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Touch and Situatedness

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This paper explores the phenomenology of touch and proposes that the structure of touch serves to cast light on the more general way in which we 'find ourselves in a world'. Recent philosophical work on perception tends to emphasize vision. This, I suggest, motivates the imposition of a distinction between externally directed perception of objects and internally directed perception of one's own body. In contrast, the phenomenology of touch involves neither firm boundaries between body and world nor perception of bodily states in isolation from perception of everything else. I begin by arguing that touch does not involve two distinct feelings, a feeling of the body and a feeling of something external to the body. Rather, these are inextricable aspects of the same unitary experience, with one or the other occupying the experiential foreground. Then I suggest that tactile experience does not always respect a clear boundary between body and world. In touch, bodily and worldly aspects are experienced in a number of different ways and, in many instances, there is no clear experiential differentiation between the two. Finally, I draw these two points together in order to consider the contribution made by touch to our sense of being situated in a world.

Keywords: boundaries; feeling; phenomenology; proprioception; touch; vision

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Durham, England

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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