Phenomenology of the Broken Body
Chapter: Suffering’s Double Disclosure and the Normality of Experience
Contributor: James McGuirk
Editors: Espen Dahl, Cassandra Falke, and Thor Eirik Eriksen
Book Description: Some fundamental aspects of the lived body only become evident when it breaks down through illness, weakness or pain. From a phenomenological point of view, various breakdowns are worth analyzing for their own sake, and discussing them also opens up overlooked dimensions of our bodily constitution. This book brings together different approaches that shed light on the phenomenology of the lived body—its normality and abnormality, health and sickness, its activity as well as its passivity. The contributors integrate phenomenological insights with discussions about bodily brokenness in philosophy, theology, medical science and literary theory. Phenomenology of the Broken Body demonstrates how the broken body sheds fresh light on the nuances of embodied experience in ordinary life and ultimately questions phenomenology’s preunderstanding of the body.
Chapter Description: This chapter examines various phenomenological treatments of suffering both in its own terms and in terms of the capacity of suffering to disclose aspects of normal world experience. In the first part of the chapter, James McGuirk draws on work done in phenomenological psychopathology to show how attention to suffering is both clinically fruitful and philosophically illuminating, inasmuch as this research articulates the co-belonging of suffering and a felt loss of the normal. In the second part of the chapter, attention shifts to work done in the phenomenology of illness, which paints a more complex picture of the relationship between suffering and normality by drawing attention to the possibility of the restoration of the normal within the context of suffering. In the third and final part, McGuirk draws on the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Kurt Goldstein to argue that these two approaches are more consistent than they at first appear. This claim rests on the commitment in both positions to normality as an experiential, rather than just a linguistic category and to the idea that the reconstitution of the normal in suffering is bounded by aspects of embodiment that are only finitely plastic.
Editors: Catrine Torbjørnsen Halås, Ingjerd Gåre Kymre and Kari Steinsvik