For Levi, the human body was a knowing or thinking body-a phenomenological view akin to Merleau-Ponty’s ‘sentient body subject’ (Williams and Bendelow 1998, 52). As previously suggested, and elaborated more fully in this chapter in relation to Levi’s representations of embodiment, this is fundamentally an anti-Cartesian position which rejects Descartes’ conviction that the body is mere extended matter while intellectual refl ection takes place only in the unextended psyche. Although in the initial paragraph of Se questo è un uomo Levi describes how, after four years of oppression under the 1938 racial laws, he had been reduced to living ascetically, ‘in un mio mondo scarsamente reale, popolato da civili fantasmi cartesiani’ [in an unrealistic world of my own, a world inhabited by civilized Cartesian phantoms] (SQ I, 7; IM, 19), perhaps seeking to eschew the diffi culties of oppressive material reality by seeking (disembodied) intellectual freedom, this feeling did not persist in his later accounts of his life. Indeed, even the sense of the body as abject, inimical to and distinct from his intellectual self, which he narrated as part of his experiences in the Lager, seems to have dissolved in works such as Il sistema periodico which are marked by a strong valorization of fully embodied subjectivity, explored in relation to Levi’s experiences both pre-and post-deportation. As Valerio Ferme has commented, while it may be true that as part of the Turinese intelligentsia Levi was ‘trained to determine his worth as a man by his ability to think’, it becomes clear upon reading his work that ‘the ability to think and talk is tied to the awareness of being, and of being human’ (Ferme 2001, 54). Both his experiences in the Lager and his activities as a chemist encouraged him to develop the view that one determines one’s worth by measuring body alongside mind, and that the body is a valuable ‘instrument of . . . “comprehension”’ (Merleau-Ponty 1992, 235).