Philosophy of Mind as a Philosophy of the Body: A Comparative Discussion on Introspective Proprioception and the Subtle Dimensions of Bodily Self-Awareness in Samkhya-Yoga, Advaita Vedanta and Kasmir Saivism

Funes Maderey, Ana Laura
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2016]
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Awareness of one’s own body has usually been understood within Western philosophy as the ability performed by the soul or the mind to observe one’s own bodily states, implying with this the idea that the body is an unconscious, mechanic instrument; a passive receptor of sensations. However, mind/body dualism has been strongly criticized within the recent history of philosophy. In spite of current attempts to avoid dualist perspectives in understanding processes of attention towards one’s own bodily states, the distinction between an awareness proper of the body (proprioception) and an awareness proper of the mind (introspection) continuous to be commonly held, both within reductionist materialist accounts and non-reductionist phenomenological approaches. This dissertation argues that, if mind-body dualism is false— as most contemporary phenomenologists and philosophers of the mind have intensely argued— then a different notion of bodily awareness is needed to account for bodily sensations that are not reducible to bodily movements or position of the limbs, but that include self-aware experiences that are introspectively felt, such as sadness, happiness, and other abstract feelings (perhaps even thoughts and other cognitive processes). This dissertation defends a notion of introspective proprioception that is not reduced to the conscious attention of one’s bodily position or movement, and presents a somaesthetic account of introspection by discussing the notion of bodily self-awareness as found in three Indian philosophical traditionsŚ Samkhya-Yoga, Vedanta Advaita, and Kasmir Saivism. It shows how the non-reductionist conception of the body present in these schools of thought can help overcome the traditional mind-body dualism without necessarily having to commit to materialist or idealist presuppositions. The notion of introspective proprioception is critically examined through a phenomenological interpretation of the concept of “subtle body” (sūkṣma sarīra) in these Indian schools and a comparison with the notion of the “lived body” as developed by Maurice Merleau Ponty and Luce Irigaray. Recent studies in embodied cognition and philosophy of mind are also considered in relation to the experience of paying attention to one’s breath, for it is through conscious observation of one’s own breathing that the distinction between awareness of one’s body and awareness of one’s mind is shown to be dissolved.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2016.
Includes bibliographical references.
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Philosophy
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