More than our Body: Minimal and Enactive Selfhood in Global Paralysis



This paper looks to phenomenology and enactive cognition in order to shed light on the self and sense of self of patients with locked-in syndrome. It critically discusses the concept of the minimal self, both in its phenomenological and ontological dimension. Ontologically speaking, the self is considered to be equal to a person’s sensorimotor embodiment. This bodily self also grounds the minimal sense of self as being a distinct experiential subject. The view from the minimal bodily self presupposes that sociality comes after the self, or that in other words, the essence of self remains independent of our social interactions and relations. In this paper, I rely on the idea of enactive autonomy and Heidegger’s and Merleau-Ponty’s views of human existence as primordially social, to argue for the contrary. The self is fundamentally relational and this is also reflected at the level of the subjective experience of being a self. I indicate how a strong relational view of selfhood can serve as a preliminary heuristic to make sense of the situation of the patient with LIS and conclude with some practical implications concerning patient autonomy, our ethical responsibility toward the patient, and the possibilities for improving the life of patients with LIS.


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