Volume 26, Issue 1, Fall 2021
Joel Michael Reynolds
Heidegger, Embodiment, and Disability
Most interpreters of Heidegger’s reflections on the body maintain that—whether early, middle, or late in the Gesamtausgabe—Dasein’s or the mortal’s openness to being/beyng is the ground of the fleshly or bodily (das Leibliche), but not the reverse. In this paper, I argue that there is evidence from Heidegger’s own oeuvre demonstrating that this relationship is instead mutually reciprocal. That is to say, I contend that corporeal variability is constitutive of Dasein’s openness to being just as Dasein’s openness to being is constitutive of its corporeal variability. Understood in this way, Heidegger’s thinking puts forward what I call a corpoietic understanding of the body and of the meaning of ability. I show that, despite the ableist assumptions at play in much of Heidegger’s work, such an understanding is nevertheless grounded in the idea of access, a central concept in philosophy of disability and disability studies. After developing this idea of ability as access, I close by addressing the larger political stakes of using Heidegger’s work to think about embodiment and disability given the Third Reich’s mass slaughter of people with disabilities.