movie house. give it pleasure. this building and others. For Marcel. like having my dog. I must have a claim. it seems that this is also the relationship I have with my body. the car extends the “ability” of my feet to travel. go out of the room.But what is mean by my in “my body?” Is it the my of possession (avoir) that I refer to when I talk of “my ballpen” or “my dog”? Is the logic of “I have a body” the same as “I have a dog”? Marcel shows that in order for me to possess a dog. Likewise. its been mine loses its meaning. and thus we would arrive at an unending series of bodies ad infinitum. The eyeglasses reinforce my sense of sight. If my body were an instrument. . there also is my body. I nourish it and let it sleep. If they do not realize this. and the hammer further reinforces my hand. for instance. This is not the case with my body: our location and history are inseparable. Here secondary reflection recuperates and states that there is no gap between me and my body. the computer our brain. it would need some other body that extends and reinforces. talk. the slaves experience that this is unjust and violates their rights as human beings. this table. this car. First. At first glance. The experience of my body is the experience of I-body (body-subject). This is the body studied by primary reflection of the sciences. there I am too. etc. “a body” that I or any body can use. Even in societies where slavery exists and the masters own the body of their slaves. on the dog: I decide when it will stay and I take care of it or have it taken care of. the dog must recognize my claim over it: it follows me.” but there is also a limitation. etc. There is validity in liking “I have my body” to “I have my dog. we must have an inter-relationship with each other.—if I so desire. I have a responsibility over my body and I take care of it. Is my body then an instrument? An instrument is an extension or reinforcing of a power or part of my body. I cannot deny that our lives are still separate. I must have responsibility and control over what I possess. the body that I can say I have is a body-object. Even if I intimate with my dog. But if I treat my body as only a possession. it was born while I was in my teens. and wherever my body is. and this body would also need another body. I treat it like an instrument that I possess and use in order to possess and use other things in the world. I am my body. In short. my body is mine and mine alone. and so on. Clearly this is an absurdity that is contrary to our experience. drink Un-cola. Wherever I am. The limit of these examples is the ascetic who evades whatever pleasures of the body. it loves or fears me. bathe it.” Thirdly. it may die earlier than I. In short. can I possess and use this ballpen. I have control over my body. Secondly. If I say I own my body. it is difficult to say if he is still included in the experience of “my body. It can do whatever I want it to do if it can—sit. walk. etc. for instance. Upon reconsideration of secondary reflection. Only by means of my body. the clothes and building extend our skin.
this materialistic view is imprisoned in the Procrustean bed of primary reflection and reduces the experience of my body to the idea of “a body”. and if I only think of it. “I am my body” has only a negative meaning. we refer to one of two conflicting meanings. This feeling that makes known my body is termed by Marcel as “sympathetic mediation. Y. This precisely is the danger of any primary reflection: our inquiry becomes clear and distinct but we get farther away from real experience. The body as intermediary. It simply states that I cannot separate my self from my body. I cannot detach my body from my self. Rather.If I say I am my body. But the experience of “my body” is what Marcel calls “non-instrumental communion. If I say.” If we want our thinking to be faithful to experience. on the other hand. felt by others. I feel it. 16 When we use the term intermediary. the body seen. On one hand. I am indebted to some ideas of William Luijpen in his Existential Phenomenology (Pittsburg: Duquesne University Press. And this can be fulfilled only if we enter into secondary reflection and humbly return to the experienced reality of ordinary life.” I may mean that because X. philosopher or scientist. touched.” My body cannot be framed in an instrumentalist idea. 1969). My being-in-the-world is not the bodily life alone nor the spiritual life alone but the life of an embodied spirit („etre incarnee‟).16 In this part. myself is absolutely embodied. The paradox is the experience itself. pp. That is why we can say there are two faces shown in the experience of my body: “I have my body” and “I am my body”. Like the dualism of Descartes. and this should be the one described by the philosophy by means of secondary reflection. 274-82. My body is a unity sui generis and this unity is inconceptualizable. Marcel admits that it is difficult to conceive of this experience of “my body” in a clear and distinct manner. they are not two things that happen by chance to be together. I do not think of my body. to forget this paradox and fix his attention to only one side of the experience. this does not imply that I am the body that is the object for others. we need to use concepts that point to this feeling (directional concepts). Thinking involves making use of ideas that mediates the experience or thing itself investigated. I experience myself as being-in-the-world through my body. I have not really reached the essences of the experience. My body acts as the intermediary between the self or subject and the world. It is very tempting for any erudite person. “X is the intermediary of Y and Z. Likewise. and Z encounter or become . The life of Embodied Spirit We begin our reflection on the experience of my body by recognizing its paradoxical character. I cannot reduce my self to my body: I also experience my self as an I—spirit and will that can never be imprisoned in my flesh and bones.
I also experience the self as “outside” of the world. In reality. because of my body. and the world is “not-I”. I have an experience of “near” and “far. “Kung Baga sa Pamumulaklak. My body participates in the world but cannot be reduced to it. I experience the world as my body and we are familiar to each other. the effect of the lambanog on my empty stomach is strong. Through my body. I am “not-world”. the whole universe has and reveals a meaning for-me-and-for-man. Here the intermediary is not a bridge but an obstacle. and who gives -name to this or that. and speech. He first approaches his uncle Mang Tibo who is the kumpare of Tesang‟s parents so he can act as intermediary between him and Tesang‟s parents.. The oneness and wholeness of my body is different from the wholeness of the world. My body is not only an intermediary between me and the world but also between me and others. My body is by nature intentional (directed to the world). he cannot just present himself directly to the lady of his affection to tell her of his feelings. On the other hand. an encounter and agreement occurs between my self and the world. We face each other in anger. my fixed-to-the-ground look and my sigh are my . he is indicating dissatisfaction. is like hell. Because of my body. I show my self to the other and the other also shows himself to me through my body. tenderness. the parents of the girl may stand between our affection and prevent our being sweethearts. I experience the world as separate from me. etc. I would become only a thing without an interiority. attitude. Now. The wry and red appearance of my face is an anger. because of my body. I refer to the two meanings of intermediary. Thus. Let us take this example from the story of Macario Pineda titled. because we have a body to present. when I say my body is the intermediary between my self and the world. actions. confusion or disapproval of what I am saying. the smell of Pacwood factory in San Pedro. Y. in our rituals. The body is intersubjectivity. the chair I am sitting on is hard. and clearly this view is not true to our experience of life. and I fill the world. In this situation the intermediary serves as the “bridge” for the union of the young man and the lady. the encounter of the experience of my self and the experience of the world can only take place in the experience of my body. My body shows that I am not simply a thing among other things in nature.” A young farmer named Desto wants to win the hand of the illustrious young lady named Tesang. often Lolita Rodriguez plays the role of the “other woman” who stands between the beautiful relationship of the couple Eddie Rodriguez and Marlene Dauden. Laguna. and it creates and discovers meaning that I am conscious of in my existence. and Z are separated. Because of my body. sadness. I can also mean the opposite. Because of my body. On the other hand. we interrelate with each other in many different ways—in our vision. However.closer to each other or come to an agreement. signs. If the other shows wrinkles on his forehead. If I did not have this kind of distance from the world. in the giving-meaning-to-the-world of my body.. my subjectivity is openness to the world and the world is opened to me: the world fills me.” “up” and “below” and many other relations in space. The world of man is different from the “world” of the fly because their bodies have different frameworks. also because of my body. Only then do Tesang‟s parents allow Desto to court her. Because of my body. Still with the example of courting. In the old film of Virgo Production. I am the one who sees. On one hand. I can say that because X. the sunset is as red as a rose.
Troilus and Cressida. I accept a new acquaintance in shaking his hand. I cannot say I love my brothers and sisters if I do not show this love to them. The paradox of “I have my body” and “I am my body” also applies to my inter relationship with others. her wanton spirits look out At every joint and motive of her body. her lip. My faith is meaningless if I do not realize it in my daily actions and life. the great aspirations of the citizenry need to be embodied in political. “Whoever listens to the word but does not put it into practice is like a man who looks in a mirror and sees himself as he is. 17 The value of the body. but it can also be a mask that hides what I truly think or feel. a look from the parent is enough to prevent him. economic. it is a gesture and appearance of what I truly feel inside. etc. I cannot say I respect my parents if my speech to them is not respectful. Act 4. her cheek. my body has a unique value and dignity. In social life too. I may truly love my family even if my body is far away from them. Embodiment is not just an additional or an external appearance. Indeed my body shows myself.. If I love Maria. It directs me not only to the world and to others but also to God. (etc. A the apostle James says. there are two facts to the body as an intermediary. but I cannot also reduce it to its embodiment. This is discussed in the chapters on the body in Maurice Merleau-Ponty‟s Phenomenology of Perception (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1966). Nay. and also through exchanges of rings. her foot speaks. as we have seen. He takes a good look at himself and then goes away and at once forgets what he looks like. The fullness of my love for the beloved cannot be said in exchange in rings or in daily telephone conversations. 1962) and Jean Paul Sartre‟s Being and Nothingness (New York.” (James 1. As the appearance and expression of my subjectivity. I can smile in the company of my friends while suffer inside of frustration (as they say. I respect my parents in kissing their hands. daily telephone conversations. 18 William Shakespeare.17 The child does not have to disobey his parent. My subjectivity transcends in expanse and depth its embodiment. The spirit needs to be expressed and realize in the body but my body cannot fully state all of my subjectivity..loneliness. “laughing in the outside but crying in the inside”). As what a poet says of an alluring young woman: There‟s a language in her eye. scene 5. weekly visits. 22 -23). holding tenderly to her hand. St. I show this through my kisses. embrace. Inc.18 The language of my body has its own grammar and rhetoric in expressing my interiority. cultural. I cannot separate my intersubjectivity from its embodiment. Washington square Press. The spirit and the word is fulfilled in the actions and deeds of the body. Paul says in the first letter to the Corinthians: “You know that your bodies are parts of t he . However.) framework for this two have an enduring realization. Every part and action of my body says something of myself and my world.
” (1 Corinthians 6. So use your bodies for God‟s glory. . he bought you for a price.body of Christ. who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God. 15-18). Don‟t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.