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Edmund Husserl: Phenomenology of


For Husserl, the body is not an extended physical

substance in contrast to a non-extended mind, but a lived here from which all theres are
there; a locus of distinctive sorts of sensations that can only be felt firsthand by the
embodied experiencer concerned; and a coherent system of movement possibilities allowing
us to experience every moment of our situated, practical-perceptual life as pointing to more
than our current perspective affords. To identify such experiential structures of embodiment,
however, Husserl must clarify and set aside not only the ways in which the natural sciences
approach the body, but also the ways in which we have tacitly taken over natural-scientific
assumptions into our everyday understanding of embodiment. Husserls phenomenological
investigations eventually lead to the notion of kinaesthetic consciousness, which is not a

consciousness of movement, but a consciousness or subjectivity that is itself characterized

in terms of motility, that is, the very ability to move freely and responsively. In Husserls
phenomenology of embodiment, then, the lived body is a lived center of experience, and both
its movement capabilities and its distinctive register of sensations play a key role in his
account of how we encounter other embodied agents in the shared space of a coherent and
ever-explorable world. Many of Husserls findings were taken up by such later figures in the
phenomenological tradition as Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, who gave these findings an
ontological interpretation. However, Husserls main focus is epistemological, and for him,
lived embodiment is not only a means of practical action, but an essential part of the deep
structure of all knowing.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction
1. Sources and Themes
2. Terms and Concepts
2. Naturalistic Presuppositions about the Body
3. Embodied Personhood
4. The Structure of Embodied Experience
1. The Body as a Center of Orientation
2. Distinctive Bodily Sensations
3. Movement and the I Can
5. Kinaesthetic Consciousness
1. Systems of Kinaesthetic Capabilities
2. Kinaesthetic Capabilities and Perceptual Appearances
3. Kinaesthetic Experience and the Experience of Others
4. Further Philosophical Issues
6. Conclusion
7. References and Further Reading
1. Primary Sources
2. Secondary Sources

1. Introduction
a. Sources and Themes
Edmund Husserl (18591938), the founder of phenomenology, addressed the body
throughout his philosophical life, with much of the relevant material to be found in lecture
courses, research manuscripts, and book-length texts not published during his lifetime. One
of the most important textsthe second volume of his Ideas Pertaining to a Pure
Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, subtitled Studies in the
Phenomenology of Constitution and usually referred to as Ideas 2was particularly
influential. Heidegger, for example, had access to it in manuscript before writing his own
major work, Being and Time (1927), and Merleau-Ponty consulted it while working on
his Phenomenology of Perception (1945); indeed, Ideas 2 first became generally known on
the basis of Merleau-Pontys references to it in Phenomenology of Perception. It has long
been known that the text posthumously published in 1952 as Ideas 2 had been shaped by not
one, but two editors, Edith Stein and Ludwig Landgrebe (each of whom worked on the text
while serving as Husserls assistant). But more recent scholarship by Sawicki (1997) suggests
that Edith Stein (18911942) should be seen as the guiding architect of the work, which she
attempted to recast in terms of her own philosophical commitments so as to correct what
she saw as problems and shortcomings in Husserls original 1912 draft. This may be why the
text as we currently have it is marked by certain gaps and tensions. In fact, no faithful
account of this seminal work will be possible until a new edition is published, fully
disentangling Husserls own train of thought from Steins argument. The present article is
therefore based on texts from all periods, and the copious amount of relevant material has
been organized in terms of four main tasks of a Husserlian phenomenology of embodiment:
bringing naturalistic presuppositions about the body to light; setting aside the naturalized
body in favor of embodied personhood; offering phenomenological descriptions of the
structure of embodied experience; and demonstrating that transcendental (inter)subjectivity
itself must be thought as kinaesthetic consciousness. Before turning to these themes,
however, let us pause for a brief overview of some of the key Husserlian terms and concepts
used in this article.

b. Terms and Concepts

Husserlian phenomenology stands in opposition to naturalism, for which material nature is
simply a given and conscious life itself is part of nature, to be approached with naturalscientific methods oriented toward empirical facts and causal explanations. In contrast,
phenomenology turns directly to the evidence of lived experienceof first-person subjective
lifein order to provide descriptions of experiencing and of objects as experienced, rather
than causal explanations. For Husserl, these descriptions are to be eidetic (or essential)
insofar as what is being described is not a specific set of empirical facts considered for their
own sake, but invariants governing a certain range of factsfor instance, structural patterns
that must obtain for something to be an object of a certain type at all, or eidetically necessary
laws such as any conceivable color has some extension. Husserls investigations of
essential structures of conscious life and experience further focus on consciousness as
transcendental rather than mundane, which means that consciousness is taken not as a part of
the world, but as the constitutive presupposition for experiencing any world whatsoever.

Husserls technical term constitution takes on many nuances as his work develops. But all
constitutive phenomenology is concerned with the correlation between experiencing and
that which is experiencedfor example, between perceiving and the perceived,
remembering and the remembered, and so on. This universal a priori of correlation
(Husserliana 6, 46) encompasses not only conscious performances actively carried out by
the I (for instance, a judging whose correlate is the corresponding judgment), but also deeper
strata of subjective experience that often remain unnoticed in everyday life. They can,
however, be brought to light by reflecting on the structure of the type of experience
concerned. For example, that only one side of the perceptual object actually appears to me at
any given moment has its subjective correlate in the situatedness of embodied experience, so
that any spatial thing is always seen from a particular standpoint; at the same time, that I am
currently seeing this side of the object has its subjective correlate in my capability for
movement, since I am able in principle to move in such a way as to bring other sides into
view. In short, Husserl does not presuppose a subject-object split, but operates with a subjectobject correlationa correlation he works out in detail for almost every sphere and stratum
of experience.
Moreover, as the examples indicate, a Husserlian approach to consciousness or subjectivity is
not restricted to the realm of the mental as traditionally understood; instead, the
phenomenological notion of embodied experience offers an alternative to mind-body dualism.
And Husserls investigations ultimately embrace not only the achievements and correlates of
constituting subjectivity, but also those of intersubjectivity, that is, of the we rather than
solely the I.
Finally, a general feature of Husserls terminology must also be mentioned: he frequently
takes over words used differently in other contexts and expects the reader to understand these
words not in terms of linguistic definitions set forth in advance, but in light of their referents
the experiential features or nuances that he is describing. Thus the Husserlian tradition is
not merely a tradition of texts to comment upon or argue against, but a permanent possibility
of checking descriptive claims against the touchstone of the appropriate experiential evidence
so as to confirm or correct such claims. Bearing this in mind, let us now return to the four
main moves accomplished by a Husserlian phenomenology of embodiment: criticizing
naturalistic presuppositions about the body; thematizing embodied personhood; describing
the structure of embodied experience; and investigating kinaesthetic consciousness.

2. Naturalistic Presuppositions about the Body

Summary: Husserl criticizes the assumption that the body is a psychophysical entity, in order
to make the body as directly experienced by the embodied experiencer concerned a theme
for phenomenological investigation.
Let us begin by sketching Husserls response to the philosophical and scientific tradition in
which he found himselfand in particular to the naturalism of the positivistic natural
sciences, which he addresses through a critique of its presuppositions. He is specifically
concerned to demonstrate how a natural-scientific tradition that has inherited a Cartesian
dualism of substances (res extensa/res cogitans), and is committed to mathematization as the
measure of truth, deals with the mental by approaching the psyche in terms of the
psychophysical: it is only by taking intangible minds as localizable in tangible living
bodies that natural science can bring the mental side of the inherited dualism into the realm
of real-spatial causality, and thus into the domain of calculability, prediction, and control.

Rather than automatically accepting these assumptions, Husserl brings them to light; traces
their historical development; establishes the limits of their legitimacy; and offers an
alternative account of consciousness or subjectivity, an account that relies on rigorous
philosophical methods and on a radical turn to the evidence of lived experience, rather than
on the assumptions and methods of natural-scientific cognition.
But in the course of carrying out these larger tasks, Husserl highlights a major presupposition
concerning embodiment. The received tradition, with its tendency to think in terms of the
psychophysical (even when one is not actively carrying out psychophysical investigations
or making specifically psychophysical claims), not only attempts to tie the mind to a
material body, but is already operating under a more basic assumptionnamely, that this
body can itself be taken as a physical body (Krper) like any other spatial thing, albeit a thing
with certain distinctive sorts of characteristics. For even if organisms are the province of
special natural sciences (for example, anatomy and physiology) having to do with living
rather than non-living things, it is still taken for granted that like inanimate objects, the
animate ones too belong to the realm of real, spatially extended entities to be explained in
terms of causal laws. Yet such a presupposition completely ignores what is essential to the
body as a lived body (Leib)as my body, someones body, experienced in a unique way by
the embodied experiencer concerned. In other words, what is missing in naturalism is the
body of embodiment, which must not be taken physically, but as directly experienced from
Here Husserl is not challenging the right of scientific practice to approach living bodies in
causal terms; in Ideas 3 (originally written in 1912, but not published until 1952), he even
proposes a new sciencesomatologythat would incorporate both physiological
investigation of the material properties of the body as a living organism and experiential
investigation of firsthand, first-person somatic perception (for example, of sensing tactile
contact). But he does indeed insist on clarifying the presuppositions governing naturalscientific cognition, recognizing them for what they are and acknowledging their limits, so
that, as he puts it in 1936 in 9h of The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental
Phenomenology, we do not take for true being what is actually a method. Thus the
historical fact that living bodies can be, and have been, approached with natural-scientific
methods does not automatically allow us to relegate the body of embodiment to the res
extensa side of Cartesian dualism. Instead, appropriate modes of inquiry must be developed
to do justice to the body of direct experience.
Accordingly, Husserl not only provides a critique of the presupposition of the
psychophysical (and of the lived body as a physical body), but opens up several further
ways in which a phenomenology of embodiment can be pursued. In Ideas 1 (first published in
1913), he sets the body aside in order to reach the realm of pure consciousness.
Commentators sometimes mistake this strategic move for Husserls position, and accuse
him of postulating a disembodied, desituated consciousness. But the body that is set out of
play here is merely the body that is assumed to be the physical half of the inherited
dualism. Moreover, this is only the first step in the critique: Husserl is effectively suspending
the tacit hegemony of the prevailing presupposition whereby it is automatically accepted, as a
matter of course, that the body is a physical reality that is a part of natureand setting this
assumption out of play frees us to address the body and embodiment phenomenologically
rather than naturalistically. After suspending the unquestioned validity of naturalistic
presuppositions concerning the body, then, the next step is to retrieve the body of experience,

and Husserl employs various pivotal distinctions in order to open up the experience of
embodiment for phenomenological investigation.

3. Embodied Personhood
Summary: Husserl shows that embodied experience is geared into the world as a communal
nexus of meaningful situations, expressive gestures, and practical activities.
One key distinction emphasized in Ideas 2 contrasts the naturalistic attitude, as the
theoretical attitude within which natural science is practiced, with the personalistic attitude
that characterizes personal and social experience in the world of everyday lifethe
lifeworld (Lebenswelt), the cultural world that is the province of the cultural or human
sciences. Within the personalistic attitude, our intersubjective encounters are always
experienced as embodied encounters, and our ongoing practical life is already an embodied
one. Thus, for example, we greet one another with culturally specific gestures such as shaking
hands; we communicate with others, responding to their facial expressions, gestures, and
tones of voice; we use tools in practical, goal-directed actions; we rely on bodily capabilities
and develop new skills that improve with practice or grow rusty with disuse; and so on. In
other words, what we come upon are others embodying themselves in particular ways
(serenely or impatiently, adroitly or clumsily, buoyantly or dragged down by pain or fatigue,
and so forth): we immediately see embodied persons, not material objects animated by
immaterial minds, and the immediacy of this carnal intersubjectivity is the foundation of
community and sociality (with culturally specific normal embodiment playing a privileged
role as the measure from which the anomalous and the abnormal diverge). Similarly, we
make immediate use of the bodily possibilities at our disposal, which serve as the means
whereby we carry out our everyday activities, without having to appeal to psychophysical
explanations: I simply reach for my cup, pick it up, and drink from it, without ever giving a
thought to the neurophysiological processes that allow me to keep my balance as I reach,
move the cup without spilling the liquid, and swallow without choking. And even if my
abilities are compromised by illness or injury, the lived experience of I can no longer do it
is qualitatively different from the physicians causal explanations for my condition.
For the most part, Husserl himself provides passing examples, rather than extended analyses,
of embodied experience in the personalistic attitude. Yet if we recall that his aim is not to
carry out concrete cultural-scientific investigations but to clarify the philosophical bases of
the cultural or human sciences, we can see that his critique of naturalistic presuppositions
about the body both secures a theoretical foundation for work in such areas as nonverbal
communication (as well as other sorts of studies of embodiment carried out within
phenomenological psychology, phenomenological sociology, and so on), and anticipates more
recent concerns with socially shaped patterns of embodiment (including, for example, issues
of gendered embodiment, as contrasted with the biological sex of an individualalthough
even the medical assignment of sex at birth may display, in certain problematic cases,
social/cultural assumptions and priorities).
Husserls discussions of the personalistic attitude in Ideas 2 are echoed in his extensive
discussions of the lifeworld in the Crisis, and several further points concerning embodiment
can be made in this connection. First of all, for Husserl, the prescientific world of
experience is more basic than the objective world constituted as a correlate to scientific
practice in the naturalistic attitude; for example, natural-scientific investigation of the body as
an object presupposes a functioning bodily subjectivity on the part of each of the scientists

concerned, for whom their own lived bodies tacitly serve as organs of perception,
communication, and action, even while they are engaged in carrying out detailed research
into, say, the neurophysiology of motor behavior. At the same time, however, scientific
assumptions and constructs flow back into everyday lifeworldly language and experience,
so that, for instance, I may refer to my own body in anatomical terms as a matter of course, or
offer causal explanations (rather than experiential descriptions) of my own bodily condition,
even in a casual conversation with a friend. Thus although there is a functional priority of the
personalistic over the naturalistic attitude, the former is ongoingly shaped and reshaped by
the historical acquisitions of the latteras well as by its unnoticed philosophical
presuppositions and its habitual abstractions. Moreover, despite their important differences,
both the naturalistic attitude and the personalistic attitude fall within a more general attitude
that Husserl terms the natural attitude. In the natural attitude, not only are we typically
straightforwardly directed toward objects rather than reflecting on the structures of our own
subjective experience, but entities such as bodies (whether these are taken as
psychophysical realities or embodied persons) are given as ready-made realities within a
pregiven world; even the experiencer for whom such entities are given is him/herself taken as
one entity among others in the world. And the natural attitude is both all-pervasive and
anonymousit is so taken for granted that we are not even cognizant of it as an attitude at
all. But when we do become aware of it, still further insights into embodied experience
become possible.

4. The Structure of Embodied Experience

Summary: Husserls phenomenological investigations emphasize that the lived body
functions as the central here from which spatial directions and distances are gauged; that it
is the locus of distinctive sorts of directly felt sensations such as the experience of tactile
contact; and that it is capable of self-movement, opening a rich range of practical
Husserls approach to disclosing the natural attitude for what it is and suspending its
wholesale, automatic efficacy is termed the phenomenological reduction, which leads us from
the natural attitude of everyday life to the phenomenological attitude. Within the
phenomenological attitude, we set aside questions framed in terms of an ultimate being or
reality existing utterly in itself; instead, we make experiencingand correlatively,
phenomena, which means whatever is experienced, exactly as experiencedthe focus of our
investigations. For a phenomenology of embodiment, this means turning to the body of direct
experience in a way that is even more radical than acknowledging everyday encounters with
embodied persons in the personalistic attitude. Why is it more radical? It is because in
everyday practical life, we are typically occupied with things and tasks, and ignore the bodily
means whereby we perceive things and carry out our activities. Although the anonymity
of this tacitly functioning, everyday body becomes a key theme in existential phenomenology
of the body, Husserl too was well aware of it, and it was his groundbreaking research that
initially retrieved this lived body and bodily experience from its anonymity.

a. The Body as a Center of Orientation

One mode of inquiry that Husserl uses in his descriptive investigations of the body of lived
experience is eidetic phenomenology. The eidetic reductionwhich is the shift whereby we
enter the eidetic attitudetakes whatever it is that we are experiencing as but one example

of a particular structure or possibility. (Although Husserl speaks of essences in this

connection, his use of the term must be distinguished both from Platonic essences and from
more recent concerns with essentialism.) Thus, for example, as I write these words, the
carrots growing in my garden are to my left; later in the day, when I have moved to a
different spot in the sun, the carrots will be to my right. But in each case, what I experience is
not an empty, homogeneous, mathematical space; instead, I experience lived space as an
oriented space whose directional axesleft/right, above/below, in front/behindare gauged
from my own lived body as the central here from which all theres are there and from
which things are relatively near or far (right now, the lettuce is closer to me than the
carrots). One way to refer to this invariant structural feature of embodied experiencing (of
which my current relation to the plants in my garden is but one of innumerable possible
variationseach of us could contribute a different example, but they would all be examples
of the same experiential structure) is to speak of the lived body as the nullpoint of
orientation. But Husserls account is more nuanced than this. Although visual experience
does indeed seem to proceed from a point somewhere in the head, behind the eyes (so that,
for example, what you can see of your nose is in front, what you can see of your lower lid
is below, and so on), Husserl also refers to the bodily here as a whole with such
expressions as null-position and null-posture, so that the structure of the experiential
center need not be point-like. And in exploring, say, the underside of my own chin and jaw
with my hand, I may find that I am living in the touching hand as the functional center of
orientation and experiencing what I am touching as being above this hand. Like all
descriptive phenomenological claims, the latter claimnamely, that the functional center of
orientation can vary from the central point from which vision proceedsis an invitation to
consult the relevant experiential evidence for yourself; is the example I have mentioned a
possibility that you can actualize? Can you find it, experientially, immediately ... or does
this structure of experience only emerge after a while, or in a different way? Spiegelberg
(1966/1986/2004), for example, explores further experiential variations concerning the lived
location of the embodied center of experiencing, and more descriptive work on this theme
(especially work carried out by phenomenologists of diverse cultural backgrounds) would be

b. Distinctive Bodily Sensations

However, the lived body is more than a tacit zero, an abiding here from which spatial
dimensions of perception and action unfold; it is not an abstract or empty center, but a filled
one, with its own familiar feel, for to be embodied is to experience certain sorts of sensations
as mine in a unique way. In some passages, Husserl replaces the usual German term for
sensationsEmpfindungenwith a new term, Empfindnisse (translated as feelings or
sensings). Such distinctive sensitivities may be collectively referred to as the
somaesthetic dimension of experience, including, for example, sensations felt in our bodily
depths as well as on our bodily surfaces, and encompassing many nuances beyond pleasure
and pain. But one of Husserls most important examples is tactile contact: when you touch
my body, you are touching me, and I feel it. Sometimes one and the same episode of touching
can be experienced in a double way: I might, for example, be exploring a small sculpture with
my fingers, intent on its contours, textures, variations in temperature, and so on, or I can
continue to palpate the object, but shift to an experiential attitude focused on sensing myself
in contact with it precisely here, in exactly this wayretrieving the bodily side of my
embodied commerce with the thing. Or I myself can furnish both sides of the example,
touching one hand with the other (an example of Husserls to which Merleau-Ponty accords
great importance). Here it becomes clear not only that my own body can be given to me both

as the organ and as the object of touchboth as the means whereby the activity of touching is
carried out, and as the phenomenon I experience through this activity (for example, the
contours and textures I can feel on the surface of my touched hand)but also that the same
touched hand that is the object explored by the touching hand is itself alive to this contact,
feeling it subjectively, so that I am living in this hand too as mine. In this connection the
term lived body may connote a certain undergoing, emphasizing affectivity (being
affected) rather than activity (although both are important for Husserl, who routinely
mentions them together in his later research manuscripts).

c. Movement and the I Can

Nevertheless, actions too are mine (albeit in a qualitatively different way than the
immediate bodily feelings of contact, pleasure, pain, warmth, cold, and so forth, are). And
along with the bodys role as the center of orientation and its unique somaesthetic sensations,
Husserl also emphasizes bodily motilitythe capability for self-movement per seas an
essential feature of embodiment. Being able to move is the foundation for any specific
bodily I do and for what he typically terms the bodily I can (which can be experienced as
such even without actually performing the movement concernedfor instance, one can find
the lived consciousness, I can nod my head, without actually doing it, experiencing it
instead as a practical possibility given in the sheer I could). The range of the I can is
enriched when I cultivate my capabilities or learn new skills, although as I have already
indicated, it may also be temporarily eroded or permanently truncated in cases of illness or
injury, so that the I can becomes an I cannot. For Husserl, however, the lived experience
of embodied motility goes far beyond movement that is actively initiated by the I: there are
also movements such as breathing, which normally goes on without my active intervention,
yet can indeed be deliberately altered to some extent. Husserl therefore speaks of all such
bodily movement as pertaining to the I in a broad sense that encompasses, but also includes
more than, the active, awake I. For example, habitual movement patterns such as playing a
familiar piece on the piano can indeed proceed without my explicit, moment by moment
direction, yet are still lived as mine, and although they may often remain marginal, they can
also be informed with awarenessor with a kind of active allowing, as when I lend them
my fiat and am consciously letting the movement unfold. Thus here motility is a broader
concept than agency in the strict sense whereby an agent would be actively, explicitly
involved in initiating and directing the action throughout.

5. Kinaesthetic Consciousness
Summary: Husserl describes the articulation of kinaesthetic capabilities into coordinated
systems of specific movement possibilities; outlines the if-then structure through which
actualizing certain kinaesthetic possibilities brings coherent fields of appearances to
givenness; suggests how a different if-then structureone linking the deployment of my
own kinaesthetic capability with the bodily feel of the movement concernedis implicated in
coming to experience other moving bodies as other sentient beings like me; and addresses
the tension between embodiment as an ongoing dynamic, subjective process and the
body as one object among others in the world.

Husserl devotes considerable attention to the theme of motility, and sketching out some of
this work in more detail will allow us to see how his descriptive phenomenological work on
embodiment fits into the larger philosophical context of his constitutive phenomenology
(recalling that here constitution ultimately refers to the correlations between that which is
experienced and the relevant performances and achievements of consciousness or
subjectivity). Here a distinction given terminological form by one of Husserls assistants,
Ludwig Landgrebe (19021991), is particularly helpful: that between the body-as-constituted
and the body-as-constituting. The body-as-constituted is the body as experienced, that is, it is
that which is experienced in the experience; the body-as-constituting is the experiencing
body by means of which something is experienced. And for Husserl, this embodied,
experiencing subjectivity (the body-as-constituting) is above all a kinaesthetic consciousness
(Claesges 1964)not as a consciousness of movement, but as a consciousness or
subjectivity capable of movement.

a. Systems of Kinaesthetic Capabilities

Thus Husserls recourse to kinaestheses does not refer to sense data (for example,
sensations pertaining to muscles or joints) postulated as ingredients of perceptual
experience (for instance, of my own limbs given to me as material objects moving in space),
but to the sheer experience of the subjective capability for movement per se (including the I
could already mentioned) and to its organization into kinaesthetic systems, each with its own
(multidimensional) leeway of movement possibilities. For example, in visual perception, the
movement of the eyes alone forms one system; head movement affords a second system; the
possibilities of rotating ones entire body on the spot counts as a third system; and locomotor
movement (for instance, walking) adds yet another system. When I turn to the left to look for
the bird in the birdbath, my eye, head, and torso movements are typically vectorially
combined into one integrated gesture. Turning my head allows me to see farther to my left
than if eye movements alone were involved, and turning my torso expands my view beyond
what eye and head movements can offer togetherbut whatever combination of eye, head,
and torso movements is swung into play when I hear the splash in the birdbath, turning to
the left will eventually allow me to bring what initially appeared only at (or beyond) the lefthand periphery of the visual field into the center of the field. Kinaesthetic systems can also
stand in for one anotherif my arms are full, I may hold the door open with my hip or
acknowledge a friends wave with a gesture of my head rather than my hand. In this way the
interarticulated kinaesthetic systems work together as one total kinaesthetic system whose
multifarious possibilities of coordination typically take on the more circumscribed form of a
habitual repertoire of familiar movement possibilities and customary ways to move.
Even within this more limited leeway, however, motility is characterized by a certain
essential freedom that can be contrasted with the physical motion of spatial objects. This by
no means implies complete freedom in every caseonce I jump off the diving board, it is too
late to change my mind, and I am headed for the water, sinceunlike a birdI have no way
to fly back up into the sky. But the lived motility in which kinaesthetic consciousness holds
sway is more typically experienced as reversible: having turned my head to the left, I can turn
it back to the right; having extended my hand, I can withdraw it; having gone in one
direction, I can retrace my steps. Moreover, the lived movement can be not only reversed, but
repeated, interrupted, and inhibited; for Husserl, even holding still is a dynamic event,
since it involves ongoingly maintaining a certain kinaesthetic constellation or situation.

b. Kinaesthetic Capabilities and Perceptual Appearances

Such descriptions retrieve kinaesthetic functioning from its anonymity, but remain abstract as
long as its constitutive role is not specified more precisely. For example, enacting certain
kinaesthetic possibilities brings certain correlative perceptual appearances to givenness in a
concordant, regulated, non-arbitrary manner. From here I can see this side of the house,
but this side already promises more, a situation for which Husserl uses the technical terms
inner horizon and outer horizon. The current appearance of this side points to an inner
horizon of possible future perceptions in which this very same side would itself be more fully
givenfor instance, if I were to move closer, then it could be touched as well as seen, or
what is currently seen indistinctly could be seen in more detail, and so on. But this side of
the building also points to an outer horizon of possible future perceptions of other sides, as
well as further features of the surroundings, including currently unseen sides of other objects
in the background, and so on.
Here what is important is not merely that Husserls account of perception emphasizes a
correlation between, on the one hand, an embodied perceiver functioning as a center of
orientation and, on the other hand, the perspectivity that is the invariable mode of givenness
of perceived things in space; rather, what is at stake is a coherent, explorable, transcendent,
open world. In other words, it is not merely that I see things from my own standpoint: it is
that my own motility is the subjective correlate both of the worlds open explorabilityits
transcendence beyond the aspect of it given at any momentand of its concordant
coherence, since if I enact the appropriate kinaesthetic sequences, then what is currently
emptily predelineated can be fulfilled in itself-givenness of the anticipated side or feature
concerned (or can be disappointed and corrected instead). For example, I see a corner of
the house; inseparable from the experience of this as a corner is that there is more to the
house to be seen around the corner (even if this more is as yet indeterminate), and if I
move there, then I will see precisely this more, determine its features in more detail, and
so forth (or perhaps discover that all that is left of the building is a facade). However, the ifthen relation that is at stake here is not a causal one, since the correlations in question
pertain to the ordered structure of experience purely as experienced, not to real relations
between physical entities considered in the naturalistic attitude (an attitude that we are, of
course, free to take up if we wish).
Within the phenomenological attitude, in other words, the point is not to establish causal
relations between turning my head to the left and seeing a birdbath; instead, the horizon
of freedom pertaining to kinaesthetic consciousness opens ordered fields of display that can
be seamlessly expanded as I move, so that turning my head to the left allows the
corresponding further stretch of the visible world to come into view, whatever there may in
fact be for me to see in any given situation or on any given occasion. And the same
fundamental correlation between kinaesthetic capabilities and coherent fields of spatial
display holds good for movement in any direction, as well as for the intersensorial world.
Thus the description identifies an essential structure of experience per se, rather than offering
a causal explanation of a particular empirical/factual event. Moreover, it turns out that
Husserls analyses are not confined to the kinaesthetic circumstances swung into play in
experiencing individual transcendent things in space, but demonstrate that kinaesthetic
consciousness is itself space-constituting. (Early extensive analyses are found in the 1907
lectures published in Thing and Space, but Husserl refined his account throughout his life.)
This, then, is another example of a Husserlian critique of presuppositions: he does not naively
assume space as a pregiven framework for embodied perception and action (for example,
as some kind of ready-made container), but devotes many pages to the experiential
evidence that is at stake in the givenness of various types or levels of space, including not

only the most immediate, preobjective space, but the infinite and homogeneous space of
the natural sciences.

c. Kinaesthetic Experience and the Experience of Others

At this point, a second set of analyses come into play, for it is a feature of lived embodiment
that I cannot jump out of my own skin and walk around myself in order to survey myself
from all sides: the seeing consciousness is always at the center of orientation, and although I
may be able to see parts of myself from various angles, I cannot see myself as a whole, as a
figure on a ground or as an object over there from which I could definitively move away.
Instead, I function as the uncancellably abiding here from which space-perception
invariably proceeds. This means, however, that my solo experience of situated motility
leaves me with a hole in space wherever I goa mobile but non-surveyable center around
which the rest of the panorama unfolds. The constitution of a genuinely homogeneous,
objective, three-dimensional space requires the contribution of others, for whom I myself am
indeed over there, inhabiting one among many possible theres. Thus space-constitution
is tied up with the Husserlian theme of intersubjectivity, which is also a key motif in his
phenomenology of embodiment. Although Husserl gives various accounts of
intersubjectivity, the present article pulls together some pieces of the puzzle that depend
directly on his work with kinaesthetic consciousness. Note, however, that this account is not a
linear account of discrete steps to be carried out, as though we began our existence utterly
alone and only gradually discovered fellow living beings; rather, the explication furnishes a
kind of exploded diagram of certain structural moments involved in the lived experience of
recognizing embodied othershere construed broadly enough to encompass non-human as
well as human cases. (Thus in the technical language of phenomenology, the exploded
diagram account is static, rather than providing a genetic description of the origin and
development of a certain type of experience as an abiding acquisition.)
For Husserl, a double dimension of localization of kinaestheses comes into play in this
regard (always recalling that here the term kinaesthetic refers to motility per se, to the sheer
I can/I could rather than to specific sorts of sense data). First of all, it is possible for at
least some enactments of my own directly experienced motility to be co-given to me in the
form of something perceivable in the same way as things of the world are. Thus, for example,
not only can I move my own limbs, butwithin limitsI can see them as moving objects in
the same field of vision where other spatial things are given: subjective motility is localized
in objectively appearing movements displaying certain distinctive styles of movement and
modes of relating to the surrounding world (think, for example, of my own active/responsive
hands being visible to me as I reach for an object and grasp it). Similarly, the kinaesthetic
experience of speaking, singing, or crying out is paired with sounds appearing in the same
audial field in which other sounds are given. (Although what I am providing here is, as I have
indicated, a structural explication of intersubjectivity rather than a genetic-developmental
account, it should be pointed out that in one brief passage on the mother-child relationship,
Husserl emphasizes the child linking his/her own kinaesthetic capability for vocalization with
certain heard sounds in the audial sphere in generaland then hearing sounds resembling
these in certain respects, but without simultaneously experiencing the relevant kinaestheses,
so that this contrast mediates the emerging own/other distinction.) But at the same time,
enacting this or that kinaesthetic possibility (or constellation of possibilities) from the total
kinaesthetic horizon yields yet another if-then order, above and beyond the coherent
correlations discussed above whereby kinaesthetic circumstances motivate corresponding
perceptual appearances. For if I move in a certain way, then even without touching

myself, I can experience correlative somaesthetic sensations or sensings (Empfindnisse):

kinaesthetic enactments are localized in corresponding patterns of felt embodiment (for
instance, experiences of straining or releasing) through which my own lived body is
concretely, sensuously present for me (whether marginally, as when I am immersed in
something I am reading, or thematicallythink, for example, of how it feels to stretch
To put it another way, the mineness of my own act of moving is linked with the mineness
of the accompanying somaesthetic sensations, as well as with recognizable styles of
externally perceivable movement. When I perceive movement in such a style, then, but
without the correlative kinaesthetic consciousness (the tacit or explicit I move) and its
accompanying patterns of felt somaesthetic localization, I experience (via what Husserl terms
passive syntheses of associationwhich, however, must not be confused with
associationistic psychological theories) another subjectivity who, like me, is a subject of
both action and affection, both agency and ownership, both doing and undergoing. Thus it is
not necessary to see another body that looks the same as mine in the sense of being roughly
the same size, shape, and color in order to motivate the experience of recognizing the others
subjectivityin fact, the view of myself from the outside that this would require is
precisely something that I can never fully have: it is a possibility that is itself motivated from
the experience of the other as having his/her own point of view on me, and thus cannot serve
to motivate my recognition of the other as another subjectivity in the first place. Instead, what
I experience when I see the other stands at a higher degree of universality: I see a style of
movement associated with certain eidetic features proper to sentient/sensitive motility per se,
namely, kinaesthetic capability and somaesthetic sensibility. But exactly because these
invariants are open to exemplification in so many ways, they provide the foundation for the
lived experience of difference-from-the-other as well as that of similarity-with-the-other,
since they are the very identity that permits the experience of difference here at all.
I do not, in other words, recognize others because I see them as reiterations of myself in my
concrete embodiment; the I-other pairing does not consist of a model and a replica, but of two
mutually contrasting variations of embodiment per se, only one of which I have genuinely
original access to (when I pick up the heavy stone, I experience both my own effort and the
stones resistance firsthand; seeing the other struggle with the stone, I may understand the
degree of effort involved and realize that I am the stronger of the two of us, but I do not
experience the others effort in the same direct way I experience my own, nor do I directly
experience the others pain if the stone slips and lands on the others toe). Thus the other
active, sentient, sensitive, relational body is not some sort of duplicate of my own body, but
precisely a lived body lived from an experiential standpoint I myself can never inhabit, a
here that is truly transcendent to my own precisely because I inevitably experience it as a
there in paired contrast to my own here.

d. Further Philosophical Issues

So far, I have sketched out how embodiment understood as kinaesthetic consciousness
functions in Husserls philosophical accounts of the transcendent spatial world and
transcendent fellow subjectivities. Here it is not possible to flesh out these accounts in any
more detail, although it can be said that for Husserl, our very openness to the world
essentially involves a kinaesthetic engagement with what is most immediately, sensuously
given in such a way that the genetic origins of transcendental logic itself can be traced back
to these kinaesthetic capabilities and performances and their correlative sensuous givens

(see Husserliana 11), matters he thematizes under the title of transcendental aesthetics
(although he takes this term in a different sense than Kants). However, a further step must at
least be touched on, one that draws upon yet another important distinctionthat between the
transcendental and the mundane. Husserls analyses of kinaesthetic consciousness assume a
transcendental attitude, yet in the natural attitude, the body isas we have seen
obviously a mundane reality, a part of the world. Although his earlier efforts were geared
toward clarifying the philosophical foundations of the sciences that study such a reality, some
of his later writings (see, for example, Husserliana 15, 282328, 64857) are framed as an
inquiry into the experiential achievements whereby transcendental consciousness
mundanizes itself in the first place (that is, takes itself as part of the world), even prior to
naturalizing itself in psychophysical terms. Without going into detail about his approach to
the problem (which is also known as the paradox of subjectivityhow can the very
consciousness that constitutes the world simultaneously be a part of this world?), it should be
emphasized that for Husserl, what is at stake is ultimately not at all how a disembodied
consciousness could somehow acquire a body. Instead, after demonstrating that
kinaesthetic capability is an essential structural moment of transcendental subjectivity itself,
he asks how kinaesthetic consciousness as an ongoing flow of purely experiential
potentialities (the possibilities of primal motility per se), and of ever-changing actualizations
of these possibilities, can come to count as a mundane entity apprehended as one thing
among others in the world (and here Husserls descriptions of the lived experience of
resistance offer important clues). In any case, however, the Husserlian critique of
presuppositions concerning the body leads to something like the possibility of transcendental
corporealitya notion that places many aspects of the Western philosophical tradition itself
into question.

6. Conclusion
Recognizing the tension between the transcendental experience of embodiment as
kinaesthetic consciousness (or indeed, of consciousness or subjectivity as kinaesthetic)
on the one hand and the mundane experience of the body as a material, psychophysical reality
on the other can now allow us to summarize two of Husserls most important contributions to
a phenomenology of embodiment (above and beyond his pioneering descriptions of essential
features of bodily subjectivity). First, taken transcendentally, embodiment is not something
accomplished once and for all, but isto borrow a telling phrase from Zaners The Problem
of Embodiment (1964)a continuously on-going act: at every moment (even during
periods of relative quiescence), I am involved in a dynamic process of embodying that is
carried out through the current actualization of my own kinaesthetic capabilities, with certain
possibilities rather than others being actualized in this or that way. This is the case whether
the particular kinaestheses swung into play at any given moment arise from instinctual
strivings, involuntary adjustments, acquired habits, or volitionally directed free movement,
and whether these patterns of kinaesthetic actualization are going completely unnoticed; are
marginally present for me; are experientially prominent due to difficulty or discomfort; or are
consciously appreciated in lucid awareness from within (note that these two sets of
possibilitiesone having to do with volition, the other with awarenesscan intersect in a
number of ways). Second, that I can apprehend myself as a psychophysical unity is not
simply something to be naively accepted, but something to be clarified as a historical
achievement whereby embodied experience is localized in a mundane object, the body, as
one item among others in a world of material, natural realities. Thus within the natural
attitude, embodiment winds up signifying the external expression of the inwardness always
already essentially pertaining to bodies insofar as they are lived bodies (as opposed to mere

physical things). And indeed, experiential evidence for the latter sense of embodiment is
readily available in everyday life in our timeswe immediately encounter one another as
embodied persons, not as machines that we suspect or conclude must harbor minds. However,
experiencing myself as an ongoing realization of my own kinaesthetic capabilities taken not
psychophysically, but sheerly experientially (which deactivates, rather than presupposing,
mind-body dualism) requires shifting from the mundane to the transcendental attitude (in
Husserls sense of the term transcendental), although once this insight has been historically
achieved, it too, like the achievements of naturalism, can flow back into everyday
In the end, then, whether he is providing a phenomenological genealogy of the
psychophysical or offering an alternative account of embodiment in terms of kinaesthetic
consciousness, Husserl provides a powerful critique of Cartesian dualism. Nevertheless, his
own interests are basically epistemological in character: the accent lies not on claims about
what the body really is, but on the epistemic contribution of embodiment itself to our
knowledge of the world in the first place (as well as on the legitimacy of the foundations of
our knowledge of such matters). And as in all of his phenomenological work, Husserl does
not merely hold a position and offer arguments to support it, but consistently and rigorously
takes the ultimate court of appeal to be the experiential evidence pertaining to the phenomena
themselvesevidence that continually outruns our inherited terms and concepts and requires
us to place them in question.

7. References and Further Reading

a. Primary Sources

Husserl, Edmund. Ding und Raum. Vorlesungen 1907. Ed. Ulrich

Claesges. Husserliana 16. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973; Thing and Space:
Lectures of 1907. Trans. Richard Rojcewicz. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers,
1997, Sections IVVI (129245).

Husserl, Edmund. Ideen zu einer reinen Phnomenologie und phnomenologischen

Philosophie. Zweites Buch. Phnomenologische Untersuchungen zur Konstitution
[1912]. Ed. Marly Biemel. Husserliana 4. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1952; Ideas
Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy. Second
Book. Studies in the Phenomenology of Constitution. Trans. Richard Rojcewicz and
Andr Schuwer. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989, especially 18ab
(6070), 3642 (15269), 5960a (26677), et passim.

Husserl, Edmund. Ideen zu einer reinen Phnomenologie und phnomenologischen

Philosophie. Drittes Buch. Die Phnomenologie und die Fundamente der
Wissenschaften [1912]. Ed. Marly Biemel. Husserliana 5. Den Haag: Martinus
Nijhoff, 1952; Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a
Phenomenological Philosophy. Third Book. Phenomenology and the Foundations of
the Sciences. Trans. Ted E. Klein and William E. Pohl. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff,
1980, 2 (49); Supplement I, 4 (10312).

Husserl, Edmund. Analysen zur passiven Synthesis. Aus Vorlesungs- und

Forschungsmanuskripten 19181926. Ed. Margot Fleischer. Husserliana 11. Den

Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1966; Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis:
Lectures on Transcendental Logic. Trans. Anthony J. Steinbock. Dordrecht: Kluwer
Academic Publishers, 2001, 3 (4753); Perception and its Process of Self-Giving,
2 (58188); Appendix 25 (53436).

Husserl, Edmund. Phnomenologische Psychologie. Vorlesungen Sommersemester

1925. Ed. Walter Biemel. Husserliana 9. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1962, Beilage
VIII (Die somatologische Struktur der objektiven Welt, 39095, not
translated);Phenomenological Psychology: Lectures, Summer Semester, 1925. Trans.
John Scanlon. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1977, 15 (7983), 21 (99101), 39

Husserl, Edmund. Cartesianische Meditationen [1931] und Pariser Vortrge. Ed.

Stephan Strasser. Husserliana 1. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1950; Cartesian
Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology. Trans. Dorion Cairns. The Hague:
Martinus Nijhoff, 1960, Fifth Meditation, especially 44 (9299), 5156 (11231).

Husserl, Edmund. Die Krisis der europischen Wissenschaften und die

transzendentale Phnomenologie. Eine Einleitung in die phnomenologische
Philosophie [1936]. Ed. Walter Biemel. Husserliana 6. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff,
1954; The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An
Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy. Trans. David Carr. Evanston, IL:
Northwestern University Press, 1970, 28 (10311), 47 (16164), 62 (21519).

Husserl, Edmund. Zur Phnomenologie der Intersubjektivitt. Texte aus dem

Nachlass. Erster Teil: 19051920; Zweiter Teil: 19211928; Dritter Teil: 19291935.
Ed. Iso Kern. Husserliana 13, 14, 15. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973, passim.

Husserl, Edmund. Transzendentaler Idealismus. Texte aus dem Nachlass (1908

1921). Ed. Robin D. Rollinger with Rochus Sowa. Husserliana 36. Dordrecht: Kluwer
Academic Publishers, 2003, Text Nr. 7 (13245), Text Nr. 9 (15166).

Husserl, Edmund. Die Lebenswelt. Auslegungen der vorgegebenen Welt und ihrer
Konstitution. Texte aus dem Nachlass (19161937). Ed. Rochus Sowa. Husserliana
39. Dordrecht: Springer, 2008, especially Part IX (603672).

b. Secondary Sources

Behnke, Elizabeth A. Edmund Husserls Contribution to Phenomenology of the

Body in Ideas II [1989]. Rpt. in Issues in Husserls Ideas II. Ed. Thomas Nenon
and Lester Embree. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1996, 13560; rev. in
Phenomenology: Critical Concepts in Philosophy. Ed. Dermot Moran and Lester E.
Embree with Tanja Staehler and Elizabeth A. Behnke. Volume 2. Phenomenology:
Themes and Issues. London: Routledge, 2004, 23564 [includes further references to
work in this area].

Bernet, Rudolf, Iso Kern, and Eduard Marbach. Edmund Husserl. Darstellung seines
Denkens [1989]. 2nd rev. ed. Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1996; An Introduction to
Husserlian Phenomenology. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1993,

Chapter 4, 3 (The Kinaesthetic Motivation in the Constitution of Thing and Space,

13040, 25960); Chapter 5, 2 (Our Experience of the Other, 15465, 26162).

Claesges, Ulrich. Edmund Husserls Theorie der Raumkonstitution. Den Haag:

Martinus Nijhoff, 1964, Parts II and III (55144) [includes significant citations on
lived body and kinaesthetic consciousness from Husserls D manuscripts].

Depraz, Natalie. Lucidit du corps. De lempirisme transcendantal en

phnomnologie. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001.

Dodd, James. Idealism and Corporeity: An Essay on the Problem of the Body in
Husserls Phenomenology. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997.

Mohanty, J. N. Intentionality and the Mind/Body Problem. In Organism, Medicine,

and Metaphysics: Essays in Honor of Hans Jonas. Ed. Stuart F. Spicker. Dordrecht:
D. Reidel, 1978, 283300; rpt. in his The Possibility of Transcendental Philosophy.
Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1985, 12138; rpt. in Phenomenology: Critical
Concepts in Philosophy. Ed. Dermot Moran and Lester E. Embree with Tanja Staehler
and Elizabeth A. Behnke. Volume 2. Phenomenology: Themes and Issues. London:
Routledge, 2004, 31632.

Sawicki, Marianne. Body, Text, and Science: The Literacy of Investigative Practices
and the Phenomenology of Edith Stein. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers,
1997, Chapter 2, D (Nature and Intellect in Ideen II, 7389); Chapter 4, B, 1
(Steins work for Husserl, 15365).

Seebohm, Thomas M. Hermeneutics: Method and Methodology. Dordrecht: Kluwer

Academic Publishers, 2004, 12 (The givenness of the other living body and animal
understanding, 98105).

Spiegelberg, Herbert. On the Motility of the Ego. In Conditio Humana: Erwin W.

Straus on his 75th birthday. Ed. Walter von Baeyer and Richard M. Griffith. Berlin:
Springer-Verlag, 1966, 289306; rpt., with Postscript 1978, in Spiegelberg,
Steppingstones toward an Ethics for Fellow Existers: Essays 19441983. Dordrecht:
Martinus Nijhoff, 1986, 6586; rpt. in Phenomenology: Critical Concepts in
Philosophy. Ed. Dermot Moran and Lester E. Embree with Tanja Staehler and
Elizabeth A. Behnke. Volume 2. Phenomenology: Themes and Issues. London:
Routledge, 2004, 21734.

Strker, Elisabeth. Philosophische Untersuchungen zum Raum. Frankfurt am Main:

Vittorio Klostermann, 1965; Investigations in Philosophy of Space. Trans. Algis
Mickunas. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1987, Part One (Lived Space, 13

Zahavi, Dan. Husserls Phenomenology of the Body. tudes Phnomnologiques

No. 19 (1994), 6384.

Zaner, Richard M. The Problem of Embodiment: Some Contributions to a

Phenomenology of the Body. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964, 24961, 28789.

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Elizabeth A. Behnke
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