Contemporary culture increasingly suffers from problems of attention, over-stimulation, and stress, and a variety of personal and social discontents generated by deceptive body images. This book argues that improved body consciousness can relieve these problems and enhance one’s knowledge, performance, and pleasure. The body is our basic medium of perception and action, but focused attention to its feelings and movements has long been criticized as a damaging distraction that also ethically corrupts through self-absorption. In Body Consciousness, Richard Shusterman refutes such charges by engaging the most influential twentieth-century somatic philosophers and incorporating insights from both Western and Asian disciplines of body-mind awareness.
Introduction; 1. Somaesthetics and care of the self: the case of Foucault; 2. The silent, limping body of philosophy: somatic attention deficit in Merleau-Ponty; 3. Somatic subjectivities and somatic subjugation: Beauvoir on gender and ageing; 4. Wittgenstein's somaesthetics: explanation and melioration in philosophy of mind, art, and politics; 5. Deeper into the storm center: the somatic philosophy of William James; 6. Redeeming somatic reflection: John Dewey's philosophy of body-mind.
"In this beautifully written book, Shusterman articulates his unique conception of somaesthetics, in which reflective bodily awareness is presented as a means for self-cultivation. Shusterman gives a deeply insightful and highly original appreciation of the views of the body found in Michel Foucault, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Simone de Beauvoir, William James, and John Dewey, but he also examines the limitations of each of these views, in order to reveal the profound importance of our embodiment for everything we experience, think, and do. The result is a compelling and highly nuanced account of what bodily consciousness is, how it is possible, and how it can contribute to individual and communal flourishing."
-Mark Johnson, Knight Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy, University of Oregon
"Ever since Plato disdained the base materiality of the body in favor of the purity of ideal forms, Western philosophy has struggled to incorporate the corporeal. A number of 20th-century figures, among them Dewey, Merleau-Ponty, de Beauvoir, Wittgenstein and Foucault, resisted the tradition to raise fundamental questions about the somatic moment in all thought. Carefully reconstructing their arguments and drawing on his own experience as a leading Pragmatist philosopher and trained body therapist, Richard Shusterman makes a compelling case for the centrality of somaesthetics in both the theories and practices of our age."
-Martin Jay, University of California, Berkeley
"Shusterman's pragmatist philosophy, like William James's a century earlier, succeeds in connecting diversities of experiences while maintaining their differences in a dynamic and fertile tension...Against a society that glorifies certain models of good looks, against the conformism of advertised images...Shusterman seeks to liberate the notion of self-use from its dominant competitive context..."
-David Zerbib, Le Monde
"This welcome book is the crowning achievement of Richard Shusterman's work in somaesthetics, demonstrating how the body can be a site of increased knowledge, sharpened perception, and practical discipline that improves lived experience. Critically engaging somatic philosophers such as Foucault, Merleau-Ponty, Beauvoir, Wittgenstein, James and Dewey, Body Consciousness is a must-read for those who don't want merely to learn more about human embodiment, but also to change it."
-Shannon Sullivan, Head, Professor of Philosophy, Women's Studies, and African and African American Studies, Penn State University
"Another book on the body, but not a book like the others…Richard Shusterman inaugurates, in his latest book, a new and special turning point…[he] does not focus on the body's most sensationalist exploitations…but, on the contrary, on the active body in all its humanity and individuality."
-Barbara Formis, Art Press
"Body Consciousness, like Shusterman’s other works on aesthetics, is an important contribution to the development of a more adequate theory of mind–body as a unity. It is valuable in building a foundation for the development of a more sophisticated and philosophically adequate sociology of the body."
-Bryan S. Turner, National University of Singapore, Body & Society
Richard Shusterman’s thoughtful and deeply introspective book, Body Consciousness: A Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics is a catalyzing investigation into the corporeal views of western philosophy—an area of thought frequently overshadowed by contemporary philosophical emphases on linguistics and the contextually determined structure of thought. His essential concern, which he revisits throughout the book, is that philosophy, as a discipline, needs to return to its earliest ambition of examining less how we think than how to live. For Shusterman, this ambition begins with the body..."
-Daniel Barber, Emory University, International Journal of Education & the Arts
"If Body Consciousness may be initially hard going to the non-philosopher, it's worth the effort, if only for how successfully it communicates the message that philosophy can be a practical, hands-on, in-the-world activity with lessons for all of us....Shusterman writes from his experience as a Feldenkrais practitioner....Body Consciousness is structured into six chapters, each presenting the somaesthetic insights and philosophical shortcomings of a different philosopher."
-Joel Parthemore, Metapsychology Online
"Shusterman provides a focused reading of a Continental or pragmatist philosopher who takes the body seriously: Michel Foucault, Maurice Merleay-Ponty, Simone de Beauvoir, Ludwig Wittgenstein, William James, and John Dewey....Summing up: Recommended."
-J.L. Eagen, Choice
"Body Consciousness is an important book deserving of a wide readership and careful attention. Should it receive both I am confident it will be praised by others as much as I praise it here."
- John Protevi, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology
"...Richard Shusterman’s new work, Body Consciousness: A Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics, is profoundly important.... It is lucky for us that Shusterman has not abandoned academic philosophy but has instead chosen to bring the insights of bodywork practices within the purview of philosophical analysis—not merely to evaluate their merit or efficacy but to show that philosophy bereft of somatic consciousness betrays its own central aims of “knowledge, self-knowledge, right action, happiness, and justice” (19). ... There is a profound ethics at the heart of Shusterman’s project, and what has been accomplished here is truly a thing of beauty."
- Cynthia Gayman, The Journal of Speculative Philosophy
"Body Consciousness is virtuosic... Shusterman’s general account of the structure of somaesthetics offers an excellent model for extrapolating to a musical version..."
“Body Consciousness is a compelling read because it addresses a critical void in the growing interdisciplinary paradigm of embodiment... Richard Shusterman’s significant contribution to a philosophy of the body […] will be appreciated by anyone interested in understanding the roots of body consciousness and its problematic treatment by past philosophers. It will be appreciated by those interested in the possibilities of a better humanity through somaesthetic awareness. For music educators, it offers us a chance to consider the embodied experience of music.”
“[…] this is the kind of book that wakes me in the middle of the night with ideas, inspired to wonder, quibble, and write.”
--Reviewed by Fred Everett Maus, Kimberly Powell and Roberta Lamb, Journal of Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education