Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Descartes' inconsistency

There is a well-known inconsistency in Descartes' mind-body theory.

On the one hand, Descartes stresses the importance of mind-body dualism. He writes, "My mind, by which I am what I am, is entirely and truly distinct from my body, and may exist without it". But on the other hand, he also insists on the mind-body unity. "I am not only lodged in my body as a pilot in a vessel.... I am besides so intimately conjoined, and as it were intermixed with it, that my mind and body compose a certain unity".(both quotations are from his MEDITATIONS)

These two points seems in contradiction. But what Descartes argued is that the mind and the body are conceivable in isolation from each other in principle. However, as a matter of fact, the mind is always rooted in the body through sensations, emotions, desires, and never be separated from it. According to him, the 'principle' of mind-body relation should be different from the 'fact'.

Is this a persuasive argument?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

anomalous body experience in depersonalization

According to Sierra (2009), the anomalous body experiences in depersonalization can be subdivided into several related concepts:
[Sierra, M. (2009). Depersonalization: A New Look at a Neglected Syndrome. Cambridge University Press.]

- Lack of body ownership feelings; In contrast to the rubber hand illusion, patients with depersonalization are difficult to have the sense of body ownership. They experience parts of their body or the totality of it as alien. One patient describes, 'I see my legs and hear footsteps and feel the muscles but it feels as if I have no body'.

- Feelings of 'loss of agency'; Patients complain about the absence of agency feelings. Their behavior feels automatic and robotic. 'I would notice my hands and feet moving, but as if they did not belong to me and were moving automatically'. Sierra also adds that lacking a sense of agency occupies a central role in the symptoms of depersonalization.

- Disembodiment feelings; Experience that the self is localized outside one's physical body boundaries. Unlike the case of out-of-body experience or autoscopy, it is not accompanied by a feeling of occupying a location in extra-personal space.

- Somatosensory distortions; Perceptual distortions of the body, for example, the hands have grown larger or smaller; the body feels lighter.

- Heightened self-observation; A feeling of being a detached observer of one's own behavior. Patients often describes it as a kind of split of their subjective awareness into two; one in observation and the other in action. This is a noticeable feature of depersonalization.

After all, depersonalization is the 'lived dualism of mind and body', so to speak. Patients experiences the mind separated from the body, thus they can't have the sense of ownership or sense of agency anymore. Now they are totally disembodied self-observers and living the world of perfect mind-body dualism!


Sierra (2009) points out that the four differentiated factors are found in the symptoms of depersonalization.
[Sierra, M. (2009). Depersonalization: A New Look at a Neglected Syndrome. Cambridge University Press.]

1. Anomalous body experience; Abnormalities in the way they experience their bodies such as lack of body ownership feelings, feelings of loss of agency, disembodiment feelings, somatosensory distortions, heightend self-observation.

2. Emotional numbing; Attenuated emotional experience, such as loss of affection, pleasure, fear, or disgust. Inability to feel emotions.

3. Anomalies in subjective recall; Complaints that memories of personal events have lost personal meaning. Patients feel as if what they remember did not really happened to them.

4. Alienation from surroundings; The symptom known as derealization. Feelings of being cut off from the world around, and of things around seeming unreal.

The 'anomalous body experience' in depersonalization includes the disembodiment feelings. It seems to be the most extreme case of our bodily awareness.