'A Leg to Stand On': An existential-phenomenological analysis


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Abstract

The analysis of a paradigm-case (a person with an injured leg, an autobiographical history related by Dr Sacks) presented here is an illustration of how existential-phenomenological analysis can be done. The aim of existential-phenomenological research is to analyse and to describe some dimensions of being. The person with an injured leg appears 'to bescotomized'. Well then, 'being-scotomized' can be analysed and described as a particular mode of 'being', even as a particular mode of 'being-ill'. 'Being' has been studied (in the philosophical tradition of Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Sartre) as that existential movement that brings an individual, the 'self', towards the world, meanwhile 'affecting' the personal body, personal time and space, the objects in a person's life-world, the individual's life-world and, finally, coexistence. The study of 'being-ill' is the study of the particular way the self, the body, time and space, the objects, the life-world, and coexistence are affected when being-ill. 'Being-scotomized' may appear as affecting: (i) the self, isolating the subject and leading to a personal disintegration; (ii) the body to which he maintains an ambiguous relationship: being a body and having a body, and not having a part of the body any more; (iii) time and space being vanished with the vanished leg. The subject is 'at' a nowhereness and 'at' a motionless time; there is no meaningful future; (iv) the things in the person's life-world, to which it appears impossible to give the 'right' sense; (v) the life-world, revealing itself as a noland, characterized by silence and motionlessness; (vi) the others in this life-world that appears no-man's-land, uninhabitable nearly by definition. Coexistence reveals not to be possible.

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