In Joerg Fingerhut & Sabine Marienberg (eds.), Feelings of Being Alive. de Gruyter. pp. 8--167 (2012)

Joerg Fingerhut
Humboldt-University, Berlin
We experience our encounters with the world and others in different degrees of intensity – the presence of things and others is gradual. I introduce this kind of presence as a ubiquitous feature of every phenomenally conscious experience, as well as a key ingredient of our ‘feeling of being alive’, and distinguish explanatory agendas that might be relevant with regard to this phenomenon (1 – 3). My focus will be the role of the body-brain nexus in realizing these experiences and its treatment in recent accounts of the bodily constitution of experience. Specifically, I compare a sensorimotor approach to perceptual presence that focuses on properties of the moving body (O’Regan 2011; Noë 2012) with a more general enactivism that focuses on properties of the living body (Thompson 2007). First, I develop and discuss a theory of access derived from sensorimotor theory that might be suited to explain the phenomenon of gradual presence. This is a theory that sees the mastery of sensorimotor, bodily engagements with the world as key elements in setting up a phenomenal experience space. I object that in current versions of sensorimotor theory the correlation posited between presence and changes in the subject’s physical relation to the environment is too rigid. Nevertheless I defend the claim that gradual presence is constituted by our temporally extended engagement with the environment (4 – 7). Second, I consider some objections stemming from enactivism with regard to self-regulatory properties of the living body and the phenomenological claim that the organism’s value-laden relations with its environment have to be included in the theory. I will show that the latter is a necessary amendment to sensorimotor theory and its concept of gradual presence (8-10)
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