From a neuroconstructivistic point of view, the human brain produces an internal simulation of the external world which appears in conscious experience as the phenomenal world. This concept implies in particular that the subjective body and the organic or objective body belong to fundamentally different realms, i.e. to the mental and the physical world. The spatiality of the subject-body has then to be declared an illusion, which is done by pointing to dissociations of the subject- and object-body as in the rubber hand illusion or in phantom limbs. This alleged virtuality of body experience may be refuted, however, namely by referring to the intersubjectivity of perception which certifies the coextensivity of subject-body and object-body. Subjectivity is thus shown to be embodied as well as spatially extended, that means, as bodily being-in-the-world.
As a rule, mental illnesses are connected with increased self-observation, a narrowing of attention to one′s own person, and with the backward turn of thinking to what has already been done or has happened. These phenomena can be summed up in the concept of hyperreflexivity. In this paper, this concept is interpreted against the background of Plessner′s distinction between the lived and the objective body (Leib and Körper) as implying always already a component of self-alienation. This will be illustrated in a number of psychopathological conditions such as insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hypochondria and schizophrenia.
Current phenomenological approaches consider schizophrenia as a fundamental disturbance of the embodied self, or a disembodiment. This includes (1) a weakening of the basic sense of self, (2) a disruption of implicit bodily functioning, and (3) a disconnection from the intercorporality with others. As a result of this disembodiment, the pre-reflective, practical immersion of the self in the shared world is lost. Instead, the relationship of self and world is in constant need of reconstruction by deliberate efforts, leading to the growing perplexity and hyperreflexive ruminations that are found in schizophrenic patients. The paper distinguishes different levels of self-experience and relates it to the psychopathology of schizophrenia.
The distinction between representational and embodied knowledge (knowing that versus knowing how) has been gaining new significance through the investigation of implicit memory. This kind of memory is formed as an organism and its environment interact over time: Recurring patterns of interaction are sedimented in the form of sensorimotor as well as affect-motor schemes.We may speak of an implicit “body memory” that underlies our habits and skills, connecting body and environment through cycles of perception and action. This embodied knowledge is actualized in appropriate situations or through overarching volitional acts, without necessarily being made explicit. In this article I analyze the structure of embodied knowledge by taking the example of learning social skills through dyadic interactions in early childhood. I argue that the non-representational, enactive knowledge acquired in these interactions is the basis of intercorporeality and empathy. Explicit or propositional forms of knowing others (“Theory of Mind”) are derived from later steps of development; they are not sufficient on their own to explain interactive and empathic human capacities. This is also borne out by a psychopathological example, namely, infantile autism where primary empathy is lacking due to disturbances of intercorporeality.