Body Definition

Each Humes unit is taught by a different professor specializing in a unique field. As a result, the material taught varies from unit to unit. For instance, Dr. Robb taught on epistemology whereas Dr. Fache taught on black Venuses and the history surrounding them. Clearly different teachings, lessons, and information broadcasted to students. However, what links these units into one cohesive course is the theme of the body. I propose that these links can be described as characteristics of the body and by compiling them together and using a method similar to the cluster definition technique, a definition of the body can be formulated. Doing so has led me to define the body as a vessel. According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, a vessel is a container or a vehicle. In this paper, I will explain the reasoning for this definition by revealing the characteristic of the body each unit presented and illustrating how these characteristics support the body being a vessel.  

As previously stated, epistemology, objective truth, and conceptual schemes were the broad topics of Dr. Robb’s philosophy unit. Dr. Robb utilized article readings to teach students key terms and arguments and debates surrounding these topics. For instance, Kwame Appiah’s Thinking It Through: An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy, was an article that informed the reader on key terms such as thought experiment and foundationalism, while also presenting the arguments of Descartes and Plato. Dr. Robb’s frequent use of articles to teach students highlights a characteristic of the body: it can contain information. A body of text, a form of a body, contains information just like a vessel would contain a liquid. Thus, because the body meets this necessary condition to be a vessel, I offer that the body is a vessel, a commonality presented in other units as well.  

Similar to the characteristic Dr. Robb’s unit presented, Dr. Fache presented the body’s service as a container for human dignity as a characteristic. Her unit focused on the narratives of Sara Baartman, Josephine Baker, and Beyonce, three entertainers and black Venuses whose stories were interwoven with human dignity. Baartman was a dancer in the 19th century who despite the times and laws, lived under a master/slave dynamic and was forced to entertain and portray herself in an animal-like-manner. This animalization dehumanized her and forced her to act against her will, resulting in total loss of her human dignity. Baker had a loss of control analogous to Baartman, having little control over how she portrayed her body and feminism, resulting in her loss of human dignity. However, Beyonce, a modern-day black Venues, is an entertainer possessing complete human dignity, for she has complete control over her body and narrative. Overall, this unit stresses that human dignity comes from control over one’s body, both in its portrayal and actions. Consequently, this idea that human dignity derives from the body, demonstrates the characteristic that the body contains human dignity. Plato likewise offers the body as a vessel containing the human soul. Such storage echoes the necessary condition of a vessel being a container, thereby promoting the body being a vessel. 

Continuing the idea that the body serves as a container, Professor Tamura’s unit regards the body as an archive. Typically, a collection of historical literature and artworks providing information about a place, time, or individual, an archive can be a physical collection at a library or a digital one on an online database. In either case, pieces of work are stored as records. However, Professor Tamura’s unit taught that there is yet another type of archive. One different from a physical or digital one, the unit presented the body as an archive. Although it may not store pieces of literature or art, the body does store physical and emotional records. Physical wounds may be inflicted on a body, for instance, cuts and bruises, and they may heal, but they may also leave scarring. These scars can serve as a record of the incident that brought pain, so that we may learn from them and move forward, just as an archive stores historical works to learn from. Emotionally this may occur as well. Though the scars might not be visible on the surface, emotional scarring serves as an account of painful memories so that we may learn from them and not make the same mistakes. It is in this manner that the body serves as an archive storing information whilst satisfying the vessel requirement of being a container. 

Unlike the previously discussed units, Professor Green touches on the body being a vehicle for social change. Within this unit, we learned about and participated in acting exercises to train ourselves to use our body as a form of language and expression so that we may advocate for social change through them. We also learned about different theater techniques, such as forum theater, that uses reenactments of situations and scenarios through actors’ bodies to test the viability of social justice solutions. Lastly, we watched theater productions whose character perspectives acted out social injustice discussions to cultivate awareness and change viewer’s biases. Appropriately, the body in this unit serves as a vehicle for social change and it is this vehicle title that allows the body to be a vessel. 

In effect, each unit in Humes, including Sapre Aude, characterized the body as either a container for something or a vehicle. This alignment of the body with the definition of a vessel directed my judgment and led me to define the body as a vessel. 

My notes on Appiah’s reading Thinking It Through: An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy

References

Robb, David. “On Definitions.” Humes Davidson College. December 11, 2o2o. https://hum.davidson.edu/december-practice-portfolio-guidelines/.

Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, s.v. “vessel,” accessed December 11, 2020, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vessel.

Plato. Phaeda. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Cambridge University Press, 1875.

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