Interdisciplinary Anthropology and Bioethics
The paradigm of embodiment has far-reaching consequences for ethical issues within the field of biomedicine concerning the relation between person and body.
1) Theories of personal persistence take a stand on the question of what constitutes the consistency and identity of a person along his alternating conditions. Today’s dominating concepts are based on psychological continuity, regarding to which autobiographical memories and self-ascription are necessary preconditions for personal continuity. If one has irrevocably lost these respective abilities, he forfeits his status of a person, and, consequently, has to be described as a “post-person” or something the like.
A concept of persons based on embodiment, however, regards the persisting life process of the organism as the essential foundation of personal continuity. At the subjective level, this corresponds to the continuity of the pre-reflexive self-awareness, which is primarily consolidated within the body and which manifests itself in the bodily mind. A person severely suffering from dementia is still a person, as his fundamental experiences of corporeality and agility with their implicit familiarities (voices, melodies, scent, taste, touch, etc.) principally survive and stay responsive until death.
2) Practices of the pharmacological neuro-enhancement or even more extensive technical interventions in the brain focus on a single organ, which is perceived as substratum of selfhood, consciousness, and personality. By contrast, the concept of embodiment looks upon the brain as being embedded within the organism and ecological relations, which themselves exhibit a formative impact on neuronal processes and structures. Accordingly, illnesses are not only viewed as identifiable defects, but are interpreted within their systemic-ecological context. The question of whether a person is able to influence his abilities or defects and respective illnesses directly via the brain, or if it is preferable to choose altered, embodied, and interactive experiences with his environment as an option for change, is of key ethical importance for pedagogy, psychology, psychiatry, and medicine.
The project will use these questions to investigate if and how a new anthropology, based on embodied subjectivity and intersubjectivity, is able to shed a new light on classical ethical issues, and thus help contribute to a more differentiated policy counsel.