La persona corporea.

Translated title of the contribution: [Autom. eng. transl.] The bodily person.

Elena Colombetti

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


[Autom. eng. transl.] Modernity has given us an image of a totally independent human being, portrayed in the power of thought and free act. An image that, however, breaks on the concrete rocks of the experience of our physical, psychic and spiritual fragility. Vulnerability and addiction are part of the human condition, but there are situations, such as that of disease, which by amplifying them highlight them, making the solidity of that abstract self-representation of the human who do not adequately take them into account. In particular, it is tested where pathology also attacks the cognitive sphere. Primo Levi, thinking about himself in the concentration camps, asked his reader "if this is a man". He certainly had no doubts that he was a member of the human species: his question, uncomfortable and condemning anyone who wants to look away, forces us to reflect on how a man should be treated to be respected as such. Not only that: it forces us to ask ourselves if we are still able to see the human where everything seems to hide it. Similarly, some pathological conditions can sometimes progressively mask humanity, but it is precisely here that the commitment to treat man as such puts us to the test, because it requires first of all a thought, capable then of being translated into concrete acts, which can recognize the uniqueness of the human subject present despite the disease seems to hide its presence. In particular, the same reference to the dignity of the person, so often invoked by the papers of the services that proclaim that they want to put the "person at the center", must not forget that the human person is a corporeal person. In referring to and relating to human persons, then, it will be necessary to distinguish three levels: the ontological one, which concerns our "being of human persons"; the cognitive one, that is the way in which we can know we are in the presence of a human person, even when his condition conceals or modifies the traits and the way in which he manifests himself; what concerns the unrepeatable way in which each is a human person and the self-representation of oneself and one's identity. The question about the person concerns a who and not a thing, and in that who is contained the unfathomable uniqueness that refuses to be adequately described by a definition. Words are always poor to express who a person is, precisely because using them we can only subsume the particular in the universal. Access to the identity of the other, on the other hand, is always revealed by the presence of his body, by the action and narrative that he makes of himself, directly or indirectly; in fact the body constitutes the first manifestation of the other and not infrequently, due to various pathologies, it also stands as the last bulwark of the revelation of one's personal self whose language one must learn to recognize. To use Dennett's words, the body constitutes the gravitational center of the narrative identity of one's own and others' person. It is therefore a matter of remembering that pathology only emphasizes, without instituting, the secret of the other and that each always exceeds the narration that can be made of him. Knowledge therefore requires you to stand side by side and discover the other in a relationship that progressively allows their unveiling. And where the word evaporates and the speech becomes difficult until it disappears, it is always necessary to put in place devices that, recognizing the body as a visible sign of the human person, remind us of our being in the presence of a subject, whose accentuated fragility exposes it to the recognition of others, even where the standardized action is paradoxically born precisely from the desire to take care of it. In this personal disclosure within the relationship, it must also be remembered that the caregiver also reveals a
Translated title of the contribution[Autom. eng. transl.] The bodily person.
Original languageItalian
Title of host publicationL’altro volto dell’Alzheimer. Avere una demenza, essere una persona.
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Alzheimer
  • Body
  • Corpo
  • Dementia
  • Demenza
  • Ethics
  • Etica
  • Identity
  • Identità
  • Person
  • Persona


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