Wild Coast Philosophy Symposium 2015
Theme: The Body
Department of Philosophy (University of Fort Hare)
Crawford’s Beach Lodge, Chintsa
31 October 2015 (Saturday)
This is a cooperative one day event involving Fort Hare, Rhodes, NMMU, and the Centre for Phenomenology in SA.
Prof Abraham Olivier - firstname.lastname@example.org
Working through repression: Lyotard’s aporetic approach to psychoanalysis
Sergio Alloggio (Rhodes) – Respondent: Filip Maj (UFH)
In his dense article titled “Emma: Between philosophy and psychoanalysis” (1989), the French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard (1924-1998) discusses the way in which Sigmund Freud considers trauma, excitability and latency, and how these concepts can be addressed in philosophy. Psychic repression poses a series of questions to philosophy: Can philosophy consider the unconscious without reducing it to silence, inconsistency or unreason? Lyotard attempts to do so employing in this article his radical philosophy of language developed in his book named The Differend (1983). For Lyotard Freud’s unconscious becomes an affect-phrase. In this sense, problems on how the pulsional, trauma and their repression could be translated and articulated into theoretical language arise. Lyotard analyses unconscious and its paradoxical effects on both conscious life and memory focussing on what Freud calls “deferred action” (Nachträglichkeit). But what interests Lyotard most in his phrasistics is how repression disrupts the phenomenological chronology of lived experiences (dies Erlebnis). The body keeps its forgotten memories that cannot be represented by philosophy. Emma’s amnesia of childhood sexual trauma is read by Lyotard as a series of differends, that is, radical disagreements, between infancy and adulthood, between affectivity and its linguistic representation. Lastly, I argue that Lyotard in his account of how we should interpret repression fails on two substantial levels: a) psychoanalytic level: Lyotard’s preference to read repression aesthetically (via Kant’s Critique of Judgment) is untenable as it cannot result into a therapeutic result; b) philosophical level: Lyotard’s reading of childhood traumas as differends between infancy and adulthood does not take into account the fact that transition from childhood to adulthood is unavoidable and, therefore, his approach is aporetic.
Contemplating the body in space and the therapeutic value of perspective shifts
Andrea Hurst (NMMU) – Respondent: Sampie Terreblanche (UFH)
While philosophy has generally been charged with neglecting or dismissing the body, if Pierre Hadot is accurate in his interpretations in Philosophy as a Way of Life (1995), this is not true of the ancient philosophical schools where part of the philosophical task was to create a “cosmic consciousness” which goes hand in hand with the transformation of perception. The detailed phenomenologies of “the miniature” and “intimate immensity” in Bachelard’s Poetics of Space, elaborate on the perspective shifts associated with paying close, contemplative attention to the body in space. The point of such exercises was, and remains, to re-learn to see the world. I think there is important therapeutic value to be gained from such contemplative philosophical attention to the body in space, which is particularly welcome in a condition of existential complexity.
Reclaiming my body: embodiment, identity and tattoos
Lindsay Kelland (AGCLE) - Respondent: Rianna Oelofsen (UFH)
The prevalence and pervasiveness of tattoos and ‘tattoo culture’ in contemporary South Africa, has led to the posing of various questions, including why people get tattoos and what they mean to the individuals who have them? While I am unable to pronounce on the reasons and meanings of tattoos for all who have them, in this talk I put forward a particular way of thinking about tattoos based on my own experience. On a personal level, being tattooed, for me, was and is about reclaiming my body, and, in particular, reclaiming the ability to control what happens to and with my body. Drawing on my own experience, as well as claims made by fellow activists and feminist philosophers, I tentatively suggest that some of the phenomenological insights I garner from my own case could be generalised and used to put forward one plausible account to explain the increasing trend to be tattooed in current-day South Africa.
Which body, medically?
Filip Maj (UFH) – Respondent: John Lamola (UFH)
The paper takes up the task of investigating what conceptions of the body are prevalent in medical care and how they function. It has been stated by some philosophers of medicine that doctors understand disease in terms of Locke’s nominalism. Though Locke, who himself was a physician, paediatrician, stresses the importance of bodily sensations, does not argue for the body to be part of personal identity. This tacitly supposes that the body is an impersonal, accidental, replaceable substance. Does the physician actually even perceive the body, or is it only a carrier for a more apparent at that moment entity like the “disease”? Procedures of embodiment and disembodiment differ depending on the type of medical specialisation, for a GP, haematologist, geneticist, surgeon or physiotherapist. Would a different conception of the body, e.g. phenomenological, pragmatical or existential, make medical care more effective?
The black body
Motsamai Molefe (UFH) – Respondent: Olusegun Morakinyo (UFH)
The breastfeeding feminist: biology as destiny?
Rianna Oelofsen (UFH) – Respondent: Christy Landry (AGCLE)
In this paper I will interrogate how one aspect of biology of the mother’s body might present itself as an issue for some women who label themselves as feminists. As a feminist, (perhaps unless you are a “difference feminist” in which case the problem might not arise), equally dividing care for the infant and toddler becomes difficult in practise when the mother chooses to breastfeed. Your biology determines what society expects from you as a mother, as breastfeeding has been promoted as better for the infant. This puts pressure on mothers to breastfeed, and results in some women feeling guilty if they are unable to do so. Breastfeeding has thus become part of an ideal of “womanhood” at which a particular woman fails should she be unable to, or choose not to, breastfeed her child. On the other hand, if she does breastfeed, there are also strict norms to adhere to with regards to where, how, and for how long she continues.
The experience of being a lactating mammal can be a daunting one, which foregrounds the mother’s experience of her body and biology. This experience has the result, I will venture, of forging a stronger bond between mother and child, than between father and child in most cases. The fact that it is the woman who is able to breastfeed means that it is rare to find men with equal affective bonds with infants in heterosexual relationships. What does this mean for raising children as a feminist? How should these experiences inform our understanding of feminism and female bodies?
Where does the mind stop and the body begin?
Abraham Olivier (UFH) – Respondent: Sharli Paphitis (AGCLE)
“According to active externalism, the environment can drive and so partially constitute cognitive processes. Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin? If active externalism is right, then the boundary cannot be drawn at the skull. The mind reaches – or at least can reach, sometimes – beyond the limits of the body out in the world.” This succinct explanation of active externalism is quoted from A Noë’s book, Action in perception (2004). This paper will consider a major argument against active externalism, typically held by philosophers of mind, and then develop a phenomenological response in its defence.
The Living Corpse: obsession, self-knowledge and isolation in the face of ‘mysterious’ refractory illness
Sharli Anne Paphitis (Rhodes) – Respondent: Neal O’Donnell (UFH)
Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich is, in part, a narrative about a man who is trying to live inside of a dying body. Ivan Ilyich is a man who has become what I call a living corpse: for a time, functional enough to go about his daily activities, but all the while poignantly aware of the internal decay that at any moment will bring about his inevitable death. Similarly, less than a year ago, I had my own brush with a ‘mysterious’ refractory illness, and found myself existing in the state of a living corpse, not unlike that of Ivan Ilyich – passed from medical professional to medical professional with little relief, and seemingly alone in acute awareness of the genuine seriousness of the illness which was operating at the very core of my body (and which left untreated would bring about my death). The phenomenological account in Tolstoy’s narrative highlights three key features of the lived experience for the living corpse which, when I read them, bear an uncannily remarkable resemblance to my own experiences of being in such a state: obsession, self-knowledge and isolation. Drawing on key extracts from Tolstoy’s narrative and my own phenomenological experience, in this paper I will discuss each of these three key features which explain the lived experience of a living corpse.
Pedro Tabensky (Rhodes) - Respondent: Andrea Hurst (NMMU)
There is a brand of intellectualism, prevalent in institutions of higher learning across the globe. This brand of intellectualism disregards the fact that the intellect is a faculty of embodied creatures. I will argue that the prevalent conception of the intellect is epistemically impoverished and that it is partly responsible for slowing the pace of transformation in RSA down.
Heidegger’s theory of the lived body
Rafael Winkler (UJ) – Respondent: Sergio Alloggio (Rhodes)
Unlike Husserl or Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger is not known for having made any distinctive philosophical contributions to the phenomenological discourse on the body. The few cryptic and passing remarks on the body in Being and Time and in some lecture courses of the period are suggestive at best. This is presumably due in part to the priority assigned to time over space in the analytic of Dasein, which, in a Bergsonian register, amounts to assigning a priority to mindedness over bodiliness, and also in part because of the ambiguous position of life in the existential analytic. It is not before 1959-69 in seminars given at the home of the Swiss psychiatrist Medard Boss that Heidegger came to focus on the body as a topic that merits a separate philosophical treatment.
My aim in this paper is to bring out Heidegger’s theory of the lived body in these seminars as well as his critical reflections on the psychoanalytic theory of the unconscious.