Joel Krueger - ‘Taking Watsuji online: aidagara and expression in the techno-social niche’

Season five of our podcast is back after a short break, and continues with another presentation from our 2020 annual conference: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ Online. This episode features Joel Krueger, University of Exeter.


ABSTRACT: Despite increased interest in comparative philosophy within the past few decades — including particular interest in the Kyoto School of Japanese philosophy — Tetsurō Watsuji has not received the attention he deserves. Watsuji was a broad-ranging and original thinker who developed important insights into culture, ethics, religion, embodiment, and the self. He was also a skilled phenomenologist. His rich analysis of embodiment, space, and intersubjectivity not only predates insights developed by phenomenologists such as Sartre and Merleau-Ponty but also deepens and extends their analysis in productive ways. This talk has two objectives: first, to briefly introduce Watsuji’s phenomenology of aidagara (“betweenness”), including its novel analysis of embodiment, space, and intersubjectivity; second, to use aidagara to think through the dynamics of subjectivity and expression within the Internet-enabled “techno-social niches” found in everyday life. I argue that Watsuji develops a prescient analysis of embodiment and expression — centered around core notions of “subjective spatiality” and “spatial extendedness” — anticipating modern technologically-mediated forms of expression, connection, and engagement. More precisely, I show that instead of adopting a traditional phenomenological focus on face-to-face interaction, Watsuji instead argues that communication technologies — which now include Internet-enabled technologies and spaces — are expressive vehicles enabling new forms of emotional expression and co-regulated experiences that would be otherwise inaccessible without these technologies. For Watsuji, these expressive vehicles and spaces aren’t mere add-ons to the self and its capacities. Rather, they are progressively incorporated into the self, understood as “betweenness”. Accordingly, they should be seen as constitutive parts of our “subjective spatiality” — that is, part of the embodied self and the rich pathways of “spatial extendedness” that establish enduring interconnections with others. I consider some of Watsuji’s arguments and indicate how this view might productively impact several debates, including debates over our perceptual access to other minds.


BIO: Joel Krueger is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Exeter. He works primarily in phenomenology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of cognitive science — with a particular focus on issues in 4E (embodied, embedded, enacted, extended) cognition, including emotions, social cognition, and psychopathology. He also works in comparative philosophy and philosophy of music.


This recording is taken from the BSP Annual Conference 2020 Online: 'Engaged Phenomenology'. Organised with the University of Exeter and sponsored by Egenis and the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. BSP2020AC was held online this year due to global concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic. For the conference our speakers recorded videos, our keynotes presented live over Zoom, and we also recorded some interviews online as well. Podcast episodes from BSP2020AC are soundtracks of those videos where we and the presenters feel the audio works as a standalone:


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The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP?

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