The Experience of the Body and Classical Psychology
Classical psychology’s own characterization of the body indicated crucial structural differences between the latter and objects; yet because of their commitment to the standpoint of an impartial observer, psychologists failed to appreciate the philosophical significance of these fundamental differences. Classical psychology recognized, for example, that the body itself has a permanence which is unlike that of objects. We establish an object’s permanence by exploring it from diverse perspectives in space and time and determining whether it persists throughout the exploration. Moreover, an object can be removed from our perceptual field altogether. We cannot, however, detach ourselves from our body; hence we can neither take up various perspectives on it nor dislodge it from our perception. In short, our body is permanently present for us without our ever being able to observe it like an object; the angle from which we perceive our body is unalterable. Yet this permanent and invariable presence of our body is what enables us to observe objects; it is the prerequisite for the latters’ variability and potential absence. Once again, the dialectical relationship between freedom and dependence comes to light: we have the freedom to choose and to vary our perspective on objects only on the condition that we cannot do the same vis-à-vis our body.
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