Thomas Fuchs

Consciousness is Embodied

Petra Sterry in conversation with Thomas Fuchs, Karl Jaspers Professor of Philosophy and Psychiatry, head of the section “Phenomenological Psychopathology and Psychotherapy” at the University Clinic of General Psychiatry, Heidelberg

Petra Sterry (PS): In recent years I have devoted intensive attention in my work to an exploration of inner human states and emotions. It has become readily apparent that the method I use, namely introspection, is essential in being able to say anything about emotions and inner experience. It is through the gaze from my own viewpoint, from the subjective perspective, that I can experience and describe the world. How do you define subjectivity, and why is subjectivity so important?

Thomas Fuchs (TF): Here you have, of course, brought up one of the fundamental questions of philosophy, which cannot really be answered with a simple definition. I should begin by mentioning that point. Subjectivity is by its nature only found tied to a center of experience, a center of consciousness: everything that is experienced appears to a subject; the subject is the point of reference of all experience. In this sense, subjectivity should be understood as “centrality”. In other words, it is the relatedness of all experience to a center, from which axes of experience and movement emanate, and to which, conversely, all axes of affection and perception converge. That is how I would try to achieve a simple formulation. Hence subjectivity is the precondition of all experience. There is no anonymous experience, no anonymous consciousness, and subjectivity is always entwined with self-experience. The center of experience is not, as it were, merely a geometric point, rather that which is experienced manifests itself “to me,” and in experiencing I am aware of myself. Seeing you now on the screen, and being in contact with you, I can be completely absorbed in my words and my conversation with you. Nevertheless, there always remains a feeling of centrality, which accompanies and frames it all. I do not disappear into the experience, into perception or into my thoughts. Bodily self-experience always remains there in the background,   >>