The author starts by distinguishing how a person’s body is perceived; a human body from the outside, in third-person, and a human soma from within in first-person. The idea of the soma seems to be very interesting as I never heard about it before, and it reminded me of random shows that I watched as a child. A statement that helped me understand the idea was when he clarified that “the mode of viewpoint is different: it is immediate proprioception – a sensory mode that provides unique data.”
The way he breaks down the third-person and first-person view of the body makes it simple and easy to understand. The idea of how first-person is factual and more grounded would apply specifically to the individual, the third-person view however would require following sets of principles and multiple observations to ensure the accuracy of the results. For example, he talks about how psychology data is immediately factual and unified whereas in third-person it needs to be analyzed and interpreted in order to reach a factual conclusion.
Steps to understand somatics:
- Understand that somas are not bodies
- Recognizing that self-awareness is a distinction of the human soma
In regards to the first step, the author discusses that the sensory-motor system leads to a unique way of learning. He states that self-regulation is reached through the unity of sense with acting and acting with sense. According to him, such self-regulation is vital for human survival as the internal soma’s process of self-regulation ensures the existence of the external body structure.
As for the second step, he talks about how self-sensing and self-moving are interlocked in a way where they make up the core of somatic self-organization and self-adaptation. This unified experience that is observed from the first-person point of view makes the soma distinct from the body.
Two of the prime somatic functions are awareness and consciousness, as seen in the previous paragraphs. Consciousness is a relative function that is voluntary, based on a person’s interests and the skills that they wish to develop and it cannot perform more than its self-imposed limits. Awareness, however, could be focused and is used as the only way for the soma to isolate perceptive events. It also works to isolate “new sensory-motor phenomena in order to learn to recognize and control them.
He finalizes the chapter by looking at the relation between somatic learning and sensory-motor amnesia. Somatic learning broadens our range of action and perception and hence this increases the voluntary consciousness and adaptation to the environment. He perceives this as, either, a response to amnesia or just a normal day-to-day experience to avoid the effects of stress.
The optimal human state would be when somatic freedom is reached, not only because internally, from the first-person perspective progress without distortion, but also from the third-person perspective it is when the body portrays maximal efficiency and minimal entropy, meaning decline or collapse.