chapter  4
13 Pages

Embodied Practice: Martin Heidegger, Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault: Bryan S. Turner

ByMichel Foucault Bryan S. Turner

The sociology of the body has involved an ongoing – some times implicit and some times explicit – criticism of the conventional division between mind and body that has been the hallmark of the empirical sciences and especially medical science since the famous intervention by René Descartes. In place of such dualisms, sociological interest in the body, especially in medical sociology, has promoted the holistic idea of the embodied person as a unity of organism, consciousness, emotions and actions. This unity of consciousness, body and practice is referred to simply as ‘embodiment’. This development in sociology consequently has required a critical assault on the metaphor of the body as a machine that operates with instructions from the mind. Much of this inspiration to jettison the Cartesian view of the body as merely a physical extension in space has come not just from sociology itself but from philosophy and in particular from Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time (1962). In his criticism of metaphysics in the late 1920s, Heidegger proposed simply that Dasein is ‘the entity each of us is’. His life-long philosophical endeavour can be seen as an inquiry into our bodily being in the world or in the terminology of sociology the practical activities of people in their life-world or the everyday practices of embodied beings. This interpretation of Dasein by reference to the whole body owes much to Frederick Olafson’s Hei-

degger and the Philosophy of Mind (Olafson, 1989: 620) in which he goes against other interpretations of Heidegger that view Being in more anti-humanist and disembodied terms. Olafson (1995: 198) in What is a Human Being? further developed this Heideggerian approach to underwrite criticisms of the modern legacies of Cartesianism:

To say that something acts is to say that it makes a change in the world, and that it is possible only for an entity that is itself in that world and in it in a way that permits acting on it. We know of no way in which that can be done in a world of material things like ours unless the entity in question is or, as we also say, has a body.