The Other. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Presence and Coincidence: The transformation of transcendental into ontological phenomenology. Phaenomenologica , Martinus Nijhoff: The Hague, As they note, indeed, as for Physics, it is by means of symmetries that physical objects are determined objectively and not arbitrarily.
In terms of symmetries, such a situation implies that biological objects cells, multicellular organisms, species are in a continual transition between different symmetry groups; that is, they are in transition between different phases, according to the language of condensed matter. These phases swiftly shift between different critical points and between different physical determinations through symmetry changes.
Our perspective provides an approach concerning the mathematical nature of biological objects as a limit or asymptotic case of physical states: the latter may yield the dense structure we attribute to extended criticality only by an asymptotic accumulation of critical points in a non-trivial interval of viability -- a situation not considered by current physical theories.
Thus, a biological object is mathematically and fundamentally different from a physical object because it may be characterized in terms of partial but continual changes of symmetry within an interval of viability, as an extended locus of critical transitions. In particular, this mathematical view of "partial preservation through symmetry changes" is a way to characterize the joint dynamics of structural stability and variability proper to life.
A first consequence of these permanent symmetry changes is that there are very few invariants in biology. Actually, what stated above assumes a very important meaning also in the context of the epistemological perspective concerning the interrogation about the mathematical nature of living matter "as a limit or asymptotic case of physical states". Indeed, since the global organization of a biological organism is described as strictly interdependent and intertwined with physic variability, critical transitions, continuing changes of dispositions, all this requires a new mathematical approach for the intelligibility of its own organization.
Respect to the inert state of physical objects, the living matter is characterized by "extended critical transitions": 49 definitively, it means that "according to the language of condensed matter", the living bodies appear subjected to continuous changes of states and wide-opened towards unceasing transformations of their global organization and interaction with the environment.
Therefore, in opposition to what usually happens for physical objects, the mechanisms of development and behaviour employed for biological entities are not characterized by the tendency to maintain identical preservations; in biology, the complex singularity of the structure of a living entity is co-determined by the contingency involved in evolution, embryogenesis and environmental modifications. Structural stability in biology, thus, should be understood more in terms of correlations of symmetries within an interval of the extended critical transition, rather than on their identical preservation.
A biological object a cell, a multicellular organism, a species continually changes symmetries, with respect to all control parameters, including time. Each mitosis is a symmetry change because the two new cells are not identical. This variability, under the mathematical form of symmetry breaking and constitution of new symmetries, is essential both for evolution and embryogenesis. The interval of criticality is then the "space of viability" or locus of the possible structural stability.
In line with what is mentioned above, in The Inert vs. San mouvement, il ne pourrait y avoir aucune perception normale, aucune orientation, aucune exploration du monde [ Since the stability in biological systems is potentially linked to variability 54 and to the presence of a few invariants, the trajectories of living beings appear "generic" and not completely intelligible by means of the ordinary mathematical frames.
Unlike the physical objects, in fact, which habitually follow specific, or at least, probable trajectories in quantum mechanics, for example , living beings are characterized by not "optimal" but "possible" trajectories, 55 whose constraints are only those to be compatible with the laws of biological matter and of ecosystem. Fundamentally, this characteristic -- the generality of the biological trajectories -- is due to phylogenetic and ontogenetic factors depending on evolutionary and environmental influences:.
Biology may be considered to be in an opposite situation with respect to physics: in contrast to physics, in biology, trajectories are generic whereas objects are specific [ That is, a rat, a monkey or an elephant are the specific results of possible generic evolutionary trajectories of a common mammal ancestor -- or each of these individuals is specific.
They respectively are the result of a unique constitutive history, yet a possible or generic one [ The evolutionary or ontogenetic trajectory of a cell, a multicellular organism or a species is just a possible or compatible path within the ecosystem. The genericity of the biological trajectories implies that, in contrast to what is common in physics, we cannot mathematically and a priori determine the ontogenetic and phylogenetic trajectory of a living entity be it an individual or a species.
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In other words, in biology, we should consider generic trajectories or possible paths whose only constraints are to remain compatible with the survival of the intended biological system. As for a biolon, 58 the genericity of its trajectories finds a strict correspondence with the singularity and specificity of its individual constitution and history, which are influenced by variability and several contingent factors. Thus, the living organisms appear characterized by specific biological rhythms, by dynamic and unstable changes of spatiality, as well as by historical and environmental contingency.
But movement as such is not directly grasped: "It is always before or ahead of or after the moment in which I grasp it. The interpenetration of the subject with the world, the inhabitation of things, are forms of expressing that original motricity linked to perception. In the explanations and examples just given, I have mentioned motor finality, that is, the directing of the body to action by way of movement; for example, the action of grasping or touching an object that situates the body in a specific direction.
It is as though movement had just one act, that is, as though that which it contains from the beginning were to be unfurled in the action. The issue of anticipation has a predecessor in Husserl 18 and has also been studied by contemporary physiology. In what follows I will refer to certain analyses carried out by Berthoz and Petit Physiological studies demonstrate that there is a kind of progressive accumulation of neuronal activity that little by little constructs the action that expresses itself at the moment of execution.
This is possible thanks to the assemblage of pieces, as occurs with Lego bricks. But it has also been discovered that the stage that precedes action, which the authors call the microgenesis of action, is not simply an accumulation of energy that is waiting for the moment to reveal itself. Rather, the formation of an intention prior to the occurrence of the movement, that is, a content of meaning that will make it so that the movement will not be simply "movement," that is, motor behaviour, but will be an "action" directed to or with a view to an objective BERTHOZ; PETIT, , p.
There is an extraordinary diversity of mechanisms of anticipation and prediction. For example, the mechanoreceptors measure the derivations of the magnitude of the movement velocity, acceleration, shock, etc. This physiological action permits regulating and, in this way, anticipating movement. The authors affirm that perception is fundamentally anticipative and is explained by the so-called corollary discharges by which the brain sends out a copy of the motor order, anticipating the perceptive centres and permitting them to stabilize the perceived world. An example is the perception of distances.
La spatialité originaire du corps propre | SpringerLink
On many of the occasions in which we move from one place to another, or in which an object comes toward us, it would be very complex to calculate the distance. These considerations are interesting in the light of the ultimate explanation that the authors provide, which is the relationship of persons or living beings with the world that surrounds them or in which they live.
Speaking of anticipation is to attribute to the human organism a property of full rights that derives from an ontology of mutual and formational integration that the organism maintains with its world of life. What occurs in the brief lapse of time-it might be dozens of thousands of a second-that precedes action or perception, shows us that for the perceiving subject "reality" is known via a broad anticipatory construction BERTHOZ; PETIT, , p. The authors conclude that anticipation is a fundamental property of any organism that possesses a nervous system, and that the list of anticipatory mechanisms does not merely reveal a collection of means-found by evolution-that strengthen fitness.
This form of knowledge is not exactly the understanding of the body that I am attempting to explain, but it accounts for why, physiologically, there is also a preparation for the interpenetration between the subject and the world. In this first part of my article I have explained the relation of the subject with space, employing the contrast between the healthy person and the unhealthy person.
I have described what we might call motor consciousness, which is at the base of the inherence of the subject in the world and also in what Merleau-Ponty calls "inhabiting things. In the second part of the article I will address the issue of how we explain this "re-cognition" that generates spontaneous movements and immediate responses in the subject. I would like to respond to these issues from the perspective of motor intentionality, directly related to the interlacing of the subject and the world. In order to advance in the explanation of the content of Merleau-Ponty's affirmation that the body itself understands, the notions of operant motor intentionality are key, as is the motor project.
Both display the originary character of movement in bodily understanding. The texts of PP are complemented by the notes from Le monde sensible that permit a broadening of the notion of perception, and a better explanation of the intermingling of the subject with the world. Merleau-Ponty , p. In Le monde sensible this contraposition instead occurs between praxis and gnosis, always seeking to explain the radicality of the body's understanding, and also of the movement that occurred thanks to the I can , just as Husserl had suggested. Merleau-Ponty is referring to operant intentionality, in the prologue to PP , as "the intentionality that establishes the natural and pre-predicative unity of the world and of our life.
It is worth emphasizing the anticipatory quality of this form of knowledge, since it presents itself as the condition of possibility in a thetic intentionality.
This form of intentionality exists without the mediation of reflection. In habitual behaviours one sees more clearly that the body understands, that what Merleau-Ponty calls a motor signification comes to be. This is not the result of a spatial calculation, but rather of a kind of synchrony between the body and space and with the objects that are in it, because the body "understands" either the distance from things, or the affinity with the melody of the body's movement itself, as occurs, for example, in dance.
Merleau-Ponty explains what happens in these cases as follows: "Places in space are not defined as objective positions in relation to the objective position of our body, but rather they inscribe around us the variable reach of our intentions and our gestures. This quote opens a topic that permits the union of this second part of the article with the topics developed in the prior section, and which can now be more broadly developed. That is, one can develop an explanation that is more intellectualist or associationist, or another explanation that has to do with the lived situation of the person: "Bodily space can be given to a grasping intention without being given to an epistemic one.
This distinction marks the contrasts described in PP between the healthy subject and the unhealthy one and, in this latter case, between the habitual actions of the unhealthy subject and those that respond to an order, that is, those that occur on the abstract plane: "The patient is conscious of bodily space as the envelope of his habitual action, but not as an objective milieu.
His body is available as a means of insertion into his familiar surroundings, but not as a means of expression of a spontaneous and free spatial thought. Spatial knowledge, which I will emphasize now, is the fruit of a "sort of coexistence with that location.
This is why it is also difficult to explain theoretically, given that it is understood in the context of what Merleau-Ponty calls a motor field or universe, directly linked with the living project of the subject, its mission in the world in which it is situated. The person is originally linked with the world from a dynamic I can but which "hides behind the objective world that it contributes to constituting. As I have already noted, in Le monde sensible , Merleau-Ponty compares gnosis and praxis, or rather makes the latter the condition of the possibility of theoretical knowledge: "I want to point out a relationship with the object that is not, initially, one of knowledge.
To deeply analyze the notion of knowledge via that of praxis. This is a matter of capturing the spirit in its aborning state. Further along, in this same work, he affirms that in regards to the world of culture one can also consider praxis as either constitutive or originary, since by way of our perceptive consciousness we have a certain familiarity with the things that surround us: "We frequent them" in a way that is more practical than theoretical. Emphasizing this tacit character of practical intellection, Merleau-Ponty speaks of a "silence" of perception that should be taken in a strong sense.
It not only remains silent, it is opposed to language and to enunciations, to the I know that , given that it itself is a form of language: "We understand the sensible as though between our body and the subject's there were a pact that was prior to us, prior to every situation, as though it were speaking a language to us that we don't have to learn, and about which we know the science. But even this latter state-the I can -offers limitations, not being a pure possibility. Its haecceity [thisness] imposes certain limits that derive both from bodiliness and any deficiencies that might affect it, as well as the spatio-temporal situation in which movement takes place, as well as action in general.
These limitations are primarily expressed in the descriptions of the unhealthy subject, specifically in the PP by way of the Schneider case. Illness, in any of its forms, can mean a diminishing of the I can , but also a modification of it, as in the case of the substitution that the subject discovers in an object, an artefact, which is added to its potentiality until it becomes one object with it.
The negativity of the deficiency, the difficulty or opposition presented by this relation with the world, causes the person to display original forms of the I can : having recourse to artefacts, which I have already mentioned, or the broadening of perceptive capacities, as in the case of the blind person whose senses of hearing and smelling become more acute.
But it is not just the sick person that has limitations; we also see the healthy subject restricted in his movements, both because of personal factors as well as environmental ones. Merleau-Ponty does not specifically refer to this aspect, or to the reality that not all the parts of the body are equally available for action and movement. The extremities, for example, seem to be more plastic than the torso or the lumbar region. The hands and legs display more agility and speed in the fulfilment of the movement's purpose, requiring a lesser impulse from the will, almost moving by themselves.
For example, there is the rhythm that footsteps acquire when nearing the objective, or the tensing of the hand upon grasping the desired object. These cases show us that the situation, in some way, configures the I can , which in turn cannot be explained as a pure capacity; rather, the explanation always resides in a linkage with the world.
These examples reflect an I can that displays itself in the perceptive or sensory field, prior to the will, as the response of the body, without the direction of the rational faculties. Nevertheless, in Le monde sensible Merleau-Ponty suggests a broader conception of perception that can also be applied to the intellect, without restricting itself exclusively to the sensory realm. This is why one can speak of a logos of perception and of an implicit logic of perception.
Upon this logos is mounted, so to speak, the logos of the intellect, since the object of the intellect redirects to the perceived thing, which forms part of its signification or meaning. He concludes: "Everything is perception, but perception is everything, i. The intellect must open itself, so to speak, to the logos of perception, so that the aforementioned mutual relation between what is thought and what is perceived comes to be. This broadening of perception confirms the affirmation found in PP towards the end of the chapter, regarding the spatiality of the body itself.
Motricity is not like a handmaiden of consciousness, it does not carry out any orders given by the intelligence, it does not answer to mental representations. In the same way that I am my body, I do not possess it.
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