Experience Embodied: Early Modern Accounts of the Human Place in Nature

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Oxford University Press, 2020 - Philosophy - 304 pages
Anik Waldow develops an account of embodied experience that extends from Descartes' conception of the human body as firmly integrated into the causal play of nature, to Kant's understanding of anthropology as a discipline that provides us with guidance in our lives as embodied creatures. Waldow defends the claim that during the early modern period, the debate on experience not only focused on questions arising from the subjectivity of our thinking and feeling, it also foregrounded the essentially embodied dimension of our lives as humans. By taking this approach, Waldow departs from the traditional epistemological route dominant in treatments of early-modern conceptions of experience. She makes the case that reflections on experience took center stage in a debate that was moral in nature, because it raised questions about the developmental potential of human beings and their capacity to instantiate the principles of self-determined agency in their lives.

These questions emerged for many early modern authors since they understood that the fact that humans are embodied entailed that they are similarly responsive and causally-determined like other non-human animals. While this perspective made it possible to acknowledge that humans are part of the causal dynamics of nature, it called into question their ability to act in accordance with the principles of free, rational agency. Experience Embodied reveals how early modern authors responded to this challenge, offering a new perspective on the centrality of the concept of experience in comprehending the uniquely human place in nature.



Experience Embodied

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About the author (2020)

Anik Waldow is Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Sydney. She mainly works in early modern philosophy and has published articles on the moral and cognitive function of sympathy, early modern theories of personal identity and the role of affect in the formation of the self, skepticism and associationist theories of thought and language. She is the author of Hume and the Problem of Other Minds (Continuum 2009), editor of Sensibility in the Early Modern Era: From Living Machines to Affective Morality (Routledge 2016), and co-edited Herder: Philosophy and Anthropology (OUP 2017).

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