The Subject of Consciousness
© C.O. Evans

Chapter 7

Bodily Existence - 7.1.1
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[I] The argument for the temporal continuity of the self has been made to be crucially dependent on bodily activities. At the same time the notion of a bodily activity has been deliberately left up in the air in so far as it was not made dependent on the physical existence of bodies. This standpoint was the consequence of the adoption of the self-approach according to which the identification of the experiential self had to be approached through an analysis of consciousness. With the completion of that analysis the time has arrived to give the body its due.

I shall try to show how the connection between the self and a particular body should be viewed, by making a series of transitions from a self conceived as completely independent of a body to one conceived as completely dependent on it. My argument is designed to show that these transitions are ones of progressive concretization such that the final transition in which the self is viewed as necessarily having a body is the one that is consistent with our native knowledge of ourselves and our understanding of our world.

The first conception of the self in inverse order of concretization is that of a disembodied self. Such a conception is based on the premiss that the relation between a self and one or more bodies is logically contingent. That is to say, the self might exist although it no longer has a body and possibly never did have one. One widely believed conception of immortality is based on such a conception of the self. Even philosophers such as Strawson 190 and Quinton. 191 who reject the idea of the independence of a person and his body, nevertheless concede that the idea of disembodied survival is at least logically possible. We may note therefore that the theory I have developed does not rule out that possibility when it is taken at one of its levels. We need only reflect that the theory takes consciousness as given and identifies the self with unprojected consciousness, in order to realize that as long as it is logically possible for consciousness to exist apart from a body a self which is identical

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with unprojected consciousness could exist apart from a body. However, we should also be aware of what we must be prepared to sacrifice if we are to countenance this possibility. Such a self would be deprived of sense experience. It would not be able to look at anything, listen to anything, or feel anything; and this would mean that it would neither see nor hear nor have feeling. All there would be left for the self to do would be to think. It would be Descartes' thinking thing. Price has suggested that a disembodied self would have to be thought of as having the equivalent of dream experiences. 192 This is a fascinating suggestion since it helps to give us an idea of what it would be like to be such a self and this is a way of making the idea intelligible to us. Were we totally unable to do that, the conception of the self in question would receive no answering response in terms of our native knowledge of the self, and we would be free to deny that a disembodied self was the sort of self we experience ourselves as being.

However, at a deeper level my theory is not really compatible with this view of the self at all. The argument that images and thoughts are dependent on our capacities to see, to hear, to feel, and so forth would contradict the claim that a self which lacked those capacities would nevertheless be able to have images and thoughts. Thus according to my theory a self which engaged in 'pure' thinking would be unintelligible, as would a self which only had dreams. There is yet another direction in which a disembodied self would be an impoverished self. It would, on my theory, necessarily lack the experience of continuity. I have argued that the continuity of the self is based on the ability of bodily activity to sustain awareness. But a self lacking that ability would be one whose existence would be confined to the single moment of existence during which it was the subject of one momentary experience.

We must conclude that disembodied existence is ruled out by most of the arguments I have used to support my theory of the self. Let us therefore make the transition to the next stage of concretization: the stage at which we allow the self to have perceptual experiences quite apart from its alleged capacity to have Ginnane-like thoughts and dream-like experiences. To make this possible we have to equip the self with bodily activities. But that still does not mean that we have to supply the self with a body in the accepted meaning of the word. We can draw on the Christian tradition for

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a conception of a self which would be equipped with perceptual abilities and yet not be a self with a body as we know it. I am thinking of the conception of the resurrection of the body in a spiritualized form. The ordinary conception of a ghost of a deceased person would do as well. In both cases the self is equipped with what I shall describe as a quasi-body: a body which permits its owner to engage in perceptual activities but which lacks the compensating advantages and disadvantages of the corruptible human body.

It should be evident that although I have introduced the notion of a quasi-body to refer to conceptions of bodies with properties remarkably different from real human bodies, the point of the notion is to tie the notion of body to anything capable of practicing the bodily activities involved in perception. Looked at in this way it is necessarily true that anything capable of practicing bodily activities has a quasi-body. This means that the concept of a quasi-body enables us to reveal a logical feature shared by all sorts of bodies: namely, the capability they give their owners to practise bodily activities. Considered from this point of view we can legitimately think of real human bodies as one form of actualization of a quasi-body, and ghosts as another possible form of actualization of a quasi-body. If, therefore, we wish to refer to our own bodies in such a way as to disregard all of their properties which are extraneous to their function in the practice of bodily activities (and this includes disregarding the causal conditions for the practice of these activities), we may describe our own bodies as quasi-bodies. A consequence of this extension of the notion of a quasi-body is that it is no longer possible to contrast our bodies with quasi-bodies (of the sort possessed by ghosts). When I wish to contrast the sort of quasi-body possessed by human beings with the sort possessed by ghosts I shall contrast real bodies with phantom bodies.

It should not be forgotten that kinaesthetic sensation was found to play a crucial role in the successful performance of certain bodily activities. We may add, therefore, that intrinsic to the notion of a quasi-body will be the experience of it as the experience of kinaesthetic sensation. To make this clear I need only mention the phantom limb experience in which a limb is believed to belong to a self, although it no longer does, purely because the kinaesthetic sensations induced by its use can still be induced despite its loss. In other words, the-body-for-consciousness - apart from perception

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of it as an object - is our experience of kinaesthetic sensation.

It would be logically possible for a quasi-body to be invisible. But even if it were not invisible, there would be no reason for its appearance to remain unchanging - or for it to change only slowly as our appearances do. It would be logically possible for a self with a quasi-body to be undergoing frequent metamorphoses. The successive metamorphoses need not even be restricted to one form: the only restriction that would be entailed by the concept of a quasi-body would be that the positions of its sense-organs relative to one another would have to be relatively constant.

But a quasi-body undergoing metamorphoses would at least belong to a different type of self to the selves we experience ourselves as being in that our appearances do not change like that. Thus, if we conceive of our bodies as quasi-bodies, we would have to conceive of them as quasi-bodies that are not to our knowledge metamorphosing quasi-bodies. Here we find ourselves at the point at which another transition can be made to yet another stage in our series of progressive concretizations. That stage is reached by adding that the quasi-body be subject to the limitation of sameness of appearance. A self with such a quasi-body would obviously come closer in its experience of being a self to the experience we have of being selves.

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190. Strawson, Individuals, p. 115.
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191. A. Quinton, 'The Idea of the Soul', Philosophical Studies, Vol. LXIX (1960).
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192. H.H. Price, 'Survival and the Idea of "Another World"', Brain and Mind, ed. J. R. Smythies (London. 1965).
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