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U. of Chicago


The Absent Body

(University of Chicago, 1990)


Dr. Drew Leder has written extensively on the philosophy of the body, using a phenomenological approach influenced by Merleau-Ponty and other 20th century Continental philosophers. His most significant work in this area is The Absent Body (U. Of Chicago, 1990) which has been termed "fascinating," "highly important," "stylistically lucid," "intensely illuminating," "a major contribution." (see below).

Having an M.D., as well as philosophical training, Dr. Leder's work in this area has often focused on bodily experience in health and illness, and the way in which medical interventions interpret and transform our relation to the body. He is critical of the Cartesian mind-body dualism and scientism that underlies much of contemporary Western medicine, and proposes a more holistic, yet rigorous, alternative. In addition to The Absent Body, Dr. Leder is the editor of The Body in Medical Thought and Practice (Kluwer, 1992), and assistant editor of the Encyclopedia of Bioethics (Macmillan, 1995). See his C.V. (under "About Dr. Leder") for a more complete listing of his many articles and publications on related topics.

This fascinating look at the human body reveals those ways in which our bodies are absent in daily life, whether forgotten, alien, uncontrollable, or obscured. Drew Leder studies the ways in which bodily phenomena manifest structures of concealment and alienation. He then presents a highly original critique of Cartesian dualism, arguing that it is based upon, but misinterprets, our everyday experience.

A Sample of Reviews and Comments

"The Absent Body is a highly important new book....Leder interweaves direct personal observation and medically sound fact with philosophically astute analysis to achieve a novel perspective on a subject that should interest physicians and philosophers alike. The Absent Body is indeed a major contribution to both traditional philosophy and frontier medicine."
Peter Jucovy, M.D,. in the Journal of General Internal Medicine

"The Absent Body takes the reader to a region which previous philosophers have feared to enter: the inner, visceral body that is absent from conscious experience. An original and daring venture in phenomenology, this book invites us to rethink the bodily basis of our life. It plumbs the depth of human being-in-the-world in intensely illuminating ways."
Edward S. Casey, State University of New York at Stony Brook

"The Absent Body makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in the ways in which bodily experience shapes contemporary attitudes toward women."
Linda LeMoncheck, in the APA Newsletter on Feminism

"This is an important book for anyone wondering what the East can realistically teach us and how we can practically overcome the pervasive influence of our inherited Cartesian ideology."
Spectrum Review

"Leder's description and analysis of `absence' as dysfunction is the uniquely original and markedly imaginative accomplishment of this work. He refigures and consolidates phenomenological literature of the lived body by the likes of Marcel, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Strauss in such a manner that a new perspective emerges. Stylistically lucid and straightforward, The Absent Body is in every respect a significant contribution to the growing literature on embodiment."
Calvin O. Schrag, Purdue University

"Leder's detailed study of the ecstatic/recessive structure of embodiment is a significant and original contribution. Demonstrating real insight into the mutual relation between medical and phenomenological themes regarding the body and embodiment, as well as the underlying problematic of Cartesian thought, Leder's book is an important accomplishment. His analysis of the close connections among the structures of the lived body and their cultural elaborations is especially rewarding. I highly recommend it as among the best and most comprehensive studies of the crucial phenomenon of embodiment."
Richard M. Zaner, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

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