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The Pioneering Moment of Drid Williams

Charles R. Varela


At this time and in this place, I have the gracious good fortune to pay tribute to the pioneering moment of Drid Williams—esteemed colleague and friend. My tribute will take the form of a philosophical appreciation of her distinguished contribution to our understanding of the fundamental reality of embodiment in human cultural being. That contribution is contained in the following three statements of an anthropological theory of human movement, which she has uniquely named semasiology:

[A]s a radical approach to human movement studies agency [is] seen as a causal power. (Williams 2003: i)

Semasiologists are solely concerned with human bodies, because they see human beings as powerful persons—not merely powerful bodies. Persons (not bodies) are causal agents, and social actions (not behavior) constitute agentive discourse, whether that discourse is spoken or moved. (Ibid.: iv)

This is an attempt to apply Saussurian ideas to human movement, which results in a theory of human action that is linguistically tied, mathematically structured, and empirically based. The theory was developed out of the conviction that new anthropological methods and techniques of reconstituting and interpreting data in the field of human movement would ultimately be of value in comparative studies of human systems of actions. (Williams 1975: i)

The unifying theme of these three statements is that semasiology constitutes a radical approach to the study of human beings. It studies

(1) Generally: human movement produced by causally empowered personal agents

(2) Specifically: social actions produced by discursive agents speaking and/or gesturing

(3) Scientfically: theorizing embodied social action as being

(a) linguistically tied

(b) mathematically structured

(c) empirically based

The theoretical point of these assertions is what Farnell and Varela (2008: 215–40) have called the principle of dynamic embodiment, and the aim of this tribute is to explicate the special value of this principle in the history of social-scientific theory. I will not, however, be examining dynamic embodiment as it emerges in the history of semasiology. For that, there is no better place to begin than Dr. Williams's doctoral dissertation (1975). My specific purpose in tracking the place of dynamic embodiment within the history of social-scientific theory more broadly is to develop the understanding that the principle of dynamic embodiment realizes a robust conception of personal agency and so is directly relevant to Anthony Giddens's (1976) statement regarding the problem of structure and agency in social theory.

     The radical dimension of a semasiological approach is that, in its ambition to be a science, it is an indirect refutation of positivism by virtue of the fact that its naturalism is grounded in and informed by Rom Harré's realist philosophy of science. Harré's 1971 article on the "anthropomorphic model of man" (reprinted 1999) in conjunction with the book Causal Powers (Harré and Madden 1975) are the principle sources of Williams's idea that the agency of the person is a causal power. However, it is the uniqueness of Williams's theoretical intelligence to exploit Harré's realism in order to point out systematically that the power of the embodied person and not the body itself (as organism) is critical for semasiology's emphasis on movement.

     In the ensuing discussion, we will see that this embodied person/body-as-organism distinction is of absolute importance for theorizing embodiment because it vitally presupposes a crucial differentiation between the organism and the embodied person, and it is that which permits us to overcome what is perhaps the deepest difficulty within the mind/body split of Cartesian dualism—the relationship between immateriality and materiality.

Part I: Dynamic Embodiment and the Structure/Agency Problem

Embodiment: Positivist and Realist Theories

Let us begin with an enticing contingency of two historical facts. In 1975, Williams completed her doctoral dissertation, "The Role of Movement in Selected Symbolic Systems," at Oxford University, and in 1976, Anthony Giddens published New Rules of Sociological Method. While the appearance of these two scholarly works is, of course, a matter of historical contingency, the significance that one can imagine might bind them is certainly not. I suggest that we can locate semasiology at the ontological center of the social sciences in virtue of its special relationship to the problem of structure and agency, a central topic of Giddens's New Rules.

     I now want to elaborate on my former assertion that the semasiological principle of dynamic embodiment is of cardinal importance to the solution of the structure/agency problem. The general idea of my proposed solution is that, since it is the agency of the person that makes action possible, there is the necessary presumption that the human body must be the mechanism of that possibility. But human agency requires that the person is dynamically embodied, not simply embodied. The difference between these two to which I want to draw our attention is that between a positivist and a realist theory of embodiment.

     In the history of the social sciences it is necessary to distinguish between 'embodiment (i)' as it is understood from a positivistic standpoint of determinism. That is, as physical beings, human beings are energized, driven, and therefore motivated. In contrast, 'embodiment (ii)' as it is understood from the realist standpoint of freedom defines human beings as personal beings who are agents using their bodies in the making of meaning.

     As a biologist, Sigmund Freud's theory provides the exemplar of the positivist theory of human embodiment (i). Speaking technically, from the logic of Freud's theory, its predominate reference is to 'personality' and not to the 'person.' And it is precisely because Freud's theory of personality presumes that "in the beginning there is the body" (as Dennis Wrong has said in his renowned discussion of Freud) that it is the case that his biologically dominated theory violates the realist idea indicated above (Wrong 1961: 191). That violation can be specifically seen in the fact that the Freudian body is defined in terms of three layers of meaning: first and foremost by Newtonian energy, then by its transformation into Darwinian drives, and finally, by a Cartesian transubstantiation of drives into motives that are the basis for an anti-Cartesian deterministic conception of the mind. In other words, the embodied mind is limited to a biologized mind, and as such is an impersonal agency of unconscious motives that determine the thoughts and actions not only of the individual but of the interactions of individuals (Sulloway 1979). Here is Freud's expression of that very idea: given his commitment to the principle of exceptionless determinism, he makes the following observation from his psychoanalytic practice:

It is very remarkable that the Ucs [unconscious] of one human being can react upon that of another, without the Cs [conscious] being implicated at all. (S. Freud cited in A. Freud 1986: 165)

It is in this strict sense that the Freudian theory of the embodied human being violates the realist theory of the dynamically embodied human being. In reifying 'personality,' the unconscious becomes the agent, and the 'person' becomes a patient. Furthermore, it is the personality structure so constituted that then governs culture and social structures. Here is the classic example from Freud's last word on the matter in the Postscript to his An Autobiographical Study, four years before his death in 1939:

I perceived ever more clearly that the events of human history, the interaction between human nature, cultural development and the precipitates of primeval experiences (the most prominent of which is religion) are no more than a reflection of the dynamic conflicts of the ego, the id, and the superego, which psychoanalysis studies in the individual—are the very same processes repeated upon a wider stage. (S. Freud 1952: 138)

In contrast, in the realist case of embodiment (ii), human agency is returned to the person whose embodiment provides resources (capacities, skills, techniques) that serve the purposes of meaning making for the living of a sociocultural life with others. As Williams makes clear in the above quotations, under the auspices of Harré's realist theory of science, the conception of dynamic embodiment brings out into the open this freedom-centered agentic view of embodiment.

     We can now summarize the distinction between positivist embodiment (i) and the realist views of embodiment (ii): the person uses the body, rather than the body uses the person. This is a special variation of Wittgenstein's principle that 'people use rules, rules do not use people.'

The Connection between Kant, Giddens, and Williams: Freedom, Agency, and Embodiment

Let us carefully examine the substance of the above discussion in reference to three historical events: the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, and the rise of the social sciences in the nineteenth century. As an orientation, I want to lay out briefly a framework for those historical events at the center of which is Immanuel Kant's theory of 'freedom in nature.' The realist theme of Kant's theory is that, in contrast to prevailing philosophical thought, freedom is possible in nature because, as agents, human beings are one kind of causal power in a world of other kinds of causal powers. A solution to Giddens's problem of structure and agency is thus to be found in Kant's theory of freedom in nature; and it is one that Giddens called for:

I think that it would be true to say that most of the contributions to the debate [on causality and reasons] have been made . . . within the framework of Humean Causality. A detailed discussion . . . is impossible . . . [in this] . . . study, and here I shall dogmatically assert the need for an account of agent causality, according to which causality does not pre-suppose a "law" of invariant connection [exceptionless determinism] . . . but rather (1) the necessary connection between cause and effect, and (2) the idea of causal efficacy [i.e., causal powers]. The action is caused by an agent's reflexive monitoring of his or her intentions in relation to both wants and appreciation of the demands of the "outer" world, supplies a sufficient explication of freedom of conduct for the needs of this study; I therefore do not oppose freedom to causality, but rather "agent causality" to "event causality." Determinism in the social sciences then refers to any theoretical scheme which reduces human action solely to "event causality." (Giddens 1975: 91–92, emphasis provided)

The relationship between Giddens's personal agency and Williams's embodied persons is not only the connection to a conception of causal powers, but by grounding the human being in agent causality, the dynamic embodiment of persons advocated by Williams gives us a robust theory of personal agency in a way that Giddens, and even Harré, cannot because they do not include the movement. Brenda Farnell has captured the theme of robustness that clarifies exactly why Williams's theory of embodiment is dynamic: human beings are moving beings—persons using bodies—not physical beings—bodies using persons (Farnell and Varela 2008: 215–21).

     I will now discuss details in the history of the social sciences in relation to Kant's and Giddens's theories of personal agency and Williams's robust realization of a conception of personal agency in the principle of dynamic embodiment.

Kant, the Enlightenment, and the Social Sciences

From the standpoint of the early nineteenth century when the word science came on the scene indicating that we were differentiating 'religion,' 'philosophy,' and 'science,' it became quite clear that a major feature of the rise of science was its metaphysical revolt against the Judeo-Christian paradigm of 'supernaturalism' in the name of the new paradigm of 'naturalism' (Manicas 1987: 7–23). The idea of naturalism is that 'nature' explains itself, and it does so as follows: Newtonian physics unifies the cosmos and the earth according to three interdependent laws of motion, in terms of which nature was taken to be an exceptionless deterministic clockwork machine. This idea of a closed system of matter in inexorable motion (invariant connection) in relation to the human world of social life was captured and enshrined in Kant's new dual set of philosophical terms. There is the natural world of phenomena—the phenomenal world of things and events according to natural laws—and the human world of noumena—the noumenal world of persons and meaning according to human freedom. Thus, for Kant, while natural science has to do with the phenomenal world of nature, social science has to do with the noumenal or intelligible world of culture. Furthermore, in strict reference to Kant's fundamental involvement with theories of human freedom, he complements the above terms with two other important and related philosophical terms, transcendence and transcendental. Kant's theory of freedom as the agency of persons is a transcendental theory but not a transcendence theory (Varela 2009: 6–11).

     At the center of this naturalist paradigm is Newton's law of inertia, namely, that material bodies determine each other's motion. There were two separate ideas here, both of which came from Aristotle. The first and foremost was that objects were 'self-actional'; they had their natural purpose of action, e.g., heavy objects move downward, light objects move upward, and so on (Bronowski and Mazlish 1960: 107–26). This was highlighted as a key idea in the modern history of philosophy, but an idea that was rejected by modern science (ibid.)—hence, the contrasting inertial scientific law that a body in whatever state it is in, at rest or in motion, will change that state only because (be-causal) of another body that interacts with it, i.e., material bodies determine each other.

     The second idea in the history of modern philosophy, one that was totally obscured,

is that of material entities as causal powers. Note the following statements by Kant and Newton to that exact effect:

All bodies are movable and endowed with certain powers (which we call the inertia) of preserving in their motion. (Newton, cited in Varela 2005: 80)

The moving forces of matter are powers, either purely dynamic or mechanical. The latter are based on the former. (Kant, cited in ibid.)

By the end of the third decade of the eighteenth century, however, there was a profound change in our understanding of what 'inertia' signified. Consider Peter Manicas's explication of the significance of this:

A crucial false belief emerges from the historical event that between Descartes' Discours de la methode (1637) and Hume's Treatise (1739), there was a remarkable shift in the understanding of what Newton and the new 'experimental philosophers' were up to. I want to argue, first, that while both Newton and Locke (along with Boyle and others) held to a realist theory of science, at least by the time we get to Hume, Newton was read as holding to what must be a positivist theory of science. (Manicas 1987: 9)

It is necessary at this point to see exactly how and why David Hume's view of the nature of the causational process that defines inertia converts Newton's law (and Kant's precise understanding of it) from a realist to a positivist law. Here is Hume himself on a realist and a positivist reading of causation. His commentary starts from the fact of an "experience of the constant conjunction of certain bodies" that has to be interpreted for the purpose of a scientific understanding of the very idea of causation.


Such an object (causal) is found to produce another. It is impossible it could have this effect, if it was not endowed with a power of production. The power necessarily implies the effect; and therefore there is a just foundation for drawing a conclusion from the existence of one object to that of its usual attendant. The past production implies a power: the power implies a new production: and the new production is what we infer from the power of the past production. (Hume 1988: 137, emphasis provided)


It were easy for me to show the weakness of this reasoning [the above], were we willing to make use of those observations I have already made, that the idea of production is the same with that of causation, and that no existence certainly and demonstratively implies a power in any other object. . . . [Let us allow] that the production of one object by another in any one instance implies a power; and that this power lies not in the sensible qualities of the cause; and there being nothing but the sensible qualities present to us; I ask, why in other instances you presume that the same power still exists, merely upon the appearance of those qualities? Your appeal to past experience decides nothing in the present case. (ibid.: 137–38, emphasis provided)

Hume's having rejected a realist reading for a positivist reading of "the constant conjunction [regularity] of certain bodies," causation is, technically, thereby lost to correlation: two such objects are in relations of association (covary: conjunction) and not in relations of production (necessary change: production). A simple concrete example of two events in a regular relationship will help make this clear: when a water tap is turned on (object 1), water flows (object 2); when it is turned off, water does not flow. From the standpoint of what you 'see' or 'perceive' and not what you 'think' and 'conceive' (observation), there is only the succession of the event of object 2 following object 1. Therefore, according to Hume, and what became the positivist standpoint as a result, there are no 'powers' that become 'forces' that necessarily 'produce' an effect. This constitutes the positivist reading of Newton's law of inertia: matter is composed of material entities (objects) subject to laws that make for the contingent regularity of their passive-reactive interrelated motions. In other words, material entities in motion, whether physical, chemical, biological, or human, are patients (i.e., passive/reactive: via relations of association) and not agents (i.e., active/proactive: via relations of production). 'Causes' do not exist according to this reading, except as correlations among material entities (actually reduced to events) in motion.

     The fundamental message here is that 'freedom'—agency as the power of production—has to be rescued from a phenomenal world because that is necessarily a world without freedom. The importance of the Judeo-Christian concept of supernaturalism as a means to achieve the possibility of freedom in that phenomenal world now should be clear. What is 'super-natural' (i.e., superior to nature) is the power of a spiritual reality that is 'in but not of' a world of matter. God's freedom of the will is thus transcendent—supernatural (otherworldly); and it is that spiritual power of the will that is given to humankind with the gift of a soul—the mind. The transcendent nature of the human will is how freedom is rescued from the phenomenal world of nature. God's spirit is in matter but not of it, and correlatively, man's soul is in the body but not of it. It is important here to understand the philosophical character of this idea of transcendent freedom, free will: since freedom of the mind to will means that the mind is 'in the body but not of the body,' the 'mind' as spirit is neither in space nor in time. Only bodies—material entities–are.

     The paradigm of naturalism, one of the hallmarks of modernity, came to constitute and thus to contribute to the secularization of the rationality and imagination of the eighteenth century. This, of course, defined the eighteenth century as the century of the Enlightenment: a deep message of which was that the natural scientific revolution was to provide the model for a social scientific revolution, and thus the basis and reason for the emergence of sociology, anthropology, and psychology in the nineteenth century.

     The revolutionary idea in the case of the social sciences was one of uniting the world of natural beings (both inanimate [physical] and animate [biological]) with the world of human beings. This was to be done explicitly and systematically under the paradigm of naturalism, its machine model, and the idea of deterministic laws. It was precisely the social-scientific acceptance and consequent implementation of the intellectual directive of subsuming human-being under natural-being and under the authorship of natural science that inevitably led to the fundamental debate between those who were in favor of a 'science' of human beings at the risk of losing freedom and those who were in favor of 'humanism,' against science because freedom was not something to be lost.

     The even deeper question was how scientific knowledge of human behavior can be possible and at the same time retain the freedom of human behavior. For the purposes of this discussion, I will take the position that what became the science-and-humanism debate is specifically centered on the long-standing problem of how to reconcile human freedom in a natural world of determinism (Varela 2009: viii–xi).

     The ancient Greeks understood this very well in their terrible yet wonderful perception that even the gods cannot contravene natural laws: the gods too were subject to determinism. Hence, they feared, and gloried in, the myth of Prometheus, who dared to defy the necessity of the law in the face of inexorable punishment for so doing. This parallels the paradoxical philosophical promise of freedom in relation to an inexorable natural determinism. In Greek tragedies, the message of that paradox came through very clearly, as Freud had learned in the story of Oedipus Rex. Classical psychoanalytic theory was the realization of the paradox that such freedom was, in fact, the revenge of determinism. Thus, you may appear to be free to defy necessity, but in reality that freedom is an illusion, for you are not free of the punishment that will inexorably follow.

     The Jews of the Hebrew Bible also faced up to that same problem, as revealed in the story of Job—a man looking into the jaws of existence as he kneels before his magnificent and mysterious ethical God who created nature and its laws. For Christians and the New Testament, however, followed by the theology of Augustine and Aquinas, God as the creator of humankind in addition to all of existence was conceived as being 'in but not of' the cosmos governed by the natural laws of his creation. Such transcendence was, again, the religious promise of freedom for human beings in Western cultures.

     What was happening here in the formation, living, and experience of the Judeo-Greco-Christian tradition was the emerging recognition of this fundamental problem: how could freedom be possible in a world of determinism?

     The Greeks gave us the brutal revelation of a determinism whose necessity subtly denied what turned out to be only the appearance of the freedom to defy; and yet, and yet, that negative solution was not definitively settled, if only because Prometheus was, first of all, a god himself! And, second, as a god he was therefore displaying an act (i.e., proactive, not simply reactive) that was being executed in the name of a mysterious power, but in its own right, nevertheless. In other words, between the appearance of defiance and the reality of determinate punishment, there seemed to be some metaphysical wiggle room for the existence of some measure of a power to act. After all, the punishment was not the only reality: the defiance was real, and therefore so too the power. Again, it was an act-ion, not reaction or reactive.

     The classic example at the cusp of modernity is Shakespeare's Hamlet: by the eighteenth century, he was viewed by leading critics as a patient not an agent, especially revealed at the end of the play when, finally, he kills the king. That "act," according to the critics, is a forced-choice—reactive not proactive (Varela 2009: 102–3).

     What remains in all these cases is the mystery of determinism, that is, how can there be that power to act in the existential teeth of the iron necessity of cosmic laws? Jews and Christians emphasized a freedom whose power was not the mystery of determinism but the mystery of transcendence. The ancient world with its supernatural paradigm thus left us with what became the traditional and quite complex dilemma of freedom and determinism.

     The scientific revolution, as understood philosophically by Immanuel Kant1 transformed the traditional acceptance that 'freedom is impossible in a deterministic world and must therefore be rescued,' into the modern problem of 'how is freedom possible in a natural and social world of deterministic structures?' In other words, how could freedom be recovered from the natural world? At that time, Kant (1724–1804) was unable to connect his transcendental theory of human freedom with his metaphysical naturalist understanding of inertia as the causal powers of material bodies. It was not until Harré's 'Copernican Revolution' in the philosophy of science in 1970 that a suitable philosophy of realism arrived. This has since enabled us to make new connections to Kant and to see that, albeit in fits and starts, he was in the process of articulating a structure/agency interpretation of the traditional problem of freedom and determinism outlined above. I maintain that recognizing that articulation and completing its transformation could only take place, however, after Giddens's version of the freedom and determinism debate replaced that of Talcott Parsons (Varela 2009: 65–77).

Phenomenology to Parsons: A Stalemate in the Freedom/Determinism Debate

Throughout the history of the social sciences, from the nineteenth century to the last quarter of the twentieth century, in sociology, anthropology, and psychology, the problem of freedom and determinism has been at the center of every major theory. Solutions were offered in terms of the traditional idea that freedom had to be rescued from nature: in a variety of ways in each of the social sciences, the transcendent theory of free will was the exemplar for that rescue. To see this clearly, let us take three examples from classic statements by the father, son, and one of the grandsons of the phenomenological tradition—Wilhelm Dilthey, Edmund Husserl, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. This tradition provides one of the direct links between Kant's theory of freedom and the humanist commitment to freedom against the determinism of science in the social sciences. Within that link, Kantian freedom was taken to be merely a German philosophical variety of Western free-will theory: Kant's 'transcendental' was thought to be merely a terminological variant of 'transcendence.' It is not.


Here we only want to emphasize what we find in our own lived experience, namely, that the will can direct our representations and set our limbs in motion, and that it has this capacity even when it is not exercising it. Indeed, in the event of an external restraint, this capacity can be immobilized by a similar or greater force, but is nevertheless felt as present. Thus, we grasp the representation of an effectuating capacity (or a power) which precedes the particular effective act; particular voluntary acts and deeds flow from a sort of reservoir of effective force . . . [a] productive force [thus a power]. (Dilthey 1989: 20–21)

Since the rise of the mechanistic conception of nature, literature has preserved the great feeling of life in nature, which is mysterious and inaccessible to explanation. Similarly, poetry everywhere protects the content of lived experience which cannot be conceptualized, so that what is experienced will vanish in the analytic operations of science. (Ibid: 206, emphasis provided)


The crisis of European existence can end in only one of two ways: in the ruin of a Europe alienated from its rational sense of life, fallen into a barbarian hatred of spirit; or in the rebirth of Europe from the spirit of philosophy, through a heroism of reason that will definitively overcome naturalism. Let us "good Europeans" do battle with this danger of dangers, with the sort of courage that does not shrink even the endless battle. . . . If we do . . . the phoenix of a new inner life of the spirit will arise as the underpinning of a great and distant human future, for the spirit alone is immortal. (Husserl 1970: 192, emphasis provided)


There is no freedom without some power. (Merleau-Ponty 1989: 438)

Husserl's first directive to phenomenology . . . to return to the "things themselves" is from the start the forswearing of science. I am not the outcome or the meeting-point of numerous causal agencies which determine my bodily or psychological make-up. I cannot conceive of myself as nothing but a bit of the world, a mere object of biological, psychological or sociological investigation. I cannot shut myself up within the realm of science. (Ibid.: viii, 434,)

Note carefully what has happened here: Dilthey is asserting, against Kant, that freedom, the "heart and soul" of "lived experience," is in space and in time, but as a "lived experience," it is in the realm of the phenomenological and not the realm of the phenomenal. Husserl presumes that thesis, and he and Merleau-Ponty leave us with the idea of freedom as a power to act that is stranded between 'power as spirit' and a 'power outside of the phenomenal realm'; and as such, the power to act is not grounded in the phenomenal world of natural material entities. Well, speaking positively (not positivistically) if freedom must be a power but a power that has no place in nature and if it is not spiritual, how can it be anything? The phenomenological theory of freedom is then conceptually empty. From transcendence to transcendental to phenomenology, the humanist argument against determinism in the name of either Husserl's or Merleau-Ponty's varieties of a transcendence theory of freedom is a philosophical dead end. In other words, in its sacred or secular format, the tradition of 'rescue' is over.

     During the twentieth century, the freedom and determinism problem had gone through two critical formulations. In keeping with the phenomenological tradition of 'rescue,' Talcott Parsons's vocabulary of 'system' and 'voluntarism' dominated sociological discourse from the 1930s up to the mid-1970s, at which point it was replaced by Anthony Giddens's concepts of 'structure' and 'agency.' However, initially, I realized, it was not clear why Giddens came up with a new set of terms. There seems to be no substantive difference between their respective vocabularies. After all, as sociologists, both Parsons and Giddens are referring to the problem of reconciling social structure with the freedom of the individual; choosing voluntarism or agency to represent freedom seems to be purely a matter of terminology. On closer scrutiny, however, it turns out that this is not at all the case. Although Parsons's idea of voluntarism and Giddens's idea of agency are certainly related, we will see that they are not the same. And that difference makes all the difference, for what we will discover is a sea change in the history of the social sciences with regard to the scientific and humanist debate concerning the freedom and determinism problem.

     In his 1937 masterpiece The Structure of Social Action, Parsons started out with a notion of freedom that it is complementary to Kant's. As a philosopher committed to, and trained in, Newtonian science, Kant's theory of freedom begins with the rejection of the religious theory that man's will is free because the mind that wills is spiritual, not material. As a result, Kant had to face up to the Newtonian material world in which any 'thing,' human or otherwise, in being in space (as a body, some where) and in time (as a body, at some moment), must therefore be subject to the causal laws of determinism: for any effect (a motion), there is a cause (a motion external to it); for any cause (external motion), it is also an effect of another cause (some other external motion), and so on. Kant's notion that we are free is based on the idea that, while the object of a subject (i.e., the body of a human being), is empirically 'some where' and 'some when,' that is, there given in space (e.g., sitting before my computer) and when at a given time (e.g., using my computer at 10:22 a.m.), the subject of that body, the self and its mind, is 'no when,' that is, 'not in time.' Kant called the concept of 'not being in time' the noumenal, which he contrasted to 'being in time,' the phenomenal:

[When] Kant takes up . . . the notion of the noumenal cause [in discussing certain technical philosophical problems] there is causality in its 'empirical character' restricted to appearances [phenomenal], and causality in its intelligible character—causa noumenon—of freedom: the same subject can be determined in one aspect, but free in the other. This noumenal application of the category of causality and the noumenal object of freedom marks the transition between Kant's theoretical and practical philosophy. (Caygill 1995: 303).

The verdict of modern philosophy seems to be that Kant's theory of freedom may be intelligible (believable) in that it does not violate logic (it is not self-contradictory, for instance, like the idea of a square circle), but nobody understands it scientifically because it is not empirically conceivable: if something is in space, how can it not be in time (Varela 2009: 6)? The same verdict has been true for many social scientists. For example, Parsons, in agreeing with Kant that we are "free in a deterministic material world" and in agreeing with philosophy's verdict that Kant's theory is not scientifically understandable, takes a novel stance toward Kantian freedom in relation to space and time that lands Parsons in a similar theoretical predicament. Examine Parsons's own statement on the matter:

On an analytical basis it is possible to see emerging out of this study as a whole a division into three great classes of theoretical systems. They may be spoken of as the systems of nature, action, and culture. . . . Only the first two are systems of empirical scientific theory in the usual sense; the third occupies a special status. This is because empirical science is concerned with processes in time. The problematical data of the theories of both the nature systems and the action systems concern such processes; those of culture systems do not. The line of distinction which may be drawn between the first two is that the nature systems involve systems in relation to space in the frame of reference, the action systems in relation to the means-end schema. Physical time is a mode of relationship of events in space, action time a mode of relation means and ends and other action elements. . . . Action is non-spatial but temporal. (Parsons 1937, cited in Varela 2009: 241–45)

What Parsons has done here is reverse Kant's view of the space/time conditions of freedom: by locating the mind in time but not in space, Parsons believed, we are free.2 In either case, Kant or Parsons, how can such a position be understood? Indeed, I know of no eminent Parsons scholar who has even bothered to point out this oddity. To the very end of his life, as seen in his last work Action Theory and the Human Condition (1978), Parsons remained a self-proclaimed man of religion and a self-proclaimed Kantian. It is for these reasons that we can position Parsons's conception of voluntarism within the original (mis)take of seeing Kantian freedom as rescuing freedom from the material conditions of nature.

     This was true about Parsons despite the fact that he tried to assimilate his idea of voluntarism to the promising idea of 'free action' provided by the cognitive behaviorist Edward Chance Tolman. Tolman's concept of action could easily be understood to assume, ontologically, something like a conception of 'agent causality,' i.e., that causation exists and it is agency. If that were the case, then Parson's conception of voluntarism would be grounded in a conception of causality (Varela 2005: 10–15). As a result, freedom as voluntary action would be a real force in nature because the force of that action would be a genuine causal act. However, as I have indicated above with regard to Hume's reading of the law of inertia, no such idea of 'agent causality' was available to philosophers and social scientists at this time. Nature was understood to be a world of patients, not agents—there are only events, their regularities, and passive things subject to them.

     We can better appreciate what Parsons was up against and opposed to here, although he himself was not in a historical position to see it this way. Parsons was trying to forge a conception of voluntarism in opposition to the Humean positivistic view of science. He was, therefore, stranded between Kant's strange theory of freedom and Tolman's scientifically ungrounded theory of cognitive freedom. This was all presupposed in Parsons's system and voluntarism vocabulary and constituted his proposed solution to the problem of social structure and personal agency. Clearly, it was not a solution. It was, instead, the continuation of a stalemate in the history of the science and humanism, freedom and determinism debate.

Parsons to Giddens: The Call for a Realist View of Determinism

Earlier we saw that, in order to solve the problem of the relationship between social structure and personal agency, Giddens rejected the determinism of positivist science (event determinism) and explicitly called for a new theory of causality that was non-Humean in origin. He was calling for a concept of 'agent causality,' on which he intended to forge a conception of the agency of a person. In so doing, Giddens broke free of Parsons's imprisonment in the traditional science/humanism encounter.

     It is clear to us now that a conception of 'agent causality' is only available from a realist philosophy of science. Note that, therefore, in the strict sense of natural scientific practice, the term agent causality is redundant—causality is agency, whereas 'event regularity' is not causal: it is only correlational. The point of correlational observations is to prepare the natural scientist and social scientist to search for causal mechanisms. We have seen that Hume understood that perfectly: in speaking of the experience of regularities, constant conjunctions, he said that "Such an object is always found to produce another," and that object is, he continued, "a power of production."

     Traditionally, up to and including the present, philosophical discussions typically declare that Hume rejected the realist view of 'agent causality' in favor of the positivist one of 'event causality.' However, Galen Strawson's study of Hume on causation has defeated this philosophical tradition by cogently arguing that "Hume was not a Humean"—he was actually a realist. With this longstanding but fundamental misreading of Hume's alleged positivist reading of causality in Newton's law of inertia out of the way, plus the contemporary understanding that scientific practice is realist and not positivist, today we are completely free to acknowledge that the emergence of realism in the philosophy of science has finally won the day.

     The establishment of this realist turn in the philosophy of science is presupposed by what I have elsewhere referred to as "Giddens's Call" (Varela 2009). A realist understanding of Giddens's shift in vocabulary allows me to move beyond his structure/agency formulation of the problem of freedom and determinism. I will do so in two steps.

     First, I will expand the sociological problem of social structure and personal agency to the general social-scientific problem of 'deterministic structures' and 'personal agency.' Respective theoretical interests in each of the social sciences have given us the traditional conceptual structures of the social, the psychological, and the cultural. I now propose that the theoretical thread that connects these three structures into a fundamental scientific metaphysical problem is based on the nontraditional structures of biology and language. For our theoretical purposes here, biology can be understood as providing two internally related concepts: the organism and the body. Language can also be understood as providing two internally related concepts: discourse(s) and practice(s). These two theoretical moves effectively derail the problems of biological and linguistic structural determinism and allow me to take the second step. I propose that the general problem of structure(s) and agency is best conceived as the problem of deterministic structures and embodied discursive agency.

     Now we are in the appropriate theoretical position to enter Drid Williams's theoretical world of the anthropology of embodiment. We can do so by virtue of the second step with the clear understanding that a suitable theory of embodiment is fundamental to a robust solution to the problem of structure and agency. I will now work out, step by step, how it is that dynamic embodiment realizes Giddens's Call in just that robust sense. This necessarily takes place in the field of the philosophy of science with particular reference to the realist paradigm of scientific practice. The analytic focus in my presentation is scientific rigor: that of the precision of meaning and not the accuracy of measurement (paraphrase of Bhaskar cited in Varela 2009: viii).

Semasiology and Giddens's Call

I contend that semasiology exemplifies Harré's cardinal principle of the metaphysical foundations of the realism that constitutes scientific practice: "To be is to have a place among the beings of a world, not to be the value of a variable" (Harré 1986: 322). It is not only the case that this exemplification deepens Williams's conviction that semasiology is a science, but precisely because of that understanding, we can also claim that it is one of the humanities. The realism of science bridges, and thus overcomes, C. P. Snow's well-known 'two cultures' divide. It does so in two ways. At the highest levels of both the sciences and the humanities, as Jacob Bronowski reminds us, their work is united in their common resource, the imagination. Harré has gone deeper by showing us how analogy and metaphor are used to construct models (fictional/ symbolic images and pictures) for the purpose of investigating realities seen (visible) and, most particularly, unseen (invisible). He shows us that the most important realities are invisible: the elementals of nature—powers, energy, forces—and the fundamentals of culture—agency, meanings, actions. But above all, I want to add, we require the unification of these natural and cultural dimensions of reality, respectively, in their material incarnation in the movement of signifying beings of a human world. Hence, we must decisively enrich Harré's realist principle in two degrees. The first is as follows: "To be is to have a place among the moving beings of a world."

     We have had an earlier occasion to point out the crucial distinction between positivist embodiment (behaviorism and psychoanalysis) and realist embodiment, and due regard must be given to the historical fact that both behaviorism and psychoanalysis locate themselves in the naturalist frameworks of Newton and Darwin. They presume the former's principle of 'matter in motion' and the latter's principle of 'animals in adaptive physical activity' and so would see themselves in accordance with this first degree of enrichment. In light of that eventuality, we need the second degree of enrichment. From the realist standpoint, human moving being presupposes the Darwinian evolution of Homo Sapiens Sapiens and the subsequent arrival of human cultures and their histories.

     Human agency is the theme of our Darwinian evolution: the agency of human being is the emergence of symbolic/relational intelligence, the neuroanatomical structure that replaced the neuroanatomical structures that had earlier biologically made instinctive species (e.g., ants) possible. Personal agency is the theme of the social construction of culture and its consequent generation of historical development. Thus, for the human instance of Harré's principle, we have: "To be is to have a place among the moving signifying beings of a human world." These two enrichments of Harré's realist principle locate the principle of dynamic embodiment firmly and coherently at the center of any scientific endeavor to study human beings.

     To appreciate this achievement adequately, however, we must now take up the challenge of the phenomenological tradition of Dilthey, Husserl, and Merleau-Ponty (Varela 2009: 3–41). For, as mentioned earlier, this tradition was taken up into the fundamental philosophical foundations of twentieth-century social science and thus into its theoretical thinking about human being and the structure/agency problem. By the early 1980s, in the sociology of Bryan Turner and the anthropology of Michael Jackson, personal agency was being preserved against deterministic structures by their resort to the phenomenological tradition of Merleau-Ponty (see Farnell and Varela 2008).

     I will present a challenge to phenomenology by arguing that its theory of embodiment can never take us to the moving body of signifying persons. I firmly contend that, as a direct consequence, phenomenological embodiment cannot realize a robust theory of personal agency. This, then, brings into sharper relief the central thesis of my paper: that only the theory of dynamic embodiment can achieve this.

Phenomenological Embodiment: The First Somatic Revolution

For the purpose of the following discussion, let me summarily return to my discussion of the history of the social sciences. I have suggested that the various responses to the problem of deterministic structures and the freedom of human agency can, in fact, be understood as a series of footnotes to Kant. The theme of such footnotes is not that of rescuing freedom as free will from nature in toto, (the transcendent theory), but rather rescuing freedom as agency from the phenomenal world of deterministic structures (the transcendental theory).

     The heir to Kant's transcendental theory of agency has been its location in a region next to the realm of phenomenal objects. The new theme of the joint response on the part of Dilthey, Husserl, and Merleau-Ponty was that human freedom is not transcendental (and thus noumenal); it is, rather, immanental, being in space and in time. It is, in their opinion, 'phenomenological,' and somehow that is why it is not 'phenomenal.' That is an astonishing thesis. How is this nothing more than an appeal to the magic of words? For example, think of Dilthey's declaration that phenomenological freedom is a mystery and defies scientific explanation under the protection of poetry; note Husserl following suit with an appeal to such freedom as a spiritual reality once more under the protection of "heroic reason" standing up to naturalism; and then Merleau-Ponty arbitrarily restricting their post-Kantian freedom to a groundless free-floating power, while he limply claims that he cannot conceive of himself shut up within the phenomenal realm as a "bit of the world." Freedom here appears in a new form of purity, no longer that of transcendence but now an ascendance 'from within the individual' into the immanence of human Being. That is, to speak in Husserlian language, freedom is the essential feature of the phenomenological structure of human consciousness—in ordinary parlance, "lived freedom" or "experienced freedom."

     While Kant was self-conscious of freedom, Husserl presents freedom itself as the Being-of-consciousness. Hence, our freedom is, supposedly, in and of this world, to be sure; yet, precisely because of this new mystery of freedom and consciousness as one and the same Being, a new difficulty arises and, indeed, another impossibility; for the phenomenological region of freedom is now dangerously juxtaposed to the phenomenal region of determinism, next-door neighbors, so to speak. Against exceptionless determinism, the exceptionalness of human Being is mystically announced by phenomenology as a new epiphany for modernity.

     In that quite suspect contiguity, we are more than puzzled that certain well-worn, intended, crucial dualisms are again being highlighted: external/internal, interior/inward. Once we reject what Heiddiger called the "scandal of philosophy" (Cartesian dualism) by crashing through the Cartesian barrier of "interiority" (with the help of Mead, Wittgenstein, and then Heidegger), we are left to the task of understanding how, in being originally external, we are yet free—because freedom is, what—inward? If 'phenomenological' can no longer refer to 'interiority,' what else can 'inward' mean but a code for accounts in the self-referential idiom of 'experience,' 'feeling,' and 'perception.'

     Existential anxiety is just around the corner. It is here where Merleau-Ponty, skipping over Sartre, faces that anxiety and takes phenomenology through Heidegger's vision of our being-in-the-world, grounding it in the existential experience and feeling of the human body. This is the essence of what I have called "the first somatic revolution." This involved rejecting the Hull/Freud phenomenal (mechanical/organic) body for the phenomenological body. Merleau-Ponty picked up Kant's and therefore Dilthey's idea that human freedom is not free will but rather the power to act. He theorized that power anew and verified it definitively, he believed, by an appeal to the phenomenological reality of the "lived-body." Yet, we must ask, how is that reality to be made hermeneutically intelligible without a realist philosophy of science? This is Merleau-Ponty's actual difficulty: if he cannot conceive of himself as a phenomenal object (that is, an agentless thing) in view of the existential phenomenological experience of being an agentive thing (a human being), then by what concept can he conceive of himself that way, especially in light of his rejection of science?

     It is clear to us now that Merleau-Ponty was trapped in the mistaken tradition of conflating science with positivism, along with its misreading of inertia as material patiency and the correlative notion of embodiment in its traditional deterministic formula—bodies use people. The reason why existential phenomenology cannot get us to 'moving personal being' from within the phenomenal world of 'matter in motion' and 'organisms in movement' is because it has taken for granted the idea of 'experience' based on the empiricist tradition of Berkley and Hume and their principle that the experience (perception, feeling, sensation) of the world is a world of patients—agentless things with their regularity of events. In other words, the phenomenological tradition has insufficient philosophical resources for a conception of causation as genuine agency. As a result, an existential phenomenological approach against the traditional determinist reading of 'bodies using persons' cannot give us an agent/causal reading of persons signifying by using their body movements.

     It is quite clear that at this point we have come full circle, having returned to the Kant/Giddens problem of structure and agency, but having done so with a new understanding of that problem. We now know that Merleau-Ponty ended up in the predicament of a conceptual imprisonment from which he could not escape. On the one hand, he was identifying freedom as the power of a person with the experience of the power of the "lived-body" of that person. But the reference to "power" in both cases—person and lived-body—is philosophically problematic. On the other hand, having honored the tradition of rejecting science, he is left without any way, outside of positivism, of grounding the power of a person or the power of the lived-body in the phenomenal world of deterministic bodies. Since Merleau-Ponty could not have come up with Gidden's call for a new conception of determinism in order to ground personal agency, positivism was the only available philosophical resource. When deterministic bodies are interpreted positivistically, however, no such grounding is possible, since the very idea of powers is rejected. Phenomenal bodies are not embodied powers.

     Contrary to the claims of the phenomenological tradition, the lived-body is still, in fact, a phenomenal body. The 'experience' or the 'feel' of that body that is taken to be giving us the experience and feel of a power is a delusion. The strategy of distinguishing the human body as 'subjective' and nonhuman bodies as 'objective' because the former is 'lived' does nothing, absolutely nothing, to challenge that fact. It is a tacit influence of believing in freedom—a leftover of the transcendence tradition. If, however, 'subjectivity' is fruitfully understood as the 'activity of a subject,' that is, the fact of personal agency, then there is no reality of the 'subjective' left over.

     The existential phenomenological resort to the lived-body to rescue freedom and agency from the phenomenal world simply will no longer do. Merleau-Ponty has not provided us with an argument against the determinism of positivist science but only a defiant antidote—the defiance of existence married to the defiance of phenomenological experience informed by the religious tradition, in its sacred (Dilthey and Husserl) or secular (Merleau-Ponty) varieties. That has failed. What is needed beyond phenomenology and Merleau-Ponty is a second somatic revolution.

     Our understanding of the scientific realist character of the above problem and its direct relevance to a solution are now clear. In sum, given that the structure/agency problem is the problem of deterministic structures and the freedom of embodied agency, there is only one kind of conception of embodiment that can lead us to a theory of agency consistent with the fact that the human lived-body of phenomenology is still a phenomenal body. It is Williams's concept of the semasiological body that moves us beyond the dead end of the phenomenological body.

Part II. Semasiology and Science: Theories of Matter and Embodiment

I contend that the semasiological principle of dynamic embodiment is a theoretical principle that is continuous with the dynamic theory of matter that centers modern-day field theory in physics. Rom Harré has shown that the theory of causal powers internally connects Newtonian mechanics and field theory, and, as I will now point out, under the auspices of Kantian philosophy as I have discussed it above, causal-powers theory entails the idea of dynamic embodiment (Varela 2009: 267–92). The semasiological theory of the body is thus continuous with the dynamical theory of material bodies in the strict sense of being a special variation of it. In view of the aforementioned scientific ambition of semasiology to be linguistically tied, mathematically grounded, and empirically based, this point has important implications. The dynamical theory of matter as material bodies in motion and the dynamic theory of persons as human bodies in signifying movement are internally related to each other: they are at different evolutional levels of being natural kinds of powerful particulars. However, it must be made quite clear that, while the realist theory of causality provides the idea for a principle of dynamic embodiment, it is my critical thesis that only semasiology has transformed that idea into a principle of dynamic embodiment.

     With this in mind, we must now carefully reconsider the essential thrust of Kant's theory of freedom. First of all, as an act of "spontaneity," Kant refers to it as the "efficient causality of freedom." Second, as such, spontaneity is the primacy of autonomy. What has not been mentioned in Kantian discussions to date is a third feature of his theory: Kant claims spontaneity to be "a kind of free motion" (Kant 1997: 84).3

     My entire discussion up to this point concerning the features required for a theory of dynamic embodiment permits me, with greater justification, to grant Williams's anthropology a uniquely important place in the history of the social sciences. That semasiological place in the history of the special debate on deterministic structures and embodied agency I define as a pioneering moment. And such a moment I will call a second somatic revolution. In this case, the specialty has to do with the vitally important idea that internally relates Newtonian mechanics, field theory, and Williams's semasiology: the bodies of the natural world are the bodies of causal powers, and such bodies are as well the bodies of moving powers. This can be expressed in the terms of my earlier enrichment of Harré's central realist principle: "To be human is to have a place among the moving powers of a world." This is ultimately why dynamic embodiment is a theoretical principle that is continuous with the dynamical theory of matter.

Part III. Science and Humanism: A Changing Relationship

In this section, I want to exploit a truly remarkable comment made by Douglas Porpora that "realism is humanism" (Porpora 2001: 264). This remark inspires me to say that the relationship between science and humanism has radically changed in the following way: science is humanism. And that is why, in my opinion, Porpora could say what he did. In view of this, I would now like to propose that causal-powers theory provides for the humanistic component of modern natural science in virtue of the fact that, since the theory is the basis for the establishment of agency at the center of the physical and biological worlds, it does indeed follow that human, and thus personal, agency is at the center of the world of human culture.

     Let us return to the second of Kant's three components for a realist theory of freedom: the primacy of autonomy. Kant understood this primacy to be restricted to the human being. But consider the following statement in 1959 by Mario Bunge, the first philosopher of realism to publish a philosophy of science text:

Self-movement is by now a solid philosophical acquisition of the sciences. In no department of science are scholastic patients recognized. On the contrary, material objects at all levels of organization are more and more regarded as entities having an activity of their own, conditioned but not entirely determined by their surroundings. (Bunge 1979: 176–78, emphasis provided)

An important implication here concerns the strategy of rescuing agency discussed throughout this paper, but this time not solely in reference to human beings but in the recovery of agency for the natural world from the natural world, the even more important implication of which is unavoidable: the recovery of agency in nature is necessarily the recovery of human agency in culture. This is the meaning of a phrase that I now want to introduce, humanism from science. In short, that humanism that comes from science resides in the recovery of natural agency (contrary to the positivist claim that nature is a world of patients, not agents). This makes possible science for humanism, in providing for the recovery of human agency. This indeed is a unique state of affairs in the history of the structure/agency debate in the social sciences, and it is with the principle of dynamic embodiment that we have the most direct and complete connection between the humanism from science and science for humanism. After all, the classic formulation of the essence of a metaphysics of nature, since Kant's own work on that topic in 1785, is not the version found in standard philosophy texts, i.e., "matter in motion" with its tacit positivist reading, but Newton's and Kant's:


All bodies are movable and endowed with certain powers (which we call the inertia) of preserving in their motion. (Newton in Cohen and Westfall 1995: 117)


The moving forces of matter are powers, either purely dynamic or mechanical. The latter are based on the former. (Kant 1985: 58)

The recovery of natural agency is clear: the power to preserve motion—primary autonomy—is the intrinsic feature of entities moving in nature. And it is here, right here, as I have been arguing, that we have the twin recovery of both natural and human agency.

     This recovery of natural agency and cultural agency can still be lost, once again, to a residual Cartesianism if the alleged metaphysical gap is allowed to separate the materiality of nature (physical and biological particulars) from the immateriality of culture (persons living their normative realities). The crucial connecting link is, of course, the very fact of the 'body' of things—physical, biological, and personal. Kant's idea of transcendental/noumenal freedom merely postponed facing up to the problem that was unavoidable in the concept of phenomenological freedom. If nonliving, living, and lived things (i.e., the lived-body) are in the phenomenal world, how can the 'body' of the first two be determined and unfree, but the 'body' of the third be undetermined and free merely because human consciousness can be displayed in fine-textured phenomenological description in terms of 'experience' and 'feeling'? Which is to say, why are we free just because we self-consciously experience our body in the life we live with others? In short, to restate my earlier assertion, the human body is the body of a thing (materiality) after all, biology and consciousness notwithstanding. I have shown that the conception of the lived-body cannot change that.

     This returns us to the deep message of Freud's theory of the unconscious. The conscious experience of freedom, whether as the experience of consciousness (Husserl) or the experience of the body of consciousness (Merleau-Ponty), is an illusion of appearance; behind that appearance is the reality of a deterministic 'body': first, the Darwinian reality of the biological (drive); second, the deeper Newtonian reality of the physical (force); and third, the deterministic reality of force as drive transformed into the deterministic reality of psychological motive-forces of superego, ego, and id.

     So what is at issue here is still the materiality of the person—the 'body' or the 'organism.' But, of course, saying it that way, suggests that 'body' and 'organism' are the same ontological thing, which is in keeping with the traditional social scientific way of speaking about the question of embodiment. Behaviorism and psychoanalysis are the exemplars here. For Freudian psychoanalytic theory, for example, there is no such problem: organism and body, and then body and mind, are ultimately ontologically identical, particularly as a complex deterministic unconscious structure. This can be seen directly in Else Frenkel-Brunswik's defense of the unconscious in her monograph The Confirmation of Psychoanalytic Theories (1954) where she makes this astonishing connection of identity between psychoanalysis and behaviorism.

     We may add that, from the standpoint of logical analysis, there is no alternative but to be behavioristic in any psychological endeavor; neither the so-called subjective phantasies in which psychoanalysis is interested nor "introspective" events of any kind in others can be constituted except by inference from the manifest physical observation of organisms (Frenkel-Brunswik 1954: 106, emphasis provided).

     For realist social science, on the contrary, the issue is precisely the identification of differences between organism and body; the problem is how to specify the relationship as interpenetrating yet distinguishable realities. Specifically in the case of dynamic embodiment, the concept of the semasiological body is centered on the primacy of human movement and with that principle Williams links the physical being of things (materiality) with the moving being of persons (action). We have, above, identified that link in the doubly enriched Harréan realist principle that can now be enriched once more—to be is to have a place among the material beings of immaterial moving powers. Hence, the metaphysical gap has been overcome. The semasiological body presupposes an analytic distinction between the human organism and the human body according to the following principle: body movements are resources that persons in their powers of intelligence, imagination, and discursivity socially learn to use under the auspices of their culture, and the organismic substrate of body movement is the site of those resources in the form of neurophysiological capacities.4 Organismic and personal capacities are complementary powers, for they are the resources of dynamically embodied persons. For semasiology, it is from the body that personal agents significantly move.


1 In the Critique of Pure Reason for science and the Critique of Practical Reason for the social sciences.

2 Perhaps the most that can be said for this strange philosophical move by Parsons is that in 1937 his reversal of the Kantian standpoint was an argument against behaviorism and its reduction of mind to the organism as a stimulus/response reflex machine—but that is surely 'cutting your nose off to spite your face.'

3 The phenomenological tradition certainly announced such a conception—in the work of Dilthey, for instance, repeated obliquely and hence unsuccessfully in Husserl's search for structures and lost by Sartre's extreme concern for an existential freedom of all the constraints of essence. (So much so that one suspects he favored Cartesian mentalism in a revulsion of Cartesian materiality, this reappearing in Merleau-Ponty only to be subordinated to the feeling and to the experience of bodily being).

4 Williams sometimes makes a distinction between person and body but uses the word body to refer to the biological organism, not the phenomenological or cultural body. In using person, she is, of course, referring to dynamically embodied persons.

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