In this incisive and truly impressive book, Ian Burkitt critically addresses the dualism between mind and body, thought and emotion, rationality and irrationality, and the mental and the material, which haunt the post-Cartesian world. Drawing on the work of contemporary social theorists and feminist writers, he argues that thought and the sense of being a person is inseparable from bodily practices within social relations, even though such active experience may be abstracted and expanded upon through the use of symbols. Overcoming classic dualisms in social thought, Burkitt argues that bodies are not purely the constructs of discourses of power: they are also productive, communicative, and invested with powerful capacities for chang
Chapter 1: Prolegomenon to Bodies of Thought
Prolegomenon to Bodies of Thought
In the Western world individuals have grown accustomed to a way of understanding themselves which divides their existence between the mind and the body. The classic statement of this dualism was made by Descartes in the seventeenth century when he equated human being with the rational mind which gave us clarity of thought and free will, placing us near to the divine: in contradistinction, the body is an automaton — a physical machine indistinguishable from the bodies of other animals. Many versions of this ‘Cartesian dualism’ have survived into the twentieth century, although perhaps shorn of its religious overtones; nevertheless, they survive in the contemporary social sciences and, most notably, in the cognitivism that is so ...