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As we all know, one’s body is subject to constant change instead of being a fixed entity. But still, we ascribe identity to our own body. In my work, I focus on the question of how we experience our bodily identity, and what happens when something is added to or removed from our body, when our body is enhanced, when it is radically changed. In my paper, I will address embodied capacities to constantly adapt to new situations, and to constantly search for a new kind of steadiness. These capacities are not psychological capacities such as coping strategies etc. They are not because as I will explain, they do not go together with explicit cognitive intentions or motivations. From a phenomenological perspective, I will argue that these capacities most of the time take place without really thinking about it. In my paper, I will discuss 3 different kinds of embodied adjustments or habituation: the acquisition of new skills; the habituation of tools and prostheses; and the habituation to physical changes such as a scar. Subsequently, I will show that acquisition of skills and habituation of tools can be explained by the phenomenological concept of “incorporation”, whereas the habituation to scars calls for an alternative explanation. Habituation to scars requires some sort of “de-signification”. To understand this specific way of making sense of our own bodies we need to take into account our bodies’ materiality.
Jenny Slatman is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the research institute CAPHRI, Department of Health, Ethics and Society, Maastricht University, The Netherlands. Her publications include various journal articles and book chapters on the phenomenology of the body; a monograph on L’expression au-delà de la représentation. Sur l’aisthêsis et l’esthétique chez Merleau-Ponty (Paris & Leuven: Peeters Vrin, 2003), and a book-length study Our Strange Body : Philosophical Reflections on Identity and Medical Interventions (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2014). In 2010 she was awarded a prestigious NWO-VIDI grant for her project Bodily Integrity in Blemished Bodies. In this project she examined the philosophical meaning of bodily integrity and bodily identity in people with disfigurements and disabilities due to cancer and cancer treatment.