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Body Consciousness: A Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics
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Body Consciousness: A Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics [Versión Kindle]


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Contemporary culture increasingly suffers from problems of attention, over-stimulation, and stress, and a variety of personal and social discontents generated by deceptive body images. This book argues that improved body consciousness can relieve these problems and enhance one's knowledge, performance, and pleasure. The body is our basic medium of perception and action, but focused attention to its feelings and movements has long been criticised as a damaging distraction that also ethically corrupts through self-absorption. In Body Consciousness, Richard Shusterman refutes such charges by engaging the most influential twentieth-century somatic philosophers and incorporating insights from both Western and Asian disciplines of body-mind awareness. Rather than rehashing intractable ontological debates on the mind-body relation, Shusterman reorients study of this crucial nexus towards a more fruitful, pragmatic direction that reinforces important but neglected connections between philosophy of mind, ethics, politics, and the pervasive aesthetic dimensions of everyday life.

Detalles del producto

  • Formato: Versión Kindle
  • Tamaño del archivo: 394 KB
  • Longitud de impresión: 256
  • Números de página - ISBN de origen: 0521858909
  • Uso simultáneo de dispositivos: Hasta 4 dispositivos simultáneos según los límites del editor
  • Editor: Cambridge University Press; Edición: 1 (1 de abril de 2008)
  • Vendido por: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Idioma: Inglés
  • ASIN: B0018TLVRI
  • Texto a voz: Activado
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  • Clasificación en los más vendidos de Amazon: n°286.622 Pagados en Tienda Kindle (Ver el Top 100 de pago en Tienda Kindle)

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Amazon.com: 3.2 de un máximo de 5 estrellas  5 opiniones
11 de 13 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
5.0 de un máximo de 5 estrellas Yes, let's do somaesthetics. 24 de julio de 2008
Por Michael H. Ducey - Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato:Tapa blanda
This book wants to make the case for the creation of a systematic philosophical framework called "somaesthetics", which Shusterman defines as "the critical meliorative study of one's experience and use of one's body as a locus of sensory aesthetic appreciation (aesthesis) and creative self-fashioning." His main concern seems to be about philosophers as such. Persons who pursue that activity traditionally disregard the body as a subject for reflection, and S wants to correct that bias.

Therefore he has made a commentary on the "somatic theorizing" of six major western philosophers of the twentieth century (extending back into the late nineteenth century for William James): Michel Foucault, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Simone de Beauvoir, Ludwig Wittgenstein, James, and John Dewey. He has chosen his subjects for their general eminence and the fact that they represent six different "schools" of twentieth century philosophy.

So he finds that all six subject do engage in somatic theorizing, some much more than others (e.g., James much more than Wittgenstein), and that none of this eminent theorizing is sufficient to ground a viable "somaesthetics".

So, he has made two points: (1) eminent philosophers do engage in somatic theorizing, and (2) there is at this time no philosopher who has provided a systematic framework for this critical meliorative study of the body.

So he concludes that philosophy still has work to do on this project. There are indeed efforts towards that end, but no dominant model, and so "our toolbox of somatic disciplines must be pluralistic." He makes a kind of excuse for the failure of philosophers to construct a somaesthetics by observing, "We can't reflect on everything..." and that raises an important issue.

None of the six philosophers Shusterman studies had access to a particular area of information about the body that we now know to be absolutely critical for understanding how we human beings form thoughts and behavior. That area we might call "deep biochemistry".

Deep biochemistry includes somatic elements such as neuroprocessors and hormones, the effects of stress (especially early childhood stress), triggering trauma imprints, medical pharmaceuticals. (the most used antidepressants are selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, i.e., they regulate bodily chemicals), cross-cultural pharmaceuticals (e.g., peyote and mushrooms). It also includes the varieties of "mindfulness", since mindfulness itself is simply the entry into the ante-chamber of non-conscious psychosomatic processes, and leaves significant choices to be made. For example, scientology and psychoanalysis are radically different in their methods of introspection; yoga's ultimate conclusion is that the body is illusory; there are a least three radically different forms of religions meditation: Hindu concentration, Buddhist vipassana, and Christian use of texts and images; and there is a form of somatic introspection recently developed as psychotherapy by Hakomi ("inner body sensing") and The Focusing Institute (Gendlin--"the felt sense").

Deep biochemistry probably starts with Abram Kardiner's study of "combat neurosis" during World War I, and developes slowly throughout the course of the twentieth century. PTSD is only medically recognized in 1981, and the work on the actual biochemical functioning of trauma is still in progress.

The study of deep biochemistry has revealed to us the phenomenon of "dissociation", a disorganization of thought and behavior due to long-lasting alterations in the regulation of endogenous opioids (endorphins) by the overwhelm of the body's natural survival mechanisms.

How important is the discovery of dissociation? Well, just consider the fact that the Taliban on the one hand and suicide bombers on the other are classic cases of it. One absolutely has to be "out of one's body" to adopt the practices they use.

So it seems that a somaesthetic agenda that includes the study of deep biochemistry would indeed be a valuable addition to contemporary philosophy.
4 de 4 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
4.0 de un máximo de 5 estrellas Another "footnote to Plato"? 17 de septiembre de 2009
Por Rexford J. Styzens - Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato:Tapa blanda|Compra verificada
One consequence of phenomenology's struggle to overcome the subject-object distinction has been an increased interest in the conception of the human body and its place in the larger, and equally physical, world. Shusterman's exploration of some of the traditional, as well as phenomenological, analyses of that problematic, while very readable, is also plagued by its commitment to such traditional notions as the mind-body dualism.

That relates to his intent to be helpful to us non-philosopher type ordinary folk. As an advocate of such body therapies as the Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais Method, he leans heavily and steadily in the direction of how-to-improve-ourselves. One cannot doubt the virtue of such therapeutic intentions. Yet one can doubt the value of such when used to critique philosophers, such as Merleau-Ponty and Wittgenstein, specifically identified with a breakaway from the Platonic tradition of mind over matter.

That is not to say that the issues at stake of habit, will, choice, behavior are easily answered. In the concluding chapter comparing James and Dewey, the unresolved conflicts are examined. Shusterman's desire for self-improvement appears in his description of the James/Dewey differences with "Dewey's reconstruction of James's theory of emotion corrects this anomalous suggestion of a pure spiritual, bodiless emotion that would imply a real division of mind from body."

The late Donald Davidson outlined his theory of "anomalous monism" in pursuit of a comprehensive understanding of the inescapable conflict. So one legitimate way to avoid double-talk is to accept a doubled unity. It represents our inherited analytic pattern of breaking unities into pieces and then looking for some glue, because we know they ought not to have been separated to begin with. James struggled with that, and it is what Merleau-Ponty and Wittgenstein advocate.

A philosophically responsible phenomenological contribution to personal therapy, while far from unknown, is yet far from popular. The "Journal of Phenomenological Psychology" has been published for 40 years, so its Google hits numbering a mere 140,000 shows its limited attraction. Yet it marks a prominent place where philosophy and psychology represent their differences. Kant first asked, Which had priority, the body or the mind? Later he admitted that was undetermined. As his primary interest was a philosophical critique, his disdain of psychology followed.

Shusterman offers a competent encounter with his choice of philosophers. His defensive preference for traditional conceptualizations in the name of philosophy of mind, while disappointing, does not negate the value of his contribution. Who else dares to take on Foucault, de Beauvoir, Dewey and Wm. James, along with Merleau-Ponty and Wittgenstein in one grand philosophical (psychological?) struggle?

Shusterman's book remains ruled by its prior psychological commitments, but it may provide a springboard to further discussions of those philosophers, as well as to a better understanding of the body in philosophy of mind.
6 de 8 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
2.0 de un máximo de 5 estrellas Tendentious, unscholarly 14 de diciembre de 2009
Por William Conable - Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato:Tapa blanda|Compra verificada
A tendentious book exhibiting questionable scholarship. Any work purporting to discuss the philosophical issues raised by the so-called mind-body problem should take account of current work in brain research and cognitive studies. Shusterman cites Lakoff, Johnson, Dennet, and Damasio among others, but gives little evidence that he has seriously engaged with their ideas. His citations are all pre-1999, a serious lacuna in a field developing as fast as cognitive science.

Similarly, Shusterman's extensive but eventually dismissive discussion of John Dewey and F.M. Alexander quotes admittedly problematic passages from Alexander's earliest book (1918), but largely ignores both Alexander's later work and further developments arising from his discoveries. He cites Frank Pierce Jones's book Body Awareness in Action, but ignores the research it describes. He dismisses the fact that Dewey's support of Alexander was derived mostly from Dewey's direct experience of his teaching, not from his writings. Shusterman mentions that he has taken a few Alexander lessons himself. Speaking as an Alexander teacher of forty years' experience I can state with some authority that this book suggests that he has fundamentally misunderstood what Alexander discovered.

I am not qualified to evaluate Shusterman's ideas about the four other philosophers whom he discusses, but if the problems I describe above are typical, it would be better to turn elsewhere for insights in this field.

William Conable, Professor Emeritus
The Ohio State University
0 de 1 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
4.0 de un máximo de 5 estrellas the thinking body of the clinician is awakened by this book 17 de noviembre de 2011
Por Bryce R. Cassin - Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato:Tapa blanda|Compra verificada
Richard Shusterman's 'Body Consciousness' (along with' Performing Live' - Shusterman's 2000 book - which shows how knowing is a lively movement with aesthetic quality, not a fixed rigid body of knowledge) changed my understanding of clinical practice and how doctors, nurses and allied health professionals develop an awareness of their habits, routines and practice in a myriad of clinical settings. As we consume needed commentary on 'patient centred care' in the healthcare literature, have we forgotten the body of the clinician?

Foucault may have dug up the oak tree - the hospital - as the centre of care, but he left us simply gardening among a potted green house of seedling terms. If clinicians are to realise the importance of their presence in the clinical encounter then we need to ground the practice of working in a hospital afresh, post all the post post writers. Only Dewey is equipped for the task. Shusterman's thoughts on Dewey provide a wonderful re-entry point into the world of conscious reflection, grounded in the movement of bodies in situated environments.

Here's a thought: Good clinical practice requires a habit of conscious reflection on our actions and the actions of others, in order to participate effectively in spontaneous, perceptive, iterations of practice, while also providing the conceptual clues for understanding ourselves and others. Dewey talked about how to cultivate this reflective stance, and grounded it in the situations and environments where we interact and find ourselves engaged in professional practice.

My next task is to read the Continuing Relevance of John Dewey,edited by Larry Hickman: particularly interested in following up Richard Shusterman's focus on conscious bodily reflection in the situations of life, with Philipp Dorstewitz's chapter on Dewey's transactive model of inquiry. Also pertinent for clinical practice - consider this approach: we form hypotheses, reason, and intervene in streams of patient care through 'rhythms of situations'- clinical practice has a temporal quality, as well as a conscious quality, and warranted 'normal' quality - patient care requires imagination, transacted between the clinical team and the patient, in real situations, embodied by clinician and patient alike, where values and beliefs emerge, as natural qualities, not arbitrary conventions.

I think reading Shusterman, and reflecting on your own practice, prepares us for the task.

Four stars only due to the 1999 end point on the reference list - as another reviewer has pointed out. Shusterman says the book is a collection of previously published papers - but an editorial is needed to bring the texts up to date.
5 de 15 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
1.0 de un máximo de 5 estrellas Poor scholarship or poor comprehension? 19 de mayo de 2009
Por Lawrence E. Smith - Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato:Tapa dura|Compra verificada
One expects, of writers of the stature of Mr. Shusterman, both knowledge and understanding of the subjects on which they discourse. What a disappointment to discover that Mr. Shusterman, in Body Consciousness, gives considerable space to a subject about which he demonstrates both lack of meaningful experience, and a poor reading of the texts from which he draws his knowledge. I refer to the Alexander Technique, to which several pages of this book are devoted (within the chapter on John Dewey), mostly, it seems, to show off Mr. Shusterman's preferred somatic domain, the Feldenkrais Method, a method in which he trained as a practitioner. Without even mentioning the fact that Moshe Feldenkrais was a student of the Alexander Technique, both before and long after he developed his own method, Mr. Shusterman often unfavorably compares the Alexander Technique to the Feldenkrais method, even criticizing Alexander's failure to permit a proper study of his method (which was probably motivated not, as Mr. Shusterman implies, by any doubt about his method, but more by the difficulty of finding a sufficient number of practitioner participants for the study, as, unfortunately, Alexander considered himself the only true teacher of his method).

The decision to include, in this brief overview of Alexander's practical work, a quotation that has been removed from most editions of one of his books, in which Alexander expresses his racist views (quite common in his day), clearly demonstrates Shusterman's hidden agenda, which is attacking Alexander, rather than presenting a knowledgeable assessment of his work. We get nothing of the personal about Feldenkrais, who had quite a reputation of his own for unpleasantness, and who used Alexander's work as a foundation for his own. By the way, Alexander also considered Germans racially inferior to the British (take that, master race!).

About Alexander's work, Mr. Shusterman notes, critically, that: "The Alexander Technique is especially focused on upright posture...". Since pretty much everything we do, except for sleep, involves "upright posture", how is that a negative? It is true that, in the Alexander Technique, one does not spend a great deal of time rolling around on the floor, or touching one's head to one's knee, but instead one deals with the self in everyday life and action - alert and upright.

He further writes: "His `primary control' of keeping the head `forward and up'[...]", and later, "[...] reliance on one central position of head and neck [..]". Note that it is Shusterman, never Alexander, who applies words denoting fixity, such as "keeping" and "position", in describing the "primary control", exposing his faulty understanding of what Alexander wrote and taught. Nowhere does Alexander ever write of "keeping" or "holding" the head-neck relationship - on the contrary, he repeats (ad nauseum, in fact) that it is necessary to allow or permit freedom, so that the head is permitted space and movement in its relationship to the rest of the body. Alexander stresses throughout all his writing, as he did in his work, that one simply wants to inhibit habitual fixity, especially in what we now refer to as the neck reflexes. Contrary to Mr. Shusterman's contention that the Alexander Technique focuses on the "primary control" to the detriment of other systems, such as the sensory, Alexander, and teachers trained by him work on global consciousness of the self. Frank Pierce Jones, who Mr. Shusterman quotes, even defined the Alexander Technique as a method for combining proprioception and exteroception into a unified field of perception. (Mr. Jones, by the way, is best known for his published research on the Alexander Technique, which includes publication in journals on psychology and physiology. He was a student and friend of John Dewey and Alexander) If Mr. Shusterman had taken the time to have more than a couple of lessons in the Alexander Technique with a properly trained teacher, he would have difficulty sustaining his misconceptions about the "primary control", a term which many in the Alexander world no longer even use, preferring terminology from contemporary science (tonic neck reflexes, vestibulo-nuchal reflexes). It is hardly Alexander's fault that the bulk of his research was undertaken before the discovery of the reflexes his technique works with. (Nikolas Tinbergen gave his Nobel Prize acceptance speech about Alexander and his application of the scientific method to the study of the self.)

Again, if Mr. Shusterman had truly read his sources, he would have found a very clear explanation in Frank Peirce Jones' work Freedom to Change of how increased awareness of reactions in the neck region can be used to alert one to postural sets that lead to inefficient movement. Today's researchers in neuro-physiology, particularly Alain Berthoz, recognize the Head-Neck Sensory Motor System (Alexander's primary control, and the title of a book edited by Mr. Berthoz), as the center of postural response and change. Any attempt to alter the motor aspects of postural adaptation must begin with the neck region, as such change spreads from this region outwards. Research post-Alexander supports his observations in this regard.

Mr. S. is also critical of Alexander's notion of faulty sensory awareness. While it is true that his writing is often poor and, in this case, even misleading, anyone who has experienced Alexander's method may understand what he meant. Today, we would express faulty kinesthesia differently, as result of top-down sensory perception. In other words, what we see is not what the eye takes in, but it is a combination of sensory input and experience. This is true of all sensory experience. Without top-down sensory processing, the world is just an indecipherable maze of sound and light waves and electrical impulses. Alexander is simply trying to get us to question our sensory conclusions, because they are often mistaken, as an anorexic that sees a heavy person in the mirror is not exhibiting an eye problem, or, in a different way, someone who cannot hear pitch is not necessarily someone with a hearing problem - it is more a matter of how experience colors perception in a top-down manner. Here is Daniel Levitin on the subject in "This is Your Brain on Music":

"Low-level processing in your brain sees blobs of ink on this page, and perhaps even allows you to put those blobs together and recognize a basic form in your visual vocabulary, such as the letter A. But it is high-level processing that puts together three letters to let you read the word ART and to generate a mental image of what the word means."

One must remember that Alexander wrote to take possession of his work, as others who had experienced it were beginning to claim aspects of it as their discoveries, and that his actual work went far beyond what is contained in his writing. It is not a method that addresses movement, as are methods such as that of Mr. Feldenkrais, but is instead a method that addresses postural constants, and, due to the hierarchical nature of postural reflexes, this work requires a very developed awareness of reactions, especially in the sub-occipital region, where postural change is first seen in the musculature. For that reason, teachers trained in the Alexander Technique, at least those certified by STAT, AmSTAT and CanSTAT, undergo a minimum of 1600 hours training (more than double that of Feldenkrais training), often considerably more.

Further, to assert that Alexander did not consider the importance of sensory input to postural adaptation is absurd. Anyone who has had a lesson with a competent teacher of the A.T. will have been driected to keep the eyes focused, to maintain an outward gaze, to sense the pressure of the feet against the floor (something one cannot do rolling around on a mat), to un-clutch and open the hands, etc.

This is not the first time Shusterman has demonstrated a poor comprehension of somatics and the Alexander Technique, as his earlier paper, "Somasthetics" and an earlier book, Performing Live, are filled with similar errors (Performing Live has comments on Alexander's inhibition that are risible. Mr. Shusterman confounds the term inhibition, as it is used in physiology and in the Alexander Technique, with the same term as it is used in pop-psychology. He attributes some kind of negative connotation to the term as Alexander used it, as though there were some kind of suppression of impulse involved. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, as in physiology, inhibition is the partner and counterpart to excitation -- when one muscle group is excited, that is, its fibers contracted, an opposing group is inhibited, or allowed to lengthen. There is constant muscle tone in all muscles, and it becomes possible for that muscle tone to become imbalanced and inappropriate. Excessive muscle tone can be clearly noted at the beginning of any action, when a postural set begins in the neck region, leading to an overall increase in muscle tone. At this point, to inhibit the immediate reaction to a stimulus means to consciously order inhibition, much as one might do in a yoga posture when a stretched muscle is sensed and released. Rather than having a negative effect on spontaneity, as Mr. S. implies, this release from old, established habitual reaction, frees one to be present for what is happening now). In approaching his current work, I had expectations that he might have deepened his understanding of the subject of somatics in general, and of the Alexander Technique, in particular. Silly me - perhaps Mr. Shusterman is just an academic repeatedly rehashing his earlier work. Or perhaps he is one of those that we in the Alexander Technique consider resistant to teaching. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt, and go with the latter.

Understanding of the Alexander Technique is helpful in understanding Dewey's ideas on habit. He studied with Alexander for 35 years and wrote (as Mr. Shusterman notes) introductions to two of Alexander's books. If you wish to read about the Alexander Technique, Frank Pierce Jones' Freedom to Change is a good place to start.
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