Volume 28, 2012
Freedom, Religion, and Gender
Body Consciousness and Nonviolence
In this paper I suggest that an ambivalence toward—sometimes hatred of—bodies has contributed to violence against bodies. I take my cue from the work of Richard Shusterman who coined the word “somaesthetics” and who has called for a new philosophical discipline of the same name. Shusterman’s work provides the beginning of a new matrix for a positive body consciousness. I also glance briefly at the work of Mark Johnson and other pragmatists who have urged a new conceptualization of bodies and minds in the light of cognitive science. I suggest that this positive body consciousness is an essential element in the philosophy of nonviolence and the quest for less violence against bodies. I then consider helpful traditions from the east, particularly Daoism, that already have a developed system of body-mind-spirit practices that aid body consciousness. Such traditions, adapted and modified to our context in the west, may provide the practice for an authentic nonviolent existence where bodies matter more than they have in the past.