Body and World
383 pp., 6 x 9 in,
- Published: April 27, 2001
- Published: April 27, 2001
Body and World is the definitive edition of a book that should now take its place as a major contribution to contemporary existential phenomenology. Samuel Todes goes beyond Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty in his description of how independent physical nature and experience are united in our bodily action. His account allows him to preserve the authority of experience while avoiding the tendency towards idealism that threatens both Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. Todes emphasizes the complex structure of the human body; front/back asymmetry, the need to balance in a gravitational field, and so forth; and the role that structure plays in producing the spatiotemporal field of experience and in making possible objective knowledge of the objects in it. He shows that perception involves nonconceptual, but nonetheless objective forms of judgment. One can think of Body and World as fleshing out Merleau-Ponty's project while presciently relating it to the current interest in embodiment, not only in philosophy but also in psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, and anthropology. Todes's work opens new ways of thinking about problems such as the relation of perception to thought and the possibility of knowing an independent reality; problems that have occupied philosophers since Kant and still concern analytic and continental philosophy.
A much needed and insightful account that stays with the phenomenological evidence, a rich phenomenological resource.
The Times Literary Supplement
Todes's remarkable book takes us a step further in the striving of modern philosophy since Kant to show how our perceiving can be both constrained and free, situated and yet spontaneous and creative. Todes shows how we can resolve this age-old conundrum by understanding the crucial place in all perceiving and thinking of the active material body; this is the great repressed of modern philosophy, whose return, as Todes shows, has important consequences, not only for epistemology, but for ethics and social theory.
Charles Taylor, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, McGill University
This remarkable book, originally prepared as Samuel Todes's dissertation, delves deeply into issues that have only now, forty years later, become central concerns in epistemology, philosophy of action, and philosophy of mind. These issues had been broached by Husserl in manuscripts and had been followed up by Heidegger and above all by Merleau-Ponty, but Todes carries the discussion further with careful analyses and original ideas. He discusses how the body has anticipations that can be satisfied or frustrated, and shows how these processes are of crucial importance for clarifying the nonconceptual elements in knowledge. He also throws much-needed light on the percipient as a bodily subject, on the unity of the person and the unity of the object experienced. The book is a classic in the sense that it remains as thought-provoking and illuminating today as when it was written.
Dagfinn Føllesdal, Clarence Irving Lewis Professor of Philosophy, Stanford University