‘I am’ and ‘It is’: Reflections on the Embodied Subject

Professor Raymond Tallis

31 January 2019

Prof Raymond Tallis. Credit: Tom Prater / Maudsley Philosophy Group
Prof Raymond Tallis. Credit: Tom Prater / Maudsley Philosophy Group

“Human beings are neither disembodied spirits nor ghosts in biological machines. We are, as many philosophers, notably Merleau-Ponty, have argued ‘embodied subjects’: the subject and the body are like the recto and verso of a sheet of paper.


Nevertheless, the relationship between the ‘I am’ of the person and the ‘It is’ of the body is very complex. I will discuss different aspects of this relationship. In addition, I will examine how our experience of embodiment may be the basis of our sense of the reality of extra-corporeal material objects as existing independently of our experiences.”

About the speaker:

Raymond Tallis was professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Manchester and a consultant physician in the healthcare of the elderly in Salford. His national roles have included: consultant advisor in the healthcare of the elderly to the Chief Medical Officer; a key part in developing the National Service Framework for Older People; membership of the NICE appraisal committee; chairman of the Royal College of Physicians committee on ethics in medicine; chairman of the review committee for ethics support for front-line clinicians.

Professor Tallis retired from full-time medicine in 2008 to focus on his writing: he has published over thirty non-medical books including fiction and poetry in addition to works on philosophy of the mind, philosophical anthropology, literary theory, the nature of art and cultural criticism. As a philosopher Professor Tallis’s writings describe an anthropology that acknowledges what is distinctive and remarkable about human beings. To this end he has written a trilogy of books entitled ‘The Hand’, ‘I am: a Philosophical Enquiry into First-Person Being’ and ‘The Knowing Animal’.


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