Young, G. and Whitty, M. T. (2010). In search of the cartesian self: An examination of disembodiment within 21st-century communication. Theory & Psychology, 20(2), 209-229.
Cyberspace has been hailed by some as a medium through which users can experience themselves as disembodied, freed from the corporeal trappings of the “real” world. literature proclaiming the merits of this disembodied ideal has often described the user’s existential state as a form of cartesian disembodiment, but without (in our view) giving serious consideration to whether this label is warranted. This paper explores the extent to which alterations to the contingency relation said to exist by Descartes, between mind and body (or physical system), result in experiences of disembodiment that can legitimately be described as cartesian. After examining various examples of altered contingency relations—from case study reports of pathological experiences of disembodiment to research evidence on online relating—we conclude that cyberspace does not constitute a suitable medium for the realization of the cartesian self, even in users who intentionally seek to become disembodied. The more we try to disengage with the body, the more its importance is revealed to us.
Keywords: cartesian self, computer-mediated communication, contingency relation, cyberspace, disembodiment, embodiment