Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Phenomenology and Mindfulness/Awareness

Reading the first part of Embodied Mind at the same time as Martin Heidegger's Being and Time made me realize that maybe Heidegger was a Buddhist at heart...

Okay, maybe not.

However, the discussion of the "I" and the self in this book sound a whole lot like Heidegger's Dasein (this is H.'s word for the structure that allows for our Being). Heidegger often talks about how Dasein has a tendency to get lost in the everyday hubbub of regular old being (he calls it getting caught up in the "they") - that is, latch on to a some version of a self. These versions of the self are "inauthentic."

While the authors of Embodied Mind are probably more interested in awareness of our tendency to locate a self, I think Heidegger might at least see part of his program in this book. The main difference seems to be that phenomenology (or at least Heidegger) wants to lay out an ontology while Verala et. al. are interested in intertwining ontology with cognitive science (possibly science as a whole?).

The authors might take some exception with my comparison though, since it seems they draw a definite distinction between "high theory" and "real experience":

"We could, of course, redefine the self in all sorts of ways to get around these problems, perhaps even by following contemporary analytic philosophers who use quite sophisticated logical techniqus...but none of these new acounts would in any way explain our basic reactional behavior and everyday tendencies" (72).

I wonder if others think this theory/practice split is entirely fair. It would seem to me that those theorizing the self do think that they're talking about experience and "everyday tendencies."

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