European Journal of Philosophy. 2006;14:1:49-68.
Common wisdom tells us that we have five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and
touch. These senses provide us with a means of gaining information concerning objects
in the world around us, including our own bodies. But in addition to these five senses,
each of us is aware of our own body in ways in which we are aware of no other thing.
These ways include our awareness of the position, orientation, movement, and size
of our limbs (proprioception and kinaesthesia), our sense of balance, and our awareness
of bodily sensations such as pains, tickles, and sensations of pressure or temperature.
We can group these together under the title ‘bodily awareness’. The legitimacy of
grouping together these ways of gaining information is shown by the fact that they
are unified phenomenologically; they provide the subject with an awareness of his
or her body ‘from the inside’. Bodily awareness is an awareness of our own bodies
from within. This perspective on our own bodies does not, cannot, vary. As Merleau-Ponty
writes, ‘my own body…is always presented to me from the same angle’ (1962: 90).
It has recently been claimed by a number of philosophers that, in bodily awareness,
one is not simply aware of one's body as one's body, but one is aware of one's body
as oneself. That is, when I attend to the object of bodily awareness I am presented
not just with my body, but with my ‘bodily self’. The contention of the present paper
is that such a view is misguided. In the first section I clarify just what is at issue
here. In the remainder of the paper I present an argument, based on two claims about
the nature of the imagination, against the view that the bodily self is presented
in bodily awareness. Section two defends the dependency thesis; a claim about the
relation between perception and sensory imagination. Section three defends a certain
view about our capacity to imagine being other people. Section four presents the main
argument against the bodily self awareness view and section five addresses some objections.