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Edmund Husserl and Gilles Deleuze on the Experience of the Strangeness-

Character of the Body

Guillermo Ferrer
Bergische Universitt Wuppertal

1. Deleuzes Objection to Husserl: The Strangeness-Character of my Body

In his book The Fold. Leibniz and the Baroque Gilles Deleuze raises a major objection to
Husserls theory of the belonging (appartenance) of the lived body to the transcendental I:
whereas for Leibniz the organic composition of [what I call] my body represents the very first
manifestation of the strange, the strangeness as such, Husserl would have somehow given
for granted the belonging of my body to the I, insofar he does not see any difficulty in the
phenomenological reduction of the organic composition to the transcendental sphere of my
possessions (Eigenheitssphre).1

On the contrary Leibniz would have described very close the paradoxical forms of how my body
belongs to me namely to the dominant monad which is able of reflexive apperception -, but at
the same time of how it reveals itself as being someway strange for me:2 my body consists on
infinitely many monades that are subordinate to me [the dominant monad able of reflexive
apperception], but many of them are a kind of independent center or focal point that is why
they maintain relationships of domination over another monads in every part of my body.

1 Unter den eigenheitlich gefaten Krpern dieser Natur finde ich dann in einziger Auszeichnung m e i n e n L e-
i b, nmlich als den einzigen, der nicht bloer Krper ist, sondern eben L e i b, das einzige Objekt innerhalb meiner
abstraktiven Weltschicht, dem ich erfahrungsgem Empfindungsfelder zurechne, obschon in verschiedenen
Zugehrigkeitsweisen (Tastempfindungsfeld, Wrme-Klte-Feld usw), das einzige, in dem ich unmittelbar schalte
und walte: und insonderheit walte in jedem seiner Organe -. Ich nehme, mit den Hnden kinsthetisch tastend, mit
den Augen ebenso sehend usw., wahr und kann jederzeit so wahrnehmen, wobei diese Kinsthesen der Organe im
Ich tue verlaufen und meinem Ich kann unterstehen.; ferner kann ich, diese Kinsthesen ins Spielsetzend, stoen,
schieben usw. und dadurch unmittelbar und dann mittelbar leiblich handeln. Wahrnehmend ttig erfahre ich (oder
kann ich erfahren) alle Natur, darunter die eigene Leiblichkeit, die darin also auf sich selbst zurckbezogen ist.
Das wird dadurch mglich, da ich jeweils mittelst der einen Hand die andere, mittelst einer Hand ein Auge usw.
wahrnehmen kann, wobei fungierendes Organ zum Objekt und Objekt zum fungierenden Organ werden mu. Und
ebenso fr das allgemein mgliche ursprngliche Behandeln der Natur und der Leiblichkeit selbst durch die
Leiblichkeit, die also auch praktisch auf sich selbst bezogen ist. Hua I, 128.
2 The great difference with Husserl is that the latter does not face any special problem in organic composition:

my body does not pose any problems in my sphere of appartenance, and the other springs up only with the other
body, through which I aim at an Alter Ego that does not belong to me; as for the animal, it is only an "anomaly"
of this Other. For Leibniz, on the contrary, the alter ego has already sprung up at an earlier stage of
phenomenological deduction. and is sufficiently explained through preest ablished harmony. With the union of the
soul and the body. the other who now springs forth amid my effects -in order to throw them topsy-turvy -is the
animal. and first of all the little animals inseparable from the fluid parts of my body. insofar as they become as
foreign to me as they had formerly been. Deleuze, Gilles: The Fold. Leibniz and the Baroque. (Foreword and
translation by Tom Conley). The Athlone Press. London 1993, p. 109.
Besides, infinitely many of these monades together with the dominant monad, which is always
there- stay some time interacting on my body, perceiving it or its parts more or less clearly,
while infinitely many of them just flow and go away.

In this respect Deleuze says that the phenomenology the phenomenological description of the
transcendental sphere of property- is not enough to explain the experience of the body as an
extrinsic property (proprit extrinsque) of mine. For that very reason the phenomeno lo gy
could not really account about factors of reversal, precariousness and temporality3 which
concern or affect the self-experience insofar the experience of my body as a possession of
mine constitutes the self-experience too. But that is not the only interesting aspect of Deleuze
way of confronting Leibniz with Husserl - regarding the strangeness-character of the lived body.
As is known, in his correspondence with Des Bosses, Leibniz introduced the notion of a
substantial bond (vinculum substantiale) which would constitute the reality -or real unity- of
the compound substance (substantia composita), that is the organic living body of anima ls
and human beings. This bond does not arise from the monadic perceptions neither from a
reflexive apperception (by the subject), but rather it will be added to those, also it comes from
the outside (it is created by God).4

Deleuze thinks that this idea of a vinculum substantiale complements the notion of a dominant
monad: because if we stay by this notion alone - and therefore we refer it to a superior sensible
faculty of an animal or to the rational faculty able of reflexive apperception-, then we should
explain the real union of the infinitely many monades which constitute a living body by
relationships of their being-content, being-included principally inside of a dominant monad
or more precisely: their being-content, being-included each one in each one, according to
relationships or more or less perceptive clarity, more or less activity or passivity. But it is
precisely the strangeness-character of the organic composition which resists such an

3 This was all the more reason for the body, as an extrinsic property . to introduce into possessions factors of
inversion. turnaround. precariousness. and tempora1ization. Ibid., p. 110.
4 If corporeal substance is something real over and above monads, as a line is taken to be something over and

above points, we shall have to say that corporeal substance consists in a certain union, or rather in a real unifier
superadded to monads by God, and that from the union of the passive powers of monads there in fact arises2
primary matter, which is to say, that which is required for extension and antitypy, or for diffusion and resistance.
From the union of monadic entelechies, on the other hand, there arises substantial form; but that which can be
generated in this way, can also be destroyed and will be destroyed with the cessation of the union, unless it is
miraculously preserved by God. However, such a form then will not be a soul, which is a simple and indivisible
substance. And this form, just like matter, is in perpetual flux, since in fact no point can be designated in matter
that preserves the same place for more than a moment and does not move away from neighboring points, however
close. But a soul in its changes persists as the same thing, with the same subject remaining, which is not the case
in a corporeal substance. G.W. Leibniz: The Leibniz-Des Bosses Correspondence. (Translated by Brandon C.
Look and Donald Rutherford). Yale University Press. New Haven and London 2007, p. 225.
explanation.5 Leibniz would have been or is actually- then the first one who attempted to think
another kind of belonging-relationship between the body and the soul (may it be an animal soul
or a rational soul, a transcendental I or ego) [essentially different as the relationship which
underlies the conceptualization of the given multiplicity of my body or the intentio na l
constitution of the lived body by passive or active synthesis of the transcendental subject].

But lets try now otherwise as Deleuze- to interpret Leibniz hypothesis of a vinculum
substantiale with phenomenological concepts [hence we turn off the metaphysical assumptio ns
of this hypothesis]. We could try this way: the real unity of the organic body, the bond of the
organic continuity and plurality of my body, which makes possible both its belonging-to- me,
to the subject or I, and my ruling over it through my organic coordination, originally takes
place: it happens, it occurs [im Sinne eines Geschehens] to me. I do not mean at all a
positive matter of fact, but as a factum of experience, an event of experience (ein
Erfahrungsgeschehen, wie Lszl Tengelyi es bezeichnen wrde). 6 Then it is all about a
constitution of the lived body as mine, but it is a paradoxical constitution that I cannot refer
[back] unequivocally just to my transcendental operations [passive and active synthesis] or
through a transcendental reflection to an application of thought categories to the body as an
object of the experience. In a word: I cannot refer back the experience of my body -the event of
experience that it is mine- only to subjective intentional modifications which, so to speak, would
constitute immediately, without any kind of inner rupture or irruption from outside, my
transcendental sphere of possessions that is to say, my Erlebnisse and of course my living

This constitution is paradoxical because it entails factors, as Deleuze means, which reverse
the very idea of a transcendental I ruling immediately and unrestrainedly over his body and its
organs, [factors] which depend on the many temporal fluctuations of my body and its organic
continuity as long I am still alive. Perhaps it could be shown that this paradoxical constitutio n
of my body as an extrinsic property is someway a fact of everyday life. But now I will try to
illustrate [intuitively] this point on the basis of a description of two phenomena which somehow

5 If a body always belongs to me, it is because the parts that go away are replaced by others whose monads in tum
come to replace them under the domination of my own (there exists a periodicity of the renewal of parts. never all
leaving at the same time). The body is analogous to Theseus's ship "which the Athenians were always repairing."
But, as no monad contains any others. domination would remain a vague notion, having only a nominal definition.
if Leibniz had not succeeded in defining it exactly by means of a "substantial vinculum." It is a strange linkage, a
bracket. a yoke. a knot. a complex relation that comprises variable terms and one constant term. Deleuze, Gilles :
Op. cit., p. 110.
6 Cf. the posthumous work of Lszl Tengelyi, where he develops the ideas of a phenomenological metaphysic of

primal facts (Urtatsachen) and a transcendental analysis of the event of experience (Erfahrungsgeschehen): Welt
und Unendlichkeit. Zum Problem phnomenologischer Metaphysik. Verlag Karl Alber. Freiburg/Mnchen 2014.
are linked with each other: the physical pain and the consciousness of mortality or presentime nt
of a possible, even imminent death if the pain goes beyond the bearable or does not end at all.
After that, I will consider some categories of a phenomenological analysis that takes account
of a contrast between the organic continuity of my body and the synthetic continuity of a mere
[material] thing [an aggregate whose unity is just ideal, like Leibniz would say, so that it
could simply fall into pieces]; or to sink steel deeper in the constitutive stratums [layers] of the
constitution of my lived body: I will consider the problematic of its constitution [the constitutio n
of the organic continuity of my body] in the living present (lebendige Gegenwart) of my stream
of consciousness which Husserl means it could neither stop flowing further nor die. Finally, I
will try to show that a very specific [phenomenological] treatment of the notions of infinity
and continuum7 is required in order to clarify the experience-field of the mine, of all that
which I can express with the use of a possessive pronoun.

2. The physical pain and the consciousness of my mortality

A physical pain can be the immediate response of my body to an external threat, to an

intrusion from the outside that is potentially threatening and therefore must be confronted or
eluded, if it is possible at all. But the pain can be too the symptom of an internal disease so to
say it can be an alarm signal emitted by the body. In both cases the entire organic compositio n
of my body its organic continuity- is implied, because even if the pain is localized somewhere,
it tends not only to call the attention of the [transcendental] I (in order to visualize, to understand
the cause of the pain), but also to produce a sort of bodily [corporal] tension everywhere [which
tends to increment if the pain becomes worse]: an acute headache or toothache, the painful
feeling of pressure in the jaw, neck and shoulders which results from gritting ones teeth by
night, spraining ones ankle, all this seems somehow to involve gradually my whole body
[obviously we can say the same regarding much more serious disorders or diseases]: each part,
each member, each organ is more or less concerned by the pain, hence the general malaise that
we suffer then (certainly this kind of pain implies too the consciousness of a possible endurance

7 Leibniz has preceded the phenomenology on making of the infinity a category that is valid not just to denote
the Absolut (God) or a mathematical concept. It means also the actual-division of matter, also the inexhaustible
abundance of qualities of the living bodies. It means also the open horizon of the monadic perspectives over the
infinite or immense world; finally, it means that if I try to get to know the content of my perceptions or my
reflexive apperception, there is always a certain confusion, also the need to discern or disentangle more and
more details of my inner life.
of my body, of a possible resistance against the acute pain; this phenomenon is also very
complex and requires a very careful description). 8

Regarding the organic composition [and the organic continuity] of my entire body as well as
her relationship to my self-consciousness [or self-experience of the body as mine], what has
been said means [two things]: a) on the one hand, the physical pain, as soon it begins [occurs],
motivates a turn of the I, of his attention at the affected place or organ of the body (may it be
indirectly, through the symptom), but this motivates or is accompanied too by a certain -
potential increasingly- tension of all my senses and organs; in this case the attention of the I
and the concomitant sensible, organic tension show clearly that I am in full possession of my
body: it is a about it as mine; b) but, on the other hand, if both the attention and the organic
tension increase [themselves] proportionally to a very intense pain, then the attention does not
divert to distraction or interruption, but to her complete crisis [her implosion if I may use a
metaphor]; and the tension of the organic continuity [the interaction of the organs which
concentrates on the zone of the pain] which at the very first moment aimed to be a progressive
corporal concentration on the affected place or organ has become the sign for the strangeness
of my body.

Strangeness means here, when I am in pain, that I neither rule unrestrained over my body nor
can expect a harmonic interaction of my organs, as long as the pain does not end -quite the
opposite as when I am healthy and enjoy the experience that I can move myself [at any time]
with full easiness. In this case my corporal self-experience reveals [to me] immediately, without
any need of reflection, in a spontaneous, immediately as my body belongs to me. We must then
distinguish and contrast two kinds of living-experience of the organic continuity of my body:
the first one goes easily and unbroken [when I am completely healthy or my pain has been
eased]; the second one arises with the pain and consists in a certain concentration or
involvement of my whole body [so to speak, all of my organs band together towards the affected
zone or the affected organ]; nonetheless this kind of organic continuity [in front of the pain]

8 I do not mean that an increasingly physical pain either as an affective reaction of the body to something external
or as symptom of an internal disease- is finally localized everywhere, but that the subject in pain senses or
notices (spren) how the whole body is becoming gradually stranger for him, how he is being dispossessed of
it. I think that Hermann Schmitz Phenomenology of the sprbarer Leib of whom I take this distinction- deserves
consideration in order to explain this kind of phenomena. In his latest book Zur Epigenese der Person Schmit z
describes the real conflict, the dilemma which results from the impossibility to escape from the acute pain
both an inner state and an extern antagonist (Widersacher): Schmerz ist in paradoxer Doppelrolle sowohl ein
eigener Zustand des Gepeignigten, eine Konstellation seines vitalen Antriebs, als auch ein auf ihn eindringender
Widersacher; Der expansive Impuls Weg! treibt zur Flucht vor dem Schmerz. Dieser stellt sich aber als
zudringliches Halbding der Flucht entgegen. Statt ihm zu entkommen, mu der Betroffene nun dem Widersacher
standhalten. Hermann Schmitz: Zur Epigenese der Person. Verlag Karl Alber. Freiburg/Mnchen 2017, p. 84
and 86.
could lead to a destabilization [a collapse] of all the previous experiences that gave evidence
for the possession of my body.

3. Presentiment of Death and Continuity of the living present (lebendige Gegenwart) in

Husserls Phenomenology

I want to advance now a phenomenological hypothesis: if my body becomes strange when I

am in acute pain, it is because its further temporalization [in the inner time-consciousne ss]
appears (erscheint) as maybe not being possible at all [or I have the presentiment that maybe a
time will come when this temporalization herself could be just impossible]. The extremely acute
pain shows itself as un-bearable [un-ertrglich] for the I, because there is not any constitutive
operation, even the passive constitution of time-consciousness, which could re-establish by
itself the experience of a harmonic organic continuity and carry on the pain [if it is not eased
by whatever forms of alleviation]. The question now is whether there is a link between the
consciousness of my mortality and the experience of an expropriation of my body by the
pain-event [when my own body becomes un-bearable for me, even for the passive constitutio n
of a temporality that is open to the future]

From a phenomenological-transcendental point of view is not at all easy to answer this question.
As it is known, Edmund Husserl holds in many texts the immortality of the transcendental ego.9
With it, he does not mean that the empirical subject something like his soul or mind- will never
die. On the contrary the individuum perishes inevitable and irrevocably. But the death of the
empirical I is for Husserl an occurrence, event in the world (weltliches Vorkommnis) which is
constituted in the living present of time-consciousness, and this could never come to an end.
The protentional structure of the living present is for Husserl indestructible, invulnerab le
(unverletzbar). If we suppose that the living present of time consciousness could die, then we
should suppose at the same time that further phases of its ending-process are protentionally to
be expected and retentionally to be kept [every time that the phases of the ending-process
affect impressionally the time-consciousness]. But something like that would be by no means
an absolute ending of the inner time-consciousness. Therefore, after the death of the empirica l
subject remains still the living present (along with its fixed temporalization-structure) as well
as the transcendental I that is [always necessarily] linked with the consciousness stream. On the
contrary, every awake reference of the transcendental consciousness to the world gets definite ly

9 For example: [] Es ist evident, dass das konkrete Aufhren, natrliche Aufhren der lebendigen strmenden
Gegenwart, nicht als eine Tatsache, nicht als ein Seiendes, als ein Erfahrbares denkbar ist. Was ja hiee, dass ich
dieses Aufhren konstatieren und immer wieder als Aufhren identifizieren knnte, also eben nicht, dass das
Aufhren aufgehrt hatte und nach dem Aufhren ein Vergangenes htte usw. Lauter Unsinn. Hua Mat. VIII, 96.
lost. Husserls theory of the transcendental immortality is finally based on the apodictic evidence
of an endless, infinite consciousness stream by contrast to the limited duration of the things and
events that are constituted in the living present -my lived body amongst them. After the death
of the empirical subject the transcendental I is of course not more in possession of a lived body,
he is not more an awake subject in the world, but the rests of death as a past event in the world
will sediment in a retentional consciousness growing always darker; someway this
sedimentation is a sort of minimal possession of the transcendental I who after the death of
the empirical subject- is fully immersed in a consciousness without world, also living in an
eternal black night, eine ewige schwarze Nacht, like Husserl says].

Finally, I would like to discuss the following question: does not the absolute, apodictic evidence
of the consciousness as an endless continuum at least turn out confuse, as soon as we take
into account the organic continuity [or extreme imbrication, interaction of the organs] during
the pain and the concomitant presentiment of a possible death? Paradoxically, such continua l
interaction or participation of all my organs [in the acute, increasingly pain] intensifies herself
while threatening to implode, to reverse fully into the contrary to any form of continuity
precisely because the acute pain could dispossess myself of everything what is continua lly
constituted as mine, namely every Erlebnisse (experiences) and aware states, which are mine
only provided that I can attend them reflectively or relegate them to a background, of my living
body, which is mine as long as his organic continuity opens out herself.

But that does not answer yet the more radical question whether the evidence of an infinite
continuum of the stream of consciousness becomes confuse by its contrast to the experience of
an organic continuity collapsing just at the very moment that it increases. Husserl would not
attribute to this paradoxical organic continuity another temporal scale [or intentional sense] as
the limited duration of a worldly event being constituted in the living present. No matter how
obscure -in direction to the protentional past- or indeterminate -in direction to the protentiona l
future- will become the temporalization of my [remaining] living present after my [mere
empirical] death, Husserl holds on the evidence a phenomenological continuum of the stream
consciousness (and with it of my transcendental I) even after death.

To it, someone could object that these continuum is just a conceptual construction, a sort of
mathematical misinterpretation of our experience of the open horizons of the concrete time
consciousness. But the point for me is not at all that the phenomenological description of an
infinite continuum of consciousness, even after death, must be necessarily false. I just mean
that there is a paradoxical experience of an organic continuity -by the pain and the presentime nt
of death- which seems to revert on an irreversible discontinuity or lifes ending inasmuch as
my lived body turns out strange, as it happens that Im being dispossessed of it. It seems to
me that regarding the phenomena of an acute pain and the concomitant presentiment of a
possible faint or even death, there will be always a confusion that we cannot disentangle
[amongst them the intersubjective experience of seeing the others dying, the diseases and of
course the pain]. Husserl himself as soon as he considers the signs that let us presage our future
death- employs expressions that reveal how ambivalent becomes then the use of personal and
possessive pronouns:10 on the one hand there is an evidence of an endless openness of my stream
of [transcendental] consciousness and death is something that concerns to me as a constituted
event in the world; on the other hand the presentiment of my death involves completely myself
and all that is mine (in phenomenological sense): Es ist mir zu Ende (that is my end).

10 So konkret genommen, erhalte ich zuletzt irgendein Vor-Bild des Sterbens aus meiner intersubjektiven
Welterfahrung: Ich werde irgendwie krank werden, es werden Krankheitserscheinungen, von innen erlebt als
anomales Innenleben, verlaufen, irgendwelches belbenden, Bewusstsein der Schwche, wie Unfhigkeit, in
normaler Weise mich zu bewegen, meine vertrauten Vermgen zu bettigen, meine Gedanken zu sammeln, ich
fhle das Schwinden meines Bewusstseins Oder inmitten vllig normalen Lebens, wie bei der Ohnmacht, bei
einer kleinen Operation, deren ich mich entsinne, ein pltzlicher Druck oder Krampf im Kopf, ein schnell
ablaufendes Schwinden des Bewusstseins Worauf freilich ein Erwachen folgte, mit einiger Mhe, den alten und
neuen Lebensfaden, das Vorher und das Jetzt, wieder zu verknpfen, wobei ein Stck unerfahrene Welt, als
erfahrbar, aber von mir nicht wirklich erfahren und selbst erfahrbar gewesen (da mein Vermgen geschwunden
war), sich dazwischen schob. So wird es nicht beim Tode sein; da gibt es kein Wiedererwachen und in dieser Art
an versunkenes und wiedererinnertes Leben das gegenwrtige Leben Anknpfen. Da heit es eben: Es ist mit mir
zu Ende. Hua XLII, p. 2.