Friday, November 06, 2020

The Human Body

 To the question "What is a human body?" I intend to propose seven preliminary answers: that it is an animal body with various powers of movement, some voluntary and directed; that it is a body whose movements afford expression to intentions and purposes that thereby possess a certain directedness; that, as an expressive body, it is interpretable by others and responsive to others; that, as an interpretable body, a variety of its characteristics are signs whose meanings others can understand; that its directedness has the unity of agency; that it cannot be adequately understood except in terms of the social contexts in which it engages with others and others with it; and that it is in certain respects enigmatic, a source of puzzlement, since alone among animal bodies it occasionally emits the question "What is a human body?" and directs its powers towards giving an answer to that question.

[Alasdair MacIntyre, "What is a human body?", The Tasks of Philosophy, Cambridge University Press (New York: 2006) p. 86.]

MacIntyre takes all of these as prephilosophical; that is, they are not an explanation of what the body is, but they are what we find the body to be in experience, and that of which a philosophical account would need to give an explanation. On this basis, MacIntyre argues that common modern philosophical accounts of the body fail by not adequately explaining precisely what they would need to explain about the body.

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