The phantom limb is an ailment in which a patient perceives a limb that is no longer present after amputation. They may experience pain or tingling in these regions, or even try to perform tasks involving the former limb. For example, they may try to walk while missing a leg, or try to open a door with a non-existent hand. Some research asserts that it originates from neural signal re-networking after damage from amputation, which leads to pain in the patient (Ardelean 2014, 308). However, a medical diagnosis such as this only provides an objective explanation of the disease, which does not necessarily reflect how the patient experiences their body. It assumes that a patient’s experience of the disease is only rooted in their damaged neurons, which based on descriptions of patients with phantom limbs is not entirely accurate. Instead, this disease manifests itself in the relationships a patient takes up with the world around them. For example, a patient’s experience of the phantom limb suggests their participation in activities they did in the past, such as walking, that are now impossible. A field of study that attends to the patient’s experience of the phantom limb may thus provide more information in regards to this phenomenon than medicine. In particular, the use of phenomenology proves especially useful. Phenomenology is the study of one’s lived experience as seen from the first person point of view. The goal of a phenomenological study is to gain insight into the meaning surrounding a specific experience. These studies not only provide information for the person of study, but also for those who wish to understand the experience the other is going through. Through analyzing the phantom limb from this perspective, important features of a patient’s experience can be understood.
Hill, Thomas, "Phantom Limbs and Phantom Worlds: A Phenomenological Study Concerning Experiences of the Absent" (2020). HON499 projects. 36.