My guess? He’s got a concussion from all the vicious headbutts his teammates give him after every victory.
The playoffs are just a couple games away, which means it’s time for teams to get vague about injuries. While NHL teams are maddeningly non-specific about injuries at the best of times, the playoffs bring out the slimy politician in every coach, as no one wants to give the opposition any clue as to what injury a player has suffered, lest they target that injury in subsequent games.
A player could blatantly break his leg, with the bone sticking out through his hockey pants, and his coach would describe it as a “lower body injury.” A player with a literal hole punched out of his chest wouldz have an “upper body injury.” At one point, after Rick DiPietro suffered a clear head injury, his coach diagnosed him with “general body soreness.” Seriously.
But Alain Vigneault took the next big step in ambiguity on Wednesday: when asked about Cory Schneider’s injury that will see Luongo start Thursday, backed up by Joe Cannata callup, he refused to even say if the injury was to the lower or upper-body. It was just… to the body.
AV: “Cory has a body injury that’s day to day. It happened last game. We’re hoping he’ll be ready for playoffs.”
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) April 24, 2013
This is about as vague as you can possibly get. Or is it?
Commenters on Twitter were quick to point out how much Vigneault had actually revealed with this disclosure that it was a body injury, as it rules out both the mind and the soul. We weren’t immune to making the joke…
Good to know Schneider’s injury isn’t mind or spirit related.
— Pass it to Bulis (@passittobulis) April 24, 2013
…and neither was our esteemed editor:
Canucks clear up speculation about Schneider’s health by letting us know he has a “body injury.” We now know his mind & soul are ok.
— Scott Brown (@BrownieScott) April 24, 2013
There is a minor problem, however. Not everyone believes that the mind exists, let alone the soul.
A strict materialist (ie. a physicalist) would insist that the mind is, at best, an illusion created by the actions of matter within the brain, as all that exists is the material, physical world. Thus, if Schneider’s mind or soul were “injured” in some way, this would be reflective of a body injury, specifically within the brain.
An example of this would be chemical depression, in which a chemical imbalance in the brain — a material cause — leads to seemingly non-physical symptoms. In some cases, medication is required: a physical, material solution to a non-physical problem.
It’s entirely possible, then, that if Alain Vigneault is a physicalist, his description of Schneider’s issue as a “body injury” could be a misdirection without being a lie. Schneider could very well have some sort of mental issue, which Vigneault could describe as a “body injury,” believing that all problems have their root in the physical world as it is all that exists. Any issue that Schneider might ascribe to his mind would really be an issue within the brain, which is part of the body.
A physicalist would insist that even a moral issue or existential angst — an injury to the soul — is a “body injury,” as all thought processes are better described as physical processes within the brain. Schneider could be struggling with some sort of ethical quandary that is preventing him from playing hockey for the time being — say, day-to-day — which Vigneault could scoff at as an imbalance within his brain — a body injury.
The fundamental question raised by Vigneault’s declaration that Schneider has a “body injury” is the mind-body problem, as most famously investigated by René Descartes. For Descartes, the issue was not the mind. The existence of the mind was the foundation of his philosophy, the result of doubting the existence of all else. His conclusion — that since he doubts, he must think, and therefore he must exist as a thinking thing — is famously phrased in Latin as Cogito, ergo sum.
For Descartes, mind was distinct from matter and from the body itself. Along the way, Descartes’ method of radical doubt led him to the idea that some god could be deceiving him about the existence of even his own body. Others have taken this idea and come up with the “brain in a vat” thought experiment. Imagine a mad scientist who has removed a brain from a person’s body, kept it alive in a vat or jar, and delivered the exact same stimuli to the brain that it would receive if it had a body performing some action.
This thought experiment is essentially equivalent to what the robots do in The Matrix, hooking up a person’s body and delivering all the sensations of a fully-realized virtual life. In this context, it’s entirely possible to view the body as an illusion rather than the mind.
Describing Schneider’s ailment as a “body injury” then becomes a simplified way of saying that a series of sensations have been delivered to Schneider’s brain or, more radically, to his mind, giving him all the sensations of an injury to his body when, in reality, his body does not exist.
My favourite book on the mind-body problem is Drew Leder’s The Absent Body, which argues that the only reason we perceive a separation between mind and body in the first place and see it as a problem is because we are only aware of our bodies in moments of dysfunction. We don’t notice explicitly notice our legs, for instance, until something calls attention to them, such as a torn hamstring.
Since the majority of the occurrences in which we explicitly notice our bodies are primarily negative, when our bodies do not behave in the way we want them to, we see our bodies as other, as somehow opposed to us. When our bodies are functioning normally, they disappear from our notice: we simply act from our bodies. When our legs are working properly, we don’t think about them: we just walk, run, or skate to where we want to go without thinking explicitly about it.
Saying that the body is separate from the mind, then, is a mistake created by our body being absent from our attention whenever it is functioning properly. In this case, categorizing Schneider’s injury as simply a “body injury” minimizes the mental effect that an injury has on a person. An injury truly affects the whole person.
This is particularly true for a professional athlete, as they are more likely to identify themselves with their physical capabilities as an athlete. An athlete like Schneider rarely has to explicitly think about how to position his body to make a save, but simply acts from his body in a way that is almost indistinguishable from instinct. When an athlete’s body fails them in some way, it can cause issues of identity, as their body comes to their attention as being something other and fundamentally opposed to their interests when, previously, their identity was wrapped up solely with their body.
Players who suffer a serious injury and must spend a long period of time recovering often describe themselves as having to do some “soul-searching.” For Vigneault to simply describe it as a “body injury” is short-sighted.
Or, it’s entirely possible that Vigneault simply meant to distinguish Schneider’s injury from a head injury, as the head is frequently described as separate from the body in popular parlance, which raises all sorts of philosophical problems on its own.Tags: Alain Vigneault, Cory Schneider, Hockey Philosophy, injuries, mind-body problem