of reflective somatic consciousness, how much time, effort, and desire it takes to properly prepare oneself for such meditative exercises before even being able to begin to experience what they are about. The typical philosophy seminar framework may provide neither enough time nor incentive. Imagine, moreover, how colleagues and students might be horrified if I introduced exercises in Wilhelm’s Reich orgasm reflex, central to his somatic discipline of bioenergetics, even though this exercise does not involve sexual contact. But its demand to lie down and undulate one’s body through rhythmic contractions would be more than enough to offend the sensibilities and standards of decorum in philosophy instruction. And what of the practices of touching that are crucial to the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method of Functional Integration? Even though the teacher’s touching here is very gentle, non-intrusive, and non-sexual, the mere fact of touching a philosophy student in the classroom seems a shocking violation of the established limits of established teacher-student relations. Not wanting to burden somaesthetics with sensationalism and scandal, I have learned to confine its teaching, in my philosophy seminars, only to theory, though I do (with increasing frequency) offer workshops of theory and practice in other academic contexts (usually sponsored by departments of dance, art, sport, and education) outside the Anglo-American realm (and especially in Scandinavia) that seem more open to such experiments. For my American students interested in the practical work, I simply direct them to the large menu of somatic disciplines whose instruction is offered outside academe. I am not satisfied with this solution of restricting my philosophical teaching of somaesthetics to theory alone, because such theory cannot be fully understood unless one has the somaesthetic experiences that only concrete practice provides. Nor would I like to relegate such practical instruction to classes of dance and physical education, where touching and thematised physical movement are accepted classroom practices but where philosophical content usually gets short shrift. When yoga is taught in such formats it is typically robbed of its philosophical, meditative dimension so that what remains is essentially an exercise class. This problem of a curricular framework for somaesthetics points to a more general limitation
The Philosophers' Magazine /4th quarter 2006
of philosophical learning in today’s educational system. In ancient times philosophy was practiced not just as an academic discipline but as a way of life, so philosophical instruction would include the inculcation of certain bodily practices (including diet and forms of dress) that were characteristic of the particular school of philosophy (e.g. epicurean, stoic, cynic). Such a holistic, embodied study of philosophy still survives in the monastic traditions of Christianity, Buddhism, and other faiths, where religious philosophy is learned and practiced as a comprehensive way of life. Can something of this holistic approach be achieved in contemporary philosophical education outside the monastic tradition and within the university framework of regular “course offerings” or special programs? What reforms of curriculum, institutions, and attitudes would be needed, not only in the educational system but in our culture as a whole? If something philosophically important is learned through the experience of somatic cultivation and its heightened, reflective, critical body consciousness that cannot be adequately learned by mere discursive means, then it is worth looking for good answers to these questions.
P M T
Suggested reading Body Consciousness , Richard Schusterman (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming) Refractions of Violence, Martin Jay (Routledge) Living Across and Through Human Skins, Shannon Sullivan (Indiana University Press)