The Problem of Corporeality and Temporality (článek)
“The hand has the body and speech has the entire man“, is one of the very important motifs of Heidegger’s philosophy. (Heidegger 1984: 119) What does it mean for the philosophy of the body and movement? The answer is, in fact, very simple. Man is man as far as his hand can reach, as far as the purports of his words “extend“. Man thus does not end where the skin constituting the surface of his body (SÓMA) extends but he ends where his “corporeality“ extends. We become corporeal by means of hands and by means of speech. This assertion alone is peculiar and will certainly become the subject of justified questions. Why is it the hand and not, for example, the leg, why is it in particular the hand when all the senses play such an important role in human life. The corporeality process is the theme of this paper.
In his life, man assumes motional figures. Our term for it is ek-sistence. In the figures, he assists himself and others after assuming a motional figure. We are thus e. g. in figures such as sleeping, sitting, walking, working etc. This process of our body assuming a variety of motional figures is governed by a single intent heading from our body into the world. In numerous places, Heidegger speaks of the intent “zur Welt sein“ or the intent “in der Welt sein“. Human life is thus likened to the Heraclitean bow. It is the arc of the bow that points to the intent into the world which is realized in a number of motional figures emerging from our body towards extension. Also for this reason we always refer to ek-sistence.
Our entire life is such a movement outward, along an arc which we can call the arc of our existential movement.
We live in the postmodern time in which our ontological, and thus also our ontical certainties have dissolved. Everyone has his truth, there is no eschaton (the ultimate sense of history), the microworld has laws different from those of the macroworld, the purpose of art has become an awakening within the meaning “anything goes!“ We don’t understand ourselves, and badly understand the others. The world in its entirety has vanished, universal values have vanished. Václav Bělohradský says: “We are the Gypsies of Europe, we are wandering. No one knows the destination.“
The postmodern time, with all its characteristics, is predicated by the philosophy of Nietzsche. Nihilism is evident almost at every step, in thousands of characteristics. Great strength has become the greatest priority, asserting that strength has become the essence of onticity. Which means in fact that only who displays his strength by his acts and performances has the right to recognition of his existence. The others are languishing in their homes, sometimes aware of their redundancy. What has become of Diana’s bow of our existential movement? Why only performances, measurable, transparent, certain have become the raison d’etre of our life? Why truth in the sense of non-latency ALÉTHEIA, has transformed itself into certainty of mathematical type, into “certitudo“?
What is happening with our hand which owns the entire body? What is happening with speech which owns the entire man? Speech is an essential part of our corporeality, i. e. also of physical education; it pertains fundamentally to sports in general. Speech does not pertain only to doctors of medicine, does not pertain only to semiology, to communications as a profession, does not pertain only to grammarians, literates etc. Speech pertains to the body, to physical movement, i. e. to life movement along the arc of the bows of Heracleitus and Artemis. Why have we lost our ability to think in entireties? Why do we adhere only to what is analyzed in advance by some will into senseless parts? To have in mind the arc of human life movement always means to have in mind the entirety between body and speech, because speech is only an extension of the hand.
What will happen when this arc is broken? E. g. when the hand will no longer write letters from the depth of its body to which it pertains but will be replaced by dictated speech, or speech written on the computer keyboard or by means of other machinery and technical winders. What will happen? The breaking of this arc in which hand fluently forms meaningful words also interrupts the arc of the corporeality process that constitutes the continuity, naturalness of the union of hand and speech. What will happen with speech? What will happen with words? Words will be changed only and solely into symbols. Speech will be taken over by semiology as a science par excellence. The profound meanings of words will begin to dwindle, meanings will become increasingly vague. As need arises for fast, instant capacity to comprehend words, belles letters and poetry will inevitably begin to disappear from our lives. Life will be transformed into a technical operation.
Mobile communication will contract, become transformed into exclamations of implications, speech in its entirety will consist only of implications. Reigning supreme will be technical single-purport speech, flat, without depth, without mystery. Where will Shakespeare’s multi-purport, infinitely profound language have disappeared? Will not this speech operation transform also man into a technical object, with exact data providing the personal identification number, blood group and genetic code? Will it not happen that newspapers will not be concerned with the significance of news items but with the forms in which they will be presented to readers? Will not man be transformed into a machine, dull and arrogant? Will it not perchance be man who will be only and solely a consumer, supportive of production and the market? What will have remained from the Shakespearean, Michelangelesque and Schillerean man?
Does not perhaps physical education have responsibility for speech, and thus for man in his entirety? Is not this aspect perhaps inherent in the significance of sports? Aren’t perchance the Olympic Games as a whole only the endeavour to open the horizon of full-blown mankind, the horizon where not only victory, money and fame are sought but also the authentic experience of the “arc“ of one’s life movement? Where do we find ourselves today, what have we become entangled in when speech is being detached from our body and is becoming something that comes to us as if from the outside? Who has initiated this upheaval? And why?
Words have become merely an instrument of communication. Words have lost their meaning of an extended hand by which we reach farther than to things around us. That is also why all transcendence has become only an empty word. That is why Nietzsche can say: There are no values before us, God is dead, nothing exists here except existences! There is nothing to relate to. The “arc“ of our life movement has no objective, therefore we are nihilists. In our words, we could say: Corporeality has no meaning, hand becomes only an instrument, words become only tools. They both have the same usefulness as car-repair tools.
Such an intent results in man’s being transformed into a thing, in reifying himself. Then also performances become necessarily something factual, a subject of market logic. There is no longer anything that we could find here. What remains is only the market, machinal economy to which everything else is subordinated. Isn’t sport also a big factory producing performances that can be sold profitably?
Aren’t words, just as the hand, only and solely in the service of the market? How genial was the Greek kalokagathia which saw in arete interconnection of body and soul. Hand and words are only our possibilities by which the intent of our life movement passes into the highest sense, into transcendence. Some glimpse God here, others existence, others Greek gods etc. What will happen when transcendence, i. e. possibility to go beyond the world of existences, is liquidated? What will happen with people when their hand reaches only existences in space and time, and their words do likewise? What will happen with these words? Words will transform themselves into existences, into sign existences. Such signs will be seized by technicians who will devise from them a technical language of computers. Computers will gain control over all the other human activities because everything will be controlled, and thus managed by means of computers. What will happen with the hand? Also the hand will be transformed into a thing, and sports will become factual, objective activities, controllable and managed by computers.
The transcendence of sports, i. e. victory over oneself, will become only a number as measured in a race. There will be no sports activities for the sake of victory over oneself but only for the sake of victory over the others, regardless how victories will be won. The human body will thus become means of production and produce performances. They will give their owners glory, money and power. The will of the owner will thus be affirmed, exactly as Nietzsche asserted. The arc of life movement will not extend to a point at which there are no existences. On the contrary, it will remain stuck among existences, and life will also become only and solely one existence among many. Very soon after winning a victory, man soon begins to crave new victories, as they are, logically, factual proofs of his existence.
What will happen with sport sciences? Those will prevail that make measurements. And not only those that measure performances as to time or space, but also those sciences that measure muscles, joints, blood cells etc. etc. The bending of the Heraclitean Diana’s bow of life movement will come to a stop, the bow will not be bent to the utmost. Why? Because there is no end point here. There is no transcendence, there is no ultimate sense of the progress of history (eschaton). Thus, there is no objective and no sense of human life to which performances would bring the human mind as to its anchorage. There are merely things in space and time, and there is only one action that can be taken in regard to them – to measure them! We have become entangled in thinking more geometrico, we are exhausted by measuring measurements.
We lack any sense in transcendence, and thus we must seek a feeling of intoxication. How is it done? Either by means of excellent performances which become general knowledge, or by means of other existences and substances such as alcohol, drugs etc. Performances are excellent but they must be known to the others. When people don’t know about it, a performance makes no sense, is pointless, and in fact is only an impediment in life. Performances must be made known, manifested. That is why mass media have such power. They in fact decide whose existence will be affirmed because we begin to learn of such persons from newspapers and television. And thus it happened for the first time that those that were to serve had become rulers, and rulers need their servants so intensely that they in fact become their servants. It is a great reversal of values. But we have already heard about it from someone. Again, from Nietzsche.
In the intent of our hand and our words, countability is built in. And it is precesily this faculty that selects from the world around us only what is countable. Therefore only what can be counted is important. Hand has ten fingers, and it is this figure that is the basis of countability of absolutely everything. But praying hands are raised towards heaven, i.e. where they cannot stretch forth themselves. But extended hands, i. e. words, can. That is why education of man must always be through interconnection of the power of the hand and the power of the word. Only this intent maintains the arc of the Heracletian bow along which we arise in a variety of motional figures, because it is the only way of becoming corporeal.
Speech is thus a corporeality process towards the world, and therefore its explication must not be severed from the body. Speech pertains to the body, the body pertains to speech. For this reason, people have different languages, different tongues as footprints in countries in which they had settled as nations, as groups. This world region is the original openness for their intents, for their corporeality. The world opened itself to people differently in the desert that to those living in the bush, in steppes or in forests. Their hands and words are in a single corporeality movement. That is also why a disease can be cured by words, and not only by what hands prepare as medicaments. It is for this reason that physical education is so important. Even Plato gave preference to instructors of gymnastics rather than to physicians. Why? Because gym instructors assist in maintaining health, whereas physicians may arrive when it is too late.
Openness of space in a countryside, spatial openness of the senses and meanings are the terrain for our hand and our words. The hand enters spatial openness and finds there existences with which it works. The word enters the openness of the senses and meanings and finds there concepts and truth. Both these ways of finding something are in fact ways of determining what we need not only for our biological life but also for our intellectual life. Both these life forms belong to each other inseparably, and we cannot separate and disconnect them with impunity. For this reason, physical education is also education of the soul and spirit. Therefore, it is necessary to include also philosophy in the list of sciences about sports. The body is not only form (SÓMA), not only what is concealed under the skin (SARX); the body is also animated (PEXIS). And it is to this third body, pexis, that corporeality pertains through the hand and the word. Unity of the hand and the word is unity of harmony between body and soul; being prolongation of the ancient principle of kalokagathia which is known to all of us. The corporeality process takes place in time. Timing is initiated by our “hand and word“.
Heidegger, M., Die Geschichte des Seins. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann 1998.
Heidegger, M., Parmenides. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann 1984.
Merleau-Ponty, M., Phänomenologie der Wahrnehmung. Berlin 1966.
Nietzsche, F., Der Wille zur Macht. Stuttgart: Alfred Kroner 1939.