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Body Consciousness
A Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics


  • Date Published: March 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521675871

£ 21.99

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About the Authors
  • 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 criticised 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. Rather than rehashing intractable ontological debates on the mind-body relation, Shusterman reorients study of this crucial nexus towards a more fruitful, pragmatic direction that reinforces important but neglected connections between philosophy of mind, ethics, politics, and the pervasive aesthetic dimensions of everyday life.

    • Explains and develops the field of somaesthetics by elaborating an analysis of bodily awareness
    • Integrates the disciplines of philosophy of mind, ethics, politics, social theory, gender studies, and aesthetics
    • Connects the theoretical issues of somatic awareness to contemporary cultural problems of ageing, sexism, and anhedonia: the inability to experience pleasure
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '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 … deeply insightful and highly original … 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, 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, Pennsylvania 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

    '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.' Metapsychology

    '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.' Body and Society

    'Richard Shusterman's thoughtful and deeply introspective book … 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. … [His] attention to somaesthetics - to our breathing, heart rate, posture and perception - in order to become more aware of our internal state before it is unconsciously externalized via our actions, is important, indeed essential to healthy living.' International Journal of Education and the Arts

    'Shusterman's use of soma in place of body, and its application in the cultivation of aesthetic values, necessary for a sound social structure lacking in the contemporary Western Culture vitiated by the overemphasis on media and information sciences triggered by the materialist world views so influential in the present generation, are certainly most valuable. His suggestion for extending the scope of aesthetics from its traditionally philosophical and critical treatments of the beauty in art and nature to exploration of beauty in somatic practices are warmly welcomed.' Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics

    'Body Consciousness is virtuosic. Shusterman deals deftly with all these writers, who represent not only disparate traditions of thought but different styles of philosophical writing and, therefore, different challenges.' Fred Everett Maus, University of Virginia

    '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.' Kimberly Powell, Pennsylvania State University

    'This is the kind of book that wakes me in the middle of the night with ideas, inspired to wonder, quibble, and write.' Roberta Lamb, Queen's University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2008
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521675871
    • length: 258 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.38kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    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.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • In Search of Self
    • Latin American Women Writers
  • Author

    Richard Shusterman, Florida Atlantic University
    Richard Shusterman is the Dorothy F. Schmidt Eminent Scholar in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton. Educated at Jerusalem and Oxford, he is internationally known for his contributions to philosophy and his pioneering work in somaesthetics, a field of theory and practice devoted to thinking through the body. A recipient of senior Fulbright and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, Dr Shusterman has held academic positions in Paris, Berlin, and Hiroshima, and is the author of several books, most recently Surface and Depth and Performing Live. His Pragmatist Aesthetics has been published in thirteen languages.

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