Studia UBB. Philosophia, No. 1, 2022
Hand – Work/Labor – Matter
(eds. Jaroslava Vydrová, Michal Lipták)
The papers should be sent before January 15th, 2022.
Hands and the labor of the hands is a phenomenon in various philosophies of corporeality. “Labor of the hands” – χειρουργία – is also an etymological meaning of surgery in many languages, such as French “la chirurgie” or German “die Chirurgie”. The hand is a symbolic form of haptic experiences even though the touch is not an exclusive domain of this part of the body. The touch of the feet with the ground, the touch of the body with another body or matter, or even the touch of a body with a microbe – all this belongs to the haptic domain. In this domain of phenomenality, the hand has, arguably, prominent standing due to its structure and active capability of grasping the matter.
Greek word χειρουργία is composed of words χείρ and ἔργον, whereby the latter can be found in the word “energy”, too. Phenomenon of the hand is related not only nominally, but also actually to the energy expenditure, labor, exertion or efforts to shape the matter. Dexterity and skill enter this picture in various forms: the hands of the chiropractor or surgeon “know” exactly what to do with other body, scalpel and flesh of the other. With a passage of time, a person focusing on handicrafts does her work likewise skillfully, automatically. The hand of the carpenter or sculptor “can assess” the required force of the blow of the hammer, or the angle of the chisel.
The hand thus becomes a leading clue for a phenomenological analysis of a broad field of haptic experience. Various intentional determinations of our corporeality belong here: conscious or unconscious assessment of force, distance or radius of movement, immersing the hand in the matter, grasping, stroking, scratching, striking, shredding, throwing. Our body relates to each of these actions in a different manner.
A hand discloses a nature of the matter not only as a matter which we touch and work with, but also a matter which we think and imagine. Imagination of the matter is based on our own touches. The work of the fine artist with the matter and capturing of the matter in the work of art are two different intentional acts, and yet they are linked to the unifying experiences with the matter. How shall one, on the one hand, capture the unformed matter in the work? And how shall one, on the other hand, materialize an image? How does touch translate into words with which the poet, essayist or philosopher describes the lived or imagined experience?
This leads us, at the end, to the issue of passivity and impossibility of touch concerning the acts of labor which can, in one sense, be called “tactlessness” and in another sense a “hand trauma”. Tactlessness is a form of denial of touch, or denial of grasp, and it is accompanied by the intentionality of denial, by the fear of touch, by the doubt, restlessness and withdrawal of grasp (a tactile form of epoché). The hand trauma points to the inability of act of labor or, beyond certain threshold, to the pathological consequences. Hand shaking, injury, amputation or paralysis – all these events are events of the hand and they are different ways of givenness of the matter and they are led by different experiences on the part of the lived body.
The analyses of the phenomenality of the hand opens a dimension of the meaning of the work or labor, too. Latin “labor” or French “travail” point to the meanings of exertion, toil or drudgery. Hardworking worker knows the vibrations accompanying the struggles with the matter, for example, when drilling the ground, rock or other hard surface. The task of the worker does not have only its political dimension, but also a dimension of a particular anthropological experience which inscribes itself to the life of community. The heterogeneity of the manual work mirrors the social structures of schemes as well as particular culture in its geographical and historical contexts.
The papers will stem from phenomenology and related philosophy, focusing on first-person experience as well as related existential-hermeneutical contexts of the labor of the hand in the 20th century.
Sculpture: Auguste RODIN, The Cathedral, 1925