Michiel Besters BA.
(Tilburg University)


In our contemporary culture, the development of medical technology is of great significance. Twenty years ago you were destined to die if your heart did not function properly. Today you can have a heart transplantation to postpone the end of your life. In fact, medical engineers can now even make new heart valves from bodily tissue to give your heart a second life. These developments confront philosophy with new questions. How to account for the intrusion of medical technology into the body? And what implications does this have for our bodily experience? In this paper I will examine the intrusion of technology into the body and its implications on the basis of Jean-Luc Nancy's philosophy, in discussion with the thought of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. In L'Intrus, Nancy claims that the intrusion and supplementation of medical technology does not change human existence. The intrusion of medical technology rather reveals human existence par excellence: its endless exposition. This implies that the body has no other access to itself but through its outside. Because the body has no access to itself from the inside, the body is deprived of any properness. The body is improper by principle, as it is always exposed and intruded. According to Nancy, this improperness of the body actually enables the intrusion of medical technology. In my paper, I will elaborate this presupposition, while confronting it with Merleau-Ponty's theory about tools and instruments. Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of the body presupposes the possibility of the body to appropriate strange objects, and hence neutralizes the intrusion of technology. According to Nancy, however, the body lacks a properness to which technology would merely add a strange supplement. The principle improperness of the body implies that technology supplements the body in an 'originary' manner, that is to say, the body cannot be viewed in its 'proper' state without its technological supplements.

Currently Michiel Besters BA. is a research master student at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. He obtained his BA degree with a thesis on the phenomenological ontology's of Sartre and Merleau-Ponty. His current research concentrates on the intrusion of medical technology into the body on the basis of Jean-Luc Nancy's philosophy.