A Bodily Sense of Self in Descartes and Malebranche

In Jari Kaukua & Tomas Ekenberg (eds.), Subjectivity and Selfhood in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy. Cham: Springer. pp. 219-234 (2016)
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Although Descartes and Malebranche argue that we are immaterial thinking things, they also maintain that each of us stands in a unique experiential relation to a single human body, such that we feel as though this body belongs to us and is part of ourselves. This paper examines Descartes’s and Malebranche’s accounts of this feeling. They hold that our experience of being embodied is grounded in affective bodily sensations that feel good or bad: namely, sensations of pleasure and pain, hunger and thirst, and so on. These bodily sensations ground our experiential identification with the body because they represent the body’s needs and interests as though they were own, such that we experience an important aspect of our well-being as consisting in the preservation of the body. According to these Cartesians, then, we feel embodied in part because we experience ourselves as having a bodily good.



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Colin Chamberlain
University College London

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Cartesian Clarity.Elliot Samuel Paul - 2020 - Philosophers' Imprint 20 (19):1-28.

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