Philosophy Faculty Publications

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Book Chapter

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Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Temporal Experience


This chapter will analyze the experience and, in particular the conscious experience, of dancing in time from the perspective of the trained dancer while performing. The focus is thus on the experience and consciousness of a dancer who is moving her body in time rather than on the experience of a seated audience member or dance appreciator who is watching a dancer move. The question of how temporality is experienced in dance by the appreciator will therefore not be addressed here.

The primary kind of “experience” that will be the focus of my discussion of temporal experience comes from classical pragmatists William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, and John Dewey, for whom experience is “a series of purposive bodily activities immersed in the ongoing flow of organism-environment interactions” (Johnson 2006: 48). The mind-body engaged in this experience, according to the pragmatists, is one that is sensate to its environmental stimuli and interactions while acting within it. Both Peirce and Dewey, for example, view the person as a “psycho-physical” organism – one that is conscious of both qualitative experiences such as feelings towards the environment (attraction, repulsion, and the like) as well as physical sensations (see Peirce 1998/1892: 263 and Dewey 2008/1925: 229). James acknowledges that we are aware of qualitative aspects of our experience such as sensations of difference or change (see James 1950/1890a: 495). My account of the experience of dancing in time will also include conscious aspects of this experience (what-it-feels-like-to-the-dancer herself) as well as any sensorimotor pre-conscious or 2 non-conscious processes of which she is not aware by virtue of her bodily engagement with the world (cf. Maurice Merleau-Ponty 2008/1945: 235-239).

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