Ethics as Harmony and Improvisation in Responsive Equilibrium: the Core Psychophysical Process as a bio-logical foundation for ethical engagement
In this thesis I address the ethics of corporeal being at a foundational level. Rather than starting the discussion of ethics at an abstract level founded in propositions and logical arguments about principles, I offer an holistic view of human engagement that recognises sensori-motor processes and our embodied engagements with the world as foundational to and integral with cognition and higher functions and social skills. I propose that the capacity of human beings to act in an ethically responsible way is built into our biological, psychosocial natures, and that ethical interaction is informed and enhanced by intentionally cultivating a particular psychophysical process. The Core Psychophysical Process (the CPP) that I have identified naturally underlies our interactions in the world as vertebrate creatures, grounds our primary and ongoing developmental and learning processes, and is integral with the process of developing our ethical ‘second nature.’ The CPP is expressed at a fundamental level in a reflexive neuro-musculo-skeletal expansive and contractive process that is integral with an experiential sequence of perception, reaction, and reflection leading to choice of action. There is a constant ebb and flow of contraction and expansion throughout the body which resonates with, in and through all of our experiences. It is integrated into processes of reasoning, interpretation, intentionality, emotion, valuing and habit, all of which, along with the abilities to inhibit, deliberate, and choose, are foundational to ethical action. Elements of the CPP are active at every level of corporeal being, from the fluent maintenance of equilibrium at neuronal level through to the dynamics of ethical deliberations and negotiations between people in society. In this thesis the Alexander Technique and processes in the Arts provide exemplars wherein the foundational intrinsic aspects and expressions of the CPP can be understood. In order to fully explore the impact of the CPP in human experience, I examine both theoretical and practical experimental experience with the CPP in relation to: historical and contemporary readings from different cultures in bioethics, ethics, philosophy, feminist philosophy, and the philosophy of mind; empirical investigations in cognitive science, physiology, and neuroscience; and Susan Hurley’s Shared Circuits Model. This is a phenomenological study, from a feminist and arts-based perspective. Arts Phenomenology starts with the question: ‘What is the experience of being with, acting with, with the intention to?’ That perspective leaves behind subject/object, mind/body dualities to understand human experience as extended and grounded in the embodied interactions of social being. I offer alternate conceptions of embodiment, and explore Bodily ‘I’dentity that reflects multi-sensory meaning-making grounded in experience.
Advisor: Gillett, Grant R.; Walker, Simon
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Bioethics
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: bioethics; embodiment; Core Psychophysical Process; neuroethics; cognitive science; arts phenomenology; responsive equilibrium; sensory-motor meaning-making; medical humanities; cognitive neuroscience; Alexander Technique
Research Type: Thesis