BSP Podcast: Pat McConville on Phenomenology and Artificial Hearts

podcast update

This episode of the BSP Podcast sees Pat McConville presenting a paper from our 2022 annual conference, ‘Engaged Phenomenology II’.

Season 6 episode 150: 4 June 2024

Season 6 continues with another presentation from our 2022 annual conference, Engaged Phenomenology II: Explorations of Embodiment, Emotions, and Spatiality. This episode features a presentation from Pat McConville, Monash Bioethics Centre, Monash University.

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Pat McConville
‘Phenomenology and Artificial Hearts: Three scales of temporal change’

Heart failure is a widespread and increasingly common disease. Its symptoms can be dramatic and debilitating. Serious heart failure is also incurable and represents a clear example of the kinds of serious illness and disability discussed by phenomenologists of health and illness. The gold standard treatment for end-stage heart failure is heart transplant. Increasingly, however, patients are offered artificial hearts – either Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs) or Total Artificial Hearts (TAHs) – as either a bridge-to-transplant or as a final or “destination therapy”. Artificial hearts supplement or replace the organic heart and perform the heart’s blood-pumping function, or what might be described as in Albert Borgmann’s “device paradigm” as the commodity of circulation. However, while they can provide this life-saving function, artificial hearts also generate both obvious and subtle phenomenological changes in their bearers. Incorporating a mechanical heart with both interior and exterior features is challenging. Artificial hearts produce and draw attention to new representations of otherwise felt or interocepted visceral states, and might interrupt pre-device motor intentionalities. Devices detach circulation from ordinary cardiac rhythms, while machine routines mark out new temporalities. In this paper, I introduce artificial hearts and why phenomenology is useful for considering them, then focus in on the three scales – short-, medium-, and long-term – of temporal change they may generate.

Biography: Pat McConville is a doctoral candidate in philosophical bioethics at the Monash Bioethics Centre, Monash University, Australia. He principally draws on the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty to explore the phenomenology of medical devices, particularly artificial hearts. He has also published on phenomenology and congenital illness, phenomenology and reverse triage, and phenomenology and the aesthetics of the early arcade game Asteroids.

Further Information:

This recording is taken from our Annual UK Conference 2022: Engaged Phenomenology II: Explorations of Embodiment, Emotions, and Sociality (Exeter, UK / Hybrid) with the University of Exeter. Sponsored by the Wellcome Centre, Egenis, and the Shame and Medicine project. For the conference our speakers either presented in person at Exeter or remotely to people online and in-room, and the podcast episodes are recorded from the live broadcast feeds.

The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP?