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Cont Philos Rev (2008) 41:127142

DOI 10.1007/s11007-008-9077-6

The role of the lived-body in feeling

Bernhard Waldenfels

Published online: 18 July 2008

 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Abstract Feelings not only have a place, they also have a time. Today, one can
speak of a multifaceted renaissance of feelings. This concerns philosophy itself,
particularly, ethics. Every law-based morality comes up against its limits when
morals cease to be only a question of legitimation and begin to be a question of
motivation, since motives get no foothold without the feeling of self and feeling of
the alien. As it is treated by various social theories and psychoanalysis, the self is
not formed through the mere acquisition or change of roles, but rather through a
process that is susceptible to crises, a process shaped by affective bonds and separations. Learning, which is the theme of pedagogy, loses its hold whenever it is
confronted by disinterest and listlessness. In neurobiology, the increased significance of those zones of the brain that are connected with the realization of feelings
makes the brain, accordingly, no mere apparatus that processes data, but a living
organ that selects and evaluates what is important. Finally, cross-cultural
comparison shows the extent to which the one-sided preference for understanding
and willing, which is the mark of Western rationalism, arises from a typical, not to
mention a highly masculine attitude toward the world and life, as many different
studies on gender difference stress (In reference to this perspective, see Seethaler,
Gefuhle und Urteilskraft. Ein Pladoyer fur die emotionale Vernunft, 1997). The
following reflections provide a historical orientation directed toward a new determination of feelings. This new determination of feelings is phenomenological and
takes the pathetic character of experience, nourished by the corporeality of experience as its point of departure.

Translated by Christina M. Gould ( )

Department of Philosophy, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA
B. Waldenfels
Department of Philosophy, University of Bochum, Bochum, Germany




B. Waldenfels

Feeling  Affectivity  Pathos  Lived-body  Phenomenology

1 Introduction
Feelings not only have a place, they also have a time. Today, one can speak of a
multifaceted renaissance of feelings. This concerns philosophy itself, particularly,
ethics. Every law-based morality comes up against its limits when morals cease to
be only a question of legitimation and begin to be a question of motivation, since
motives get no foothold without the feeling of self and feeling of the alien. As it is
treated by various social theories and psychoanalysis, the self is not formed through
the mere acquisition or change of roles, but rather through a process that is
susceptible to crises, a process shaped by affective bonds and separations. Learning,
which is the theme of pedagogy, loses its hold whenever it is confronted by
disinterest and listlessness. In neurobiology, the increased significance of those
zones of the brain that are connected with the realization of feelings makes the
brain, accordingly, no mere apparatus that processes data, but a living organ that
selects and evaluates what is important. Finally, cross-cultural comparison
shows the extent to which the one-sided preference for understanding and willing,
which is the mark of Western rationalism, arises from a typical, not to mention a
highly masculine attitude toward the world and life, as many different studies on
gender difference stress (In reference to this perspective, see Seethaler, Gefuhle und
Urteilskraft. Ein Pladoyer fur die emotionale Vernunft, 1997). The following
reflections provide a historical orientation directed toward a new determination of
feelings. This new determination of feelings is phenomenological and takes the
pathetic character of experience, nourished by the corporeality of experience as its
point of departure.

2 The repression and the return of feelings

Feelings occupy a precarious position in Modernity. Of course everyone knows that
there are feelings, but how are they given and where? Our valuation of them
fluctuates between disparagement and ardor. Whoever makes an appeal to feeling as
to an oracle within his breast tramples underfoot the roots of humanity1 as
Hegel wrote in the preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit: The anti-human, the
merely animal, consists in staying within feeling and being able to communicate
only at that level.2 Yes, there are feelings, but merely as an undeveloped, dim, and
wordless beginning. At the same time, Faustnot without ulterior motivessings
to Gretchen the high praise of feelings: call it Bliss! Heart! Love! God!/I do not
have a name/For this. Feeling is all;/Names are but sound and smoke befogging
heavens blazes.3 Whenever such conflicting evaluations arise, it is obvious that

Hegel (1977, p. 43).

Hegel (1977, p. 43).

von Goethe (1961, p. 327).


The role of the lived-body in feeling


there is a secret complicity; one blames or praises beyond all measure what one does
not easily endure. Heinrich Heine pours water into the wine of German feelings. In
one text, which he wrote in 1854 shortly before his death, he explains, It is
characteristic that our German rogues are always affixed to a certain sentimentality.
They are not cold clever rogues, but villains of feeling. They have the temperament
that takes the warmest interest in the fate of those whose destiny or fate they steal,
and one cannot get rid of them.4
The modern subjectivizing of feeling is reflected in the constant fluctuation
between appreciation and devaluation of feeling. This process correlates precisely
with being disenchanted with the cosmos. As the very quintessence of causally
explainable and controllable mechanisms, nature is henceforth not only free of
sense, but also free of feeling. The eternal silence of infinite space may trigger a
shiver, but this is a mere remnant of feeling that throws the observer back on
himself. As Husserl shows in his Crisis text, the reduction of the cosmic lifeworld to
a physical external world is made up for with the complementary abstraction of a
psychological inner world.5 From now on, everything that cannot be accounted for
cognitively as material properties, or practically as expediency, belongs to the realm
of feelings. In their elementary form, feelings are private states of a subject: I have
the feeling that ; how should I know that you feel something similar? Quasiphysical analysis leads to the acceptance of atomic sense-data, often called
sensation, which wanders around seeking a connection. As Lichtenberg quizzically
noticed, we treat affects like blemish make-up that deceives us about the rawness
of sensations.6 As long as they are left to themselves, feelings are considered to be
irrational, obeying no rules. Descartess separation of soul/spirit and body gives rise
to a dual sphere of feeling in which mental feelings such as pride and grief are taken
to be higher and are set off from base or low animal feelings such as lust or disgust.
Also, the world of feeling has its part maudite. There are indeed social feelings
but they are context-specific and can, if necessary, be set off against ones own
feelings. Possessive individualism extends to feelings. In this way, feelings
gradually lose their worldliness. Initially, feeling begins only with ones self. There
is a truth in this, but only a half-truth. It is just this impoverishment of the affective
world that Hegel campaigns against in his mediations. Of course, there is also the
contrary, as in Sternes Sentimental Journey whereby sensation becomes the
guidebook to an exciting journey. In this respect, literature and art often appear as
agents of something dying away and as harbingers of something to come. Moral
sense, which authors such as Shaftsbury hold in high esteem, is related to aesthetic
taste. Even with Kant, feelings try to find their way in the form of refined taste, but
this stands in the shadows of the laws of nature and law-based morality. This holds
true even more so for the moral feeling of respect that comes into actual practice
from reason itself.7 After all, a novel nobility of feeling grows from this moral

Heine (1976, p. 446).

Husserl (1970, p. 228).

Lichtenburg (1990, p. 62).

Kant (2003, A134).



B. Waldenfels

feeling of respect; it is seldom regarded in the argumentative train of our discourses

and in the patterns of our systems.
There has not always been such a subjective impoverishment of feelings, and it
has not always lasted. What in Greek is called pathos or in Latin, affectus, affectio,
emotio, and passio, is embedded in Classical thought in many different ways: in the
perception that commences with sensation; in the striving from which one is
attracted to pleasure and shuns displeasure; in the speech that takes into
consideration the mood and the interests of the listener; in the fervor of passion
in which the world is contracted into a single light or dark point. Eros, which is
praised in Antigone as an unconquerable power that falls on property,8 is far from
an economy of feeling that the individual governs. Even concordia and consensus,
which belong to the basic foundations of political life, contain a lived-bodily
sensuous undertone that is not exhausted in common objectives and rules.
Nevertheless, pathos moves into the shadow of logos in Classical philosophy as
well. Even pathos becomes the adversary of logos in the Stoics, whose influence is
felt in Modernity in a special way. With the exception of Plato, who recognized a
pathos of logos, pathos itself appears as something alogon or irrational, which has
to bend itself to the hegemony of logos.
The outlook already changes in the field of Classical rational philosophy with
Rousseau, or in German Romanticism with Feuerbach, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer,
and Nietzsche as the philosophical rebels of the 19th century, and completely
changes with certain novel epistemic points of departure in the 20th century. Indeed,
even today there is no lack of attempts to create in feeling an esoteric homeland for
the soul far from the strictures of a rationality that has been narrowly restricted in a
mechanistic manner. But those attempts, which are concerned with giving feelings a
new place and in many cases even a new name, are more convincing, and
phenomenology has a special role to play in this.
Husserl frees feelings from their subjective prison by conceptualizing experiences like being happy about something or being annoyed about something as an
intentional feeling that plays a genuine part in sense disclosure and the formation of
the self. We already find this in his Fifth Logical Investigation. To be sure, Husserl
is initially satisfied with being able to dismiss everything that cannot be ordered
among the cognitive and practical spheres as non-intentional feeling-states.
Linguistically, this means that there is something that we encounter as joyful,
sad, pleasant, dangerous, terrible or boring, but that it is pleasure and pain that throw
us back on ourselves. I myself have the pain. The knife with which I cut myself does
not have the pain nor does the dagger with which another confronts me. But as is
often the case a negative definition does not take us very far. Even Husserl does not
stop there when he later confers on sensuous hyle a unique valence, when he
contrasts sensations [Empfindungen] with sensings [Empfindnisse]9, and allows
intentions to arise out of affections. Nevertheless, one can hardly say that the
relation between intentionality and affection in Husserl, and also later in Levinas or
Henry, is clarified in a satisfactory way. Scheler, who develops his theory of feelings

Sophocles (1991, p. 227).

See, e.g., his discussion in (1989, 36).


The role of the lived-body in feeling


in the ethical context of his major work Formalism in Ethics and the Non-Formal
Ethics of Value, leaves the Aristotelian hylomorphism behind from the outset; he
does this by replacing sensations [Empfindungen] that still function as constitutive
elements, with a sensing [Empfinden] that is to be characterized verbally, as a
process that opens and closes. Intentional feeling is founded in an emotional a priori
that is liberated from the dominance of the cognitive and the practical a priori. The
theoretical background of value, nevertheless, remains problematic. Value appears
as something perceptible and values are organized in a hierarchy that subordinates
lived-bodily sensuous feelings to mental and spiritual feelings. The pathetic event of
feeling is tracked according to a pre-given order of feeling.10 In Schelers later
cosmological anthropology, in the essay, The Human Place in the Cosmos, feelings
participate in two movements that run contrary to each other, the movement toward
spiritualization and toward vitalization; as the blind feeling-urge, they reach
down into the deepest depths of life; and as emotional acts like good, love,
repentance, or awe they soar to the highest heights of spirit.11 The erroneous selfdeification characteristic of Spinoza and Hegel, a self-deification that has its place
in human beings, eventually transforms all feelings into feelings of self. The
medical anthropologist Erwin Straus has a more modest assessment. He borrows
ideas from Scheler and also from Heidegger, but he works them out in his own way.
He takes sensing as an event, which belongs neither to objectivity nor to
subjectivity, since the process of sensing senses itself in and with the world.12 The
programmatic title Vom Sinn der Sinne points to an internal connection between
intentionality and affectivity, or as it is now calledbetween gnostic directednesstoward and pathetic being-struck-by.13 In Heideggers Being and Time, sensing is
transformed into the attunement of Da-Sein, a finding oneself-in-the-world that
assumes a varying tonality in moods like fear, joy, or boredom. In French
phenomenology the lived-bodily aspect of feelings is reinforced, as when Sartre
emphasizes the magic of the emotions and the emotional enchantment of self, and
when Merleau-Ponty describes sensing as an original, pre-objective and presubjective contact with the world, self, and other. An it feels in such and such a
way or an it touches me would correspond to the it perceives within me, that
Merleau-Ponty contraposes to subjective perceptual acts. The re-determination of
feelings already announces itself in this, namely, as something that comes to us.
Through this we gain a critical distance from the newer variety of a hyletic
phenomenology insofar as the latter grants self-affection a priority over every alien

In addition, see my critical position: Wertqualitaten oder Erfahrungsanspruche? in Vom Umsturz
der Werte in der modernen Gesellschaft, ed. G. Pafafferott (Bonn: Bouvier 1997).
Scheler (1976, p. 70); The Human Place in the Cosmos, trans. Manfred Frings (Evanston:
Northwestern University Press, 2008, in press).

Straus (1956, p. 372).


Straus, Vom Sinn der Sinne, 394.

See the entirely Francophonic debate that is carried out in the journal: Etudes Phenomenologiques,
Nos. 3940 (2004): Commencer par la phenomenologie hyletique?



B. Waldenfels

3 Feeling as Pathos
Bruchlinen der Erfahrung15 is the title of the book that concerns a radicalization of
experience. Radical experience means that there is nothing and no onean, it, he,
or shethat would precede the event of experience as a finished instance. It also
means there are no ideal essences, no universal regulations, and no adequate
grounds by which experience as an event of experience would be made possible or
justified. In the fruitful pathos of experience of which Kant already speaks in the
Prolegomena,16 feelings find their place absolutely released from the province of
the merely subjective. I characterize the foundation and the background against
which all intentional and well-ordered behavior stands out as pathos or af-fection,
literally, as doing.
The Greek word pathos has a three-fold meaning. In the first instance, it means
an experience that befalls us [Widerfahrnis]. This experience that befalls us is an
occurrence of a special kind. It is not a datum, not an objective occurrence, but even
less is it a personal act or a subjective condition, like we still assume today.17 Pathos
is something that happens; it happens by something nudging us, touching us,
striking us, by something exerting an influence on us. It is not that pathos happens
without our effort, but it goes beyond our doing by overcoming us. The grammatical
form of the passive is related to pathos, only this must be understood as a primordial
passive, not as a mitigated stage or as a reversal of the active. Furthermore, pathos
means something adverse, something that is allied with suffering, but also
something that admits of the proverbial learning through suffering [pathei mathos].
The central theme of the experience of pain belongs here, including the inflicted
pain that reaches its perverse apex in torture.18 Finally, pathos designates the
exuberance of passion that leaves behind the habitual and leaves us like the platonic
Eros that stands outside human concerns and draws close to the divine
(Phaedrus 249 c-d).
The pathos which overcomes us stands out from a pathetic background that
points to a chronic character in relation to an acute occurrence.19 In a certain
respect, we are attuned [eingestimmt] when something surprises us. This already
applies to the bare impression; without even the slightest deviation from what is
expected, without the development of an affective relief,20 we would only resign
ourselves to experiences, but not be complicit in having any new experiences.

Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2002. I articulate there what I can only suggest here.


Kant (2004, p. 373, n 125).


See the definition that Hinrich Fink-Eitel suggests: Affects are inner states that are shaped in a
propositional-cognitive manner, that are mediated in a life-historical and psychical manner, and are
founded in a bodily manner; moreover, they are subject to super-individual relations of social and cultural
determinants. See Fink-Eitel and Lohmann (1994, p. 57).


See more recently: Gruny (2004).


The polarity of immediate emotion and habitual attitudes of feeling belongs to the basic tenets of the
classical doctrine of affect. Paul Ricur accordingly differentiates between emotion as surprise, emotion
as shock, and emotion as passion in Freedom and Nature: The Voluntary and the Involuntary, trans.
Erazim V. Kohak (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2007, pp. 250280).

Husserl (2001, p. 216).


The role of the lived-body in feeling


Affective dissonances arise when deviations from what is familiar get out of hand. It
is these affective dissonances that first give cognitive dissonances their sharp
focusdissonances of which social psychology speaks.
What is decisive for the emergence of pathos is that it is a matter of a genuine
temporal displacement, a jetlag of sorts, a diastasis, that allows the alien
influence to be separated out from ones own initiative, and that binds them to one
another in and through this rupture. Pathos is surprise par excellence. It always
comes too early, as that which we could overlook; our answer always comes too late
in order to be completely at the height of experience. This does not mean that
something precedes ones own experience in the manner that it presents itself for an
outside observer; it does not mean that two events follow each other like stimulus
and response in accordance with the view of behaviorism. Rather, it means that the
one experiencing precedes itself. Experience, which comes from that which befalls
us does not begin with itself, in the self-same, but from elsewhere, in the alien.
Every deed and word that arises from a pathos is shaped by the essential feature of
responsivity. It follows from this that I do not have a pathos in the way I have
feelings; I am given over to a pathos. Further, in contrast to feelings peculiar to
Modernity, pathos is no accompanying phenomenon that steps in as third class
in addition to representing and willing, as Heidegger critically remarks.21 It is no
mere component of experience; rather it is situated in the heart of the experience
like the balance spring of a clock. Whoever believes he is the master of his
feelings (an outspoken masculine expression) forgets his own origin.
Finally, the pathetic separates itself from the pathological which can take on
various and even completely opposite forms. In its being at the mercy of pathos, the
possibility of ones own response diminishes, while trying to shut oneself off from
pathos, the response solidifies itself to a repertoire of responses. Shock and
stereotypes mark the extremes of an event that finds its last stop neither in an outside
nor an inside. The boundaries between normal and pathological feelings remain
fluid as is shown again and again by the fact that this fluidity is not only accepted by
Freudian psychoanalysis, but also by phenomenologically inspired doctors,
including Ludwig Binswanger, Wolfgang Blankenburg, Henry Ey, Kurt Goldstein,
Eugene Minkowski, Herbert Plugge, or Hubert Tellenbach.

4 Lived corporeality of feelings

The place of the feelings that we think of as pathetic can be found neither in the soul
nor in spirit. The place of feelings presupposes a nature that is neither completely
outside itself, like extended things of nature, nor completely within itself, like pure
spirit. Their place is the lived-body that senses itself in and through sensing
something else and someone else. In the efficacy peculiar to itself, the lived body is
unendingly exposed to foreign influences, and because of this remains vulnerable.
Sensitivity and vulnerability are inseparable. This lived-body is of a lived-bodilyself; it refers to itself by at the same time withdrawing itself from itself, like seeing

Heidegger (1962, p. 178).



B. Waldenfels

ones own reflection in the mirror or hearing ones own voice.22 The withdrawal of
the self refers not only to the functioning lived-body but also to the materiality of
our physical body, binding us with nature and carrying with it the traces of a natural
history. The enigma of my brain also belongs to this together with the neural
zones of feeling of the limbic system, which functions as a central system of
evaluation.23 My brain is as puzzling as my lived-body which according to
Descartes is only due to a particular privilege that is mine to name.24 Indeed, who
should issue me this special authorization if it is not inscribed with indelible letters
on my body? Even the feeling of the self participates in this material physicality that
belongs to us without our ever being able to appropriate it. The foreignness of ones
own lived-body makes us receptive to the foreignness of others. We are only able to
be approached, touched, affected, insofar as we are never totally with ourselves.
Without this abyss in ourselves whichas Plato assertsborders on madness, there
would only remain a half-hearted contentment.
The lived-body that we are and that we do not fully possess circumscribes a
sphere of feeling that is opposed both to a dualistic split as well as to a univocal
hierarchicalization. However, this sphere in no way presents itself as homogenous.
We can differentiate between different ranges and polarities. Thus, there are
peripheral sensations like pain that arise if I cut my finger and central complexes of
sensation, such as heart trouble, that effect our entire state of health. We experience
recurring feelings of satisfaction and feelings of happiness that radiate through life.
Affects can appear with a greater or lesser intensity, for example, as a calm selfassurance or as a boundless egoism and as insatiable ambition. Active upsurges of
feeling like anger, which erupt when the opportunity arises and again subside when
the situation changes, are opposed to the enduring lust for revenge that poisons life
or to a reconciliation thatas one so beautifully puts itlooks the other way
[funf gerade sein lasst]. This corresponds to the dual character of the active and
habitual lived-body, and it makes possible a culture of feeling that goes beyond the
moment. Related to this dual character is the difference between a focal feeling that
is affixed to certain events or experiences and a total feeling, like the global pain or
the joy of life that spreads out atmospherically, and that for this reason are hard to
produce and just as difficult to overcome. While the lived-bodily self feels
addressed in different ways, it is always only more or less involved. Similar to the
case of intentionality, we are to distinguish different modes and qualities in the
sphere of affects, only that these are by far more difficult to apprehend because they
do not concern the way in which something as something is grasped or re-evaluated,
but rather the way in which we are struck by something without replacing this
something with its effect. One can place the affects under the aegis of an
objective correlate, like T.S. Eliot suggested in his poetics; but this does not mean
that our feelings are directed toward objects. The rationality of feelings, which are
in vogue with authors such as Ronald de Sousa or Martha Nussbaum, can always be

For more detail see Waldenfels and Giuliani (2000).


In addition, see Roth (1997, p. 194). However if meanings and evaluative activities are attributed to
the brain directly, we end up with a neurological homunculus.


Descartes (1951, p. 72).


The role of the lived-body in feeling


an indirect rationality; and this is not, for instance, because feelings are something
especially dark or deep, but rather because they are not something at all that we,
for our part, can comprehend or manage, but something that forestalls our own

5 Dimensions of feelings
We encounter basic forms of a corporeal pathos in all aspects of our experience.
Already the simplest sensuous experience goes beyond a mere registration and
coding of data and beyond processing such data. Corresponding to the red or blue
that radiates toward us or surrounds us, is a red or blue behavior that is characterized
by changing forms of turning-toward or avoidance, through flexible or stiff
movements, by faster or slower rhythms. Blue or green favor the muscular activity
of flexing (adduction) that is associated with voluntary ego-related performance,
while the color red allows the extension (abduction) and thus involuntary forms of
world-relatedness to emerge. We can see a fundamental relationship with the world
and the self in the behavior of colors, a relationship that precedes the representational and practical orientation.25 As Kurt Goldstein shows in his
neuropathological studies by appealing at the same time to Goethe and Kandinsky,
the physiology of color coincides with the symbolism of color. If we differentiate
between warm and cold colors, we can see that when someone becomes red with
anger or green with envy, it is no mere metaphor, as it would be if raw data were
covered with an affective lacquer. There is an ethos of the senses that grows out of
pathos before its systematic instructions are put into action. In this sense,
Nietzsches physiology of morality with its sign language of the affects26
contains various antidotes to every kind of superstructure of morality that
embellishes itself with its all too sublime feelings.
Attention, without which there would be literally nothing noteworthy or
desirable, does not begin with acts of observation that illuminate a dark area like
a floodlight; they begin with what attracts our attention or strikes us, with something
that awakens our sympathy and generates excitement. Everything new has an
affective value, and not a mere informational value, and this even applies to neural
processes. Paying attention, in which what is conspicuous takes shape, is already a
kind of response.27 To cite again from Lichtenbergs Aphorisms: When sometimes
I had drunk a lot of coffee, and was consequently startled by anything, I noticed
quite distinctly that I was startled before I heard the noise: we thus hear as it were
with other organs as well as with our ears.28 The current debates that were kindled
See Goldstein (1934, pp. 167170, 307312). Merleau-Ponty resorts back to these studies repeatedly
in his early work, for instance, in particular in his treatment of sensation in the Phenomenology of
Perception, trans. Colin Smith (New York: Routledge, 1962).

Nietzsche (1989a, p. 100).


I refer to my recent work Phanomenologie der Aufmerksamkeit (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2004),
that is based entirely on the resonance between the process of something becoming noticed [Auffallen]
and the process of taking notice of something [Aufmerken].


Lichtenburg (1990, p. 24).



B. Waldenfels

by Benjamin Libets experiments and even had the presumption of denying

freedom, suffer from the fact that they subjected the neurologically indicated delay
of consciousness to the conventional linear schema of time; pathetic experience is
thereby reduced to a succession of moments.29
Furthermore, there are world-feelings or fundamental temperaments
[Grundbefindlichkeiten] with whose disturbance the order of the world and our
own existence becomes unstable. This holds for wonder and anxiety which have
been counted among the basic motives of philosophy from the time of the Ancients
to our own. Wonder, as it is described in Platos Theatetus, is a pathos that befalls
us, makes our head spin and affects our entire body. Wonder is not a problem to
be solved. It is, moreover, not something to be learned, but at most, something to be
practiced like dealing with death. A situation in which I do not know myself to
use Wittgensteins simple words, is not to be confounded with ignorance or with a
defective knowledge. If it were only that one could confidently allow philosophy to
play the role of a General Problem Solver. There is always something uncanny in
the little something is not right. For philosophy, as well as for art, this means that
they cross a threshold and are efficacious beyond their own field, unlike a trusty
dogmatic philosophy or like merely academic art.
Memory, which enjoys a special reputation as a remembrance of culture, is
certainly dependent on repeatable structures, on the collective remembrance of
places, on figures and rituals of memory. But these sources run dry if something
does not continually awaken our memory. This surplus, which goes beyond the
mere capacities for memory, cannot be thought without something affecting us and
making a bodily impression on us. Nietzsches remark: If something is to stay in
the memory, it must be burned in: only that which never ceases to hurt stays in the
memory30 evokes a pathetic and deep event that cannot be fully culturalized or
moralized. Not only thoughts, but also memories come whenever they want to and
not whenever we want them to come.
With the expression of feeling we enter an area where the experience of ones
own self and the experience of the alien are interwoven. Moreover, the expression is
to be kept free and clear from a Cartesian split, a split for instance, that makes us
think of anger as something that is already present on the inside and merely steps
outside. When Scheler insists in his work, The Nature of Sympathy, that the red of
anger not only indicates anger, the red of shame not only indicates shame, but that
these feelings are realized in the gesture of expression, this refers to a peculiar body
language which also plays an important role in Freuds symptom-formation.31
Symptoms as they come to light in parapraxis, for example, in a slip of the tongue or
in neurotic compulsions to wash or in the curiosities of a bedtime ritual, do not only
mean something else, but they substitute for something else. A vicarious satisfaction
is not limited to sending a coded message. Paralinguistic elements like intonation,
tempo, and rhythm, which make up a pre-semantic and pre-pragmatic speech, also
Benjamin Libet, a convinced Neocartesian, is decidedly more careful in his conclusions. See his recent
account in (2004).

Nietzsche (1989b, p. 61).


Scheler (1979, p. 242).


The role of the lived-body in feeling


belong to body language that is marked in a pathetic manner. In the tone that makes
music, what speaks to us, stimulates us, excites us, comes to expression before it is
put into words or put into practice. In addition, extra-linguistic body language is
articulated in facial expressions, physiognomy, attitude, gait, clothes, and the way
one adorns the body. We can see how someone is situated in self-presentation, in the
manner of appearing and in affected behavior. Wittgensteins dismantling of private
language results in a sphere of expression in which there are indeed niches, angles,
folds, and cracks, but which does not exhibit a protected interior or a bodily reserve
that would admit of a pure feeling of self.
Body language is carried forth in a body conversation. It begins with the affective
dialogue between the infant and the maternal parent. Virgils risu cognoscere
matrem, the early childlike smile of the mother that Rene Spitz cited in his study of
infants, opens a sphere of intimacy that develops graduallyor even fails to
develop, as in the case of hospitalism.32 Exploratory, motor, and affective moments
are intertwined in the cultivation of trust and intimacy, but also in the absence of an
enduring relationship of trust that finds its auto-erotic expression in the child who
rocks himself in solitude.33 Becoming intimate, which at first allows a certain binary
sphere of ownness to develop, has as its flipside a becoming alien, which usually
manifests itself in the eighth month as an acute shyness of strangers. One could be
tempted to speak of an original situation of embarrassment.34 In any case, brute or
primitive feelings are out of the question. The early childlike conversation of the
body is carried forward in adult life, a life that is never free from syncretistic
elements of an interpenetration that belongs to the intercorporeality of feelings.35
All this goes far beyond intro-pathy or an em-pathy that continues to evoke a kind of
Cartesian framework. Whoever is exposed to alien influences and appeals does not
arrive at the other by putting himself in the place of the other and in his situation.
Moreover, the interpenetration of a body-conversation is not to be equated with a
sympathy that is extracted from antipathy. Experiences that befall us do not
converge, and it is precisely for this reason that they surprise us. In his essay, Uber
die allmahliche Verfertigung der Gedanken beim Reden, Kleist refers to the look of
a listener that announces to us an incompletely expressed thought as already
Translators note: Hospitalism is a pediatric diagnosis that describes infants who wasted away while in
the hospital. It is now thought that this wasting away was due to a lack of social contact since those
infants in poorer hospitals that could not afford incubators did not die as often since they were held by the
See Emde (1983). Not only Sigmund Freud, but also the trained author Anna Freud regards the
affective experiences from the early childhood period as a pioneer for the development within all other
I refer here to the remarks of Guy van Kerckhoven, who follows Hans Lipps, in In Verlegenheit
geraten. Die Befangenheit des Menschen als anthropologischer Leitfaden in Hans Lipps Die
menschliche Natur, Revista de filosofa 26 (2001): 5584.

I am reminded of Merleau-Pontys idea of intercorporeite, a chiasmatic network, which is called also

following Husserl interpenetration or intertwining [Ineinander]. This interpenetration would not only be
characterized as intentional interpenetration (see for instance Husserl 1970, pp. 255257), but also as a
co-affective interpenetration. [Editors note: See Beata Stawarskas article, Feeling good vibrations in
dialogical relations, in this issue for further elaboration on the affective features of infant bodily
dialogicality and its ties to the structural dynamics of adult conversation.]



B. Waldenfels

understood.36 With this he recalls the continual birth of sense and of our self out of
pathos. That there are miscarriages with this continual birth, that to this look also
belongs the look of control and persecution, does not change anything about the way
the experience of the alien emerges from experiences that befall us, experiences that
go beyond every unity and discord directed toward sense and rule.

6 Normalization and mechanization of feelings

Among many other questions, there remains the question of the normalization of
feelings and their possible mechanization. Does the world of feelings consist of
nothing but surprises? Presuming this would mean to mistake sensing for sensation.
Normality invariably arises when expressions of feeling are given to iterable forms,
regulated courses of events, and conventional rituals. We learn to clench our teeth in
pain, to let sympathy run free, to express condolence or to conceal joy about
anothers pain.
But these modes of expression are distinguished by various degrees of
participation that can be classified according to an affective temperature scale.
When a congregation of mourners comes together for a funeral, one discovers
substantial variations in temperature that do not become fully leveled out through
etiquette and ritual. In the end, the funeral feast provides for a normalization of
feelings that have been all too strained. Here everyone had the feeling of a
mourning that was completely transformed, the feeling of a hearty appetite, and they
sat down at the table full of anticipation. The meal was shared and because pain
does not make for less conversation than joy, soon a lively conversation was under
way.37 Uncle Peppi, the protagonist bearing the same name as the story by Ludwig
Thoma who had abandoned himself to grief most vehemently, must then also
unburden his heart more strongly than the others.38
But there are also extremes that cannot be balanced out. We approach the cold
pole if the mastery and control of feelings take the form of a diplomatic sense of tact
or the form of a management of feelings. If we go so far as to operationalize human
behavior and human experience, then the perceptible lack, not to mention the
insatiable desire of others, turns into an objectively ascertainable need, and a need
that can be mechanically regulated, like when a machine needs oil or the body lacks
blood sugar. A feeling-machine like Dieter Dorners computer program EMO
knows eruptions of feeling only as valves that open. Thus, where feelings are
concerned, everything happens in a proper manner.39 Sudden shocks, enduring
traumas, and surprises of every kind, which arise unexpectedly and unprogrammed,
comprise the warm pole of the scale. It is not out of the question, therefore, that one
uses extraordinary events as stimulants to increase functioning. Nothing prevents

Kleist (1952, p. 837).


Thoma (1962, p. 153).


Thoma (1962, p. 153).


Let me refer here to my critical remarks in Grenzen der Normalisierung (Frankfurt am Main:
Suhrkamp, 1998b), 112 and 247, or to my Bruchlinien der Erfahrung, 55, 382.


The role of the lived-body in feeling


humanity from becoming confused by its own simulations. Were this not so, there
would be no such thing as a fabricated pathos.
Related to the changing intensity of feelings is the manner of their integration and
disintegration. In his theory of affects, Freud separates the affective behaviors that
are bound from those that are free moving. Similarly we can differentiate between a
bound pathos that forms the background of our habitual behavior, and thus can
occur inconspicuously like an everyday greeting, and a released pathos that pulls us
out of our habitual relations. Pathos itself would then only be indirectly graspable as
a deviation from the usual, as a surplus of what is non-learnable in learning, as what
is alien in ones own self. If the pathetic surplus were leveled out by normalization,
we would encounter the normal man of which Nietzsche warns, who is only
acquainted with normal feelings. The human as undetermined animal would
approach the status of an animal that is determined artificially. The anti-human
that comes to expression here is not based on the fact that the human remains
arrested by brute beginnings; rather, it stems from the fact that logos splits itself
from pathos, to which it owes its momentum.

7 Philosophy of feelings
For the philosopher and certainly for the phenomenologist, the question concerns
how feelings can be grasped, how they can be described and conceptualized without
compromising their status as feelings. Husserls well known demand, to bring the
pure and so to speak still mute experience to an expression of its own sense40
reaches its limits when we are confronted by experiences that befall us
experiences that rupture the coherence of sense and in this respect have no sense.
Already in the natural-communicative attitude we must distinguish between the
pathic expression, which comes from a pathos (e.g., the expression of astonishment,
uneasiness, indignation, affection, the cry that erupts in limit-situations), and the
pathetic expression, which endeavors to give pathos itself an intensified expression.
A cry is, in this sense, never pathetic. At most, what is pathetic is the cry that the
actor lets out on stage, or the cry that Edvard Munch captures in his painting. In a
diary entry from 1893, which directly refers to the origin of this well-known motif,
the painter describes how while walking along the street with two friends at sunset,
all of a sudden the sky was dyed a bloody red color and in the clouds, blood and
swords flared up: [] I stood there trembling with anxietyand I felt like a long
cry went through nature. The bridge between the pathic eruptive expression and
the intensified pathetic expression forms the uneasiness of the experience that
increases up to the point of horroran experience that finds its place in the painting
and continues as the uneasiness of its gaze.41 To be sure, the artistic design of the
painting leaves the ground of the natural attitude by putting out of play our habits of
expression and our habits of seeing. In this way, the autobiographical note breaks

Husserl (1999, pp. 3839); translation modified.


I refer to my study Der beunruhigte Blick, in Sinnesschwellen (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp,




B. Waldenfels

open the framework of an ordinary autobiography just as in Platos anecdote of the

philosopher who, while stargazing, loses the ground under his feet and falls into a
We are left here with our original question of how we as philosophers and
phenomenologists can speak of feelings. Two extremes come up empty. The first
extreme would consist of an immediate expression of feelings; here we would not
leave the perspective of direct participation. Whoever speaks anxiously about
anxiety, boringly about boredom, contributes little to the clarification of anxiety or
boredom. Here, the how of pathic experience is not disengaged from the that.
So-called existentialism that promises to merge thinking with life, draws nearer to
such a short-circuiting pathetic experience. We cannot conceive of philosophy
without a certain degagement.
The other extreme would consist of a distancing discourse about feelings which
adopts the perspective of a disinterested observer or disinterested surgeon.
Neutrality, as a form of apathy has its own sense, but only as an artificial attitude
that emerges from a process of neutralization. This applies to the impartiality of the
judge or to the impartiality of the historian, just as it does to the calm hand of the
surgeon. If one were to raise neutrality to a standard and then as a philosopher be
content with dryly analyzing experiences of pain, the agony of torture, anxiety of
war, as well as eagerness in research, joy in discovery, delight in love, agony in
love, and outbreaks of despair, as something that does not concern him or herself,
then all we would get with this would be herbaria of feelings.
A third possibility is offered in a speaking that speaks about feelings but at the
same time from them. We encounter such a form of indirect participation at decisive
places. One can think about the witness to whom something happens, and it is this
that makes him a witness; the therapist who resists a direct reflection on feelings, but
in addressing the conflicts, sets free new possibilities of response; the counselors
who help the other person in an adverse situation without being directly affected.
Just as Walter Benjamin demanded from a good translation that it allows the
original text to shine through, one can conceive of an indirect speaking and writing
that allows the experiences that befall us and feelings that deal with them to shine
through. To this corresponds in phenomenology a certain kind of epoche, not the
customary form of intentional and reflective epoche that reduces everything that
shows itself to its sense, that is, to an as what something is meant and given, but an
affectional and responsive epoche that goes beyond the what and the goal of
the intentional act and brings to expression the wherefrom of being affected as
well as the direction of response.42 This epoche would not provide us with an
encompassing view, although it would permit a distancing lateral view, a view that
does not lose sight of what is distanced or unfamiliar. If philosophy is born from
wonder or anxiety then it is also born from pathos. A philosophy that would
completely forget its pathetic origins would be nothing more than a dogmatic
philosophy that becomes entangled in and bound by its own concepts and
arguments, and in the worst case, would serve as an ideological fortress.
I count such a responsive epoche among the apparatus of a responsive phenomenology. See my
Antwortregister (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1994), 195197.


The role of the lived-body in feeling


Translators Acknowledgements I wish to express my deepest gratitude to Dr. Anthony Steinbock for
all of his help in revising this translation. I would also like to thank Dr. Douglas Berger for his comments
on an earlier draft of this translation.

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