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Section II

From Person to Community

Federica Giardini

The Corporeal Paarung in E. Husserls Fifth Cartesian


The Pairing (Paarung) - 51, Fifth Cartesian Meditation is an aspect of

Husserlian thought quoted and analysed by several authors of the XX century
philosophy. Though, this notion hasnt been fully investigated in its consequences
for the phenomenological project. The paper will analyse in detail the
characteristics of Pairing as a corporeal relation that is, in Husserls words, an
universal form of structure, constituting subjectivity in the theoretical,
anthropological and social fields.
The reevaluation of such a concept will be performed with reference to some
thinkers of sexual difference, a philosophical stream which gives a peculiar
relevance to embodied relationships.

Federica Giardini (1965) is working at the Dep. of Philosophy of the University of

Roma Tre, Italy. She has recently achieved her PhD. with a dissertation entitled:
The Corporeal Paarung in E. Husserl. A Re-reading through Sexual Difference.
Among her recent texts Speculum of Being Two. Politics and Theory after All
These Years, Theory, Culture and Society (18) 2003. On phenomenological
thought: Nuove ricerche sulla dimensione passiva della coscienza in Edmund
Husserl, Paradigmi (53) 2000; Phnomenologie und Geschlechterdifferenz,
DWF (47) 2000.

Corporeal Pairing between Husserl and Sexual

I. A philosophical itinerary
Reading Husserls concept of corporeal Pairing from the theoretical stand
point of sexual difference is a peculiar task. In order to make clear the theoretical
framework in which I am moving I will start by the itinerary that led to this topic.
While working on the thesis for my degree in philosophy I worked on
Luce Irigaray, one of the founders of the European philosophical version of the
differences between sexes I discovered that body and relation are tightly
connected. By this I mean that, on the one hand, experiencing the body is a
relational experience and, on the other hand, experiencing relations is a corporeal
experience. In Irigarays work this connection was underlying her notion of
imaginary. Now, this is exactly the point in Husserlian Pairing. But this thesis
wasnt immediately evident.
In fact, further developments of this discovery and intuition led first the
research to the notion of imaginary as the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan presents
it. This notion has to do with the mirror phase, the first stage in childhood when
the ego structures itself by recognizing the corporeal image of the alter ego. I want
to stress here the Lacanian use of ego and alter ego as the form of corporeal
relation, because it is the same for Husserl.
In a more specific philosophical approach the nearest author to this assumption
was Merleau-Ponty and his phenomenology of the body. But - quite surprisingly, now I
can say - even though this author is the phenomenologist who contributed more to
develop the Husserlian suggestions on the body, there was no way to find the
connection I mentioned above. For at least two points: in Phenomenology of
perception the body is an egological body le corps propre and it is related to
objects and world in general. The relation to the other has little place in this text, no
more than 30 pages over more than 400, as the egological body deals with spatial
objects. Critical literature on phenomenology (Theunissen 1965, Habermas 1985)
shows how problematic and aporetic is to consider the experience of the other on the
model of the experience of a spatial object. Merleau-Ponty himself is aware of such a
difficulty see his debate with Sartre and his lessons in Merleau Ponty la Sorbonne
(1988) - and in The Visible and the Invisible he states that ego-alter ego is an
unsatisfying formula. This leads him to turn towards the idea of ontological
embodied connections constituting the world as well as the single bodies. But this
means also the abandon of a specific phenomenological approach towards an
ontological one, that is, subjectivity and subjective experience are no longer on the
foreground. One can easily see the debt his approach has with the Husserlian analysis
of Ideen II and to the later notion of the Lebenswelt.
In fact, from Merleau-Ponty to Husserl, the switch was quite easy but not so
obvious. For, it is true, as Marc Richir (1998) puts it, that in Husserlian analyses of
Leib and Krper there is a stronger analytic potential, but it is also true that, at a
first sight, Husserls body is an egological body. At a first sight, because this is no

longer the only way to read Husserl. Very recent works on passivity and
intersubjectivity (Zahavi 1999) have shown how complex Husserls idea of the
body is and how intersubjectivity goes along with the egological approach starting
from the very early years of his research (Rmpp 1992). This is particularly evident
in the texts published in the volumes XIII to XV of the Husserliana.
But still. Is the fact that Husserl conceives the body in a relational way a
sufficient condition to justify the overlaying with sexual difference? Isnt this a
case of philosophical saladism (I am quoting Lester Embree)? That is to say, this
could be a sort of postmodern eclectical approach putting together bits and pieces
of philosophical theories, no matter if there is not an unified theoretical frame.
Obviously my answer is negative, as I will show.

II. Methodological approaches to Husserl

I am now going to sketch shortly the methodological approach I assume in

the analysis of the experience of the other [Fremderfahrung]. In fact, this approach
allows not only to give its proper value and function to Pairing, according to
Husserls intentions and contradictions, but also to discuss the way it has been
considered until nowadays.
In order to make clear my proposal I will refer first to the attempt made by
Linda Fisher in Feminist Phenomenology (2000). Fisher considers phenomenology
and feminism as two different traditions of thought and looks for an extension and
completion of phenomenology by feminism. Thus her point is the relation
between two theories and her final proposal is a sort of hermeneutic fusion of
horizons. As far as I am concerned, I think this is an extrinsic way to present the
question, for this approach doesnt grip the specific issues of phenomenology, one
for all the fact that it is not a theory (Heinamaa 1999), it is not a matter of
interpretations, but rather a matter of formalization of experience.
Though, there is a different way to think about Husserlian phenomenology
and the use men and women can still make of it nowadays. I consider
phenomenology as a philosophical method which provides the way to find and
organize the essences, the structures, of subjective experience (Alcoff 2000). In
fact, Giovanni Piana states that the words experience and structure [Wesen]
draw the space of the phenomenological enquiry (Piana 1995:114).
Now I am going to sketch my methodological proposal I have been
developping it in detail in the PhD dissertation - and Ill show how it works in the
conclusions. I propose to think about the difference between the sexes as the
missing tile in the sliding tile puzzle: structures of subjectivity and of its
experiences are made by single elements, the single tiles, and sexual difference as
the missing tile is what allows the different reconfigurations of their mutual
relations. The existence and function of the empty space has to do with the epoch,
that is with the possibility to suspend the order connecting the tiles/elements so to
go back to things themselves and the experience of them (Lonzi 1977; Irigaray
1974; Muraro 2000).

3. Pairing as a corporeal relation

Lets come now to the Pairing, the relation between two awakening or
remembering one another. I want to analyse in detail some characteristics of it and
their implications for the experience of the other and for phenomenology in
general. These characteristics are:

1. Pairing is a corporeal relation.

2. Pairing is an universal form of structure.
3. Pairing is a passive synthesis.
4. Pairing is an association.

1. Pairing is a corporeal relation.

The Fifth Meditation begins with a discussion on solipsism. In order to
avoid it Husserl introduces a peculiar type of epoch. What is left is a
psychophysical ego, who has a psychic body. It is only thanks to it that the other,
the other body, can be perceived by an intentional overreaching [ein intentionales
This assumption the fact that in the experience of the other subjectivity is
an embodied one is strongly introduced in two other points: Husserl declares that
the first thing that constitutes itself as a community and that founds all the other
intersubjective formations is the community of nature and of bodies pairing
At 51, entirely dedicated to the Pairing, Husserl declares also that Pairing
comes about only when the other body enters my field of perception.
Thus, in the experience of the other, the body of the ego and the body of the
other are necessary to the Pairing.
Nevertheless, according to the last quotation, the body seems more an
egological than a relational body. In this case relational means, as Husserl himself
says, not a synthesis between two previously existing, but rather a dual unity (Ein
Paar hebt sich einheitlich ab und hat seine eigenartige Einheit als Paar, Hua
XIV, text 35, p. 530). On the contrary, egological means that there is an ego
perceiving objects and among these objects there is the body of the other. But
things are not that simple. Even in the case of the egological body, the one
introduced in the analyses of Ideas II, there is a lack, the body is surprisingly
uncomplete (ein merkwrdig unvollkommen konstituirtes Ding) and needs
something else. The body at stake in the experience of the other is a very complex

A first question arises then: what kind of body is structured by and structures
Pairing? I will propose my answer in the conclusions.

2. Pairing is a universal form of structure.

Very often the subject of the experience of the other has been considered as
different from the proper transcendental subject of intentional acts. It is not a pure
consciousness, rather it is an anthropological ego because of its psychophysical
dimension. But, in the Fifth Meditation, Pairing is a universal form of structure (CM
46) and at 51 Husserl precises that Pairing is a universal phenomenon of the
transcendental sphere (and of the parallel psychological and intentional sphere).
What does this mean? In order to answer one must go beyond the text of the
Meditations, beyond the experience of the other, and refer to his entire work. In the
texts of Husserliana (XIII-XV), in the Analysen zur passive Synthesis, in
Erfahrung und Urteil, Pairing is presented not only as a principle of the experience
of the other, but also as a principle of experience in general. At 33 of Erfahrung
und Urteil one can find the definition of knowledge as a set of relations. In the
Analysen Pairing as a form of association is related both to the temporal stream of
consciousness and to its hyletic dimension. Thus, Pairing appears to be a law of
experience and knowledge itself, by which different data are related.
A second question arises then: in what kind of relation are the experience of
the other and experience in general?

3. Pairing is a passive synthesis.

Thus, Pairing as a universal form of structure seems to underly the specific
intentional activity of consciousness. And in fact, Husserl defines it as a passive
synthesis, a principle of the passive sphere. What is passivity? What does it mean
that Pairing occurs in passivity?
In Husserliana XIV (text 35, p. 529) Husserl states that Pairing is already
possible and enduring without the activity of the I. This is a very important point,
because very often in the commentary on the Fifth meditation the attention was
drawn on the unifying activity of the ego pairing two different data (Depraz 1995).
Instead, Pairing leads the analyses beyond the egological sphere, for it occurs
spontaneously, with no intervention of the will (regardless of whether they are
noticed or unnoticed, 51)
Secundarily, in Ideen II ( 56b) there is another way to conceive the Pairing
in the light of passivity: in the past a connection occurred and in the present there is
a tension to repeat that connection, but not exactly the same, an analogon of it. It is
a law of the motivation. Given in the past, Pairing structures the present too.

Another question arises then: how have we to consider this past? Is it a

foundation? Is it only a matter of anteriority?

4. Pairing is an association.
Finally, as a passive synthesis Pairing is defined by Husserl as an association
and not as an identification. In fact, Pairing is a peculiar relation, it doesnt tend to
identify the constant and necessary attributes of an object. Rather it sets the mutual
position of the data. I am introducing the word position, for the associative
synthesis suggests the idea of a disposition in space. In Husserls words Pairing is a
congruence [Deckung] at a distance and has different degrees. Every Pair has its
distance [Abstand] with the limit of the complete likeliness, that is the lack of
distance [Abstandlosigkeit] (Hua XIV, text 35, p. 531).
In this respect Pairing gives us back the wonderful variety of the phenomenon
of the other, going beyond identity. According to the Pairing, relation between two can
presents itself as a fusion [Verschmelzung], as a congruence of similarity, where the
overlaying is partial, as a synthesis of diversity the overlaying is absent - and as a

congruence of identity, in case of a full coincidence (Cairns 017895; Holenstein 1972).
The experience of the other is more articulated then the main interpretations
making it a matter of recognition of resemblance or of radical difference and

I am now going to suggest some possible answers to the questions above
mentioned. These answers are possible in a movement by which the formalization
of a womans experience takes place, being at the same time loyal to Husserls
intentions and arguments and going beyond them where they show some

The first question was: what kind of body is structured by and structures
I want to make two points.
The body at stake in the experience of the other is not an egological body,
even though Husserl says that the I is always prominent for itself. That body is
uncomplete, it is an obstacle in the perception of itself (Ideen II, 41b), but most of
all it can come to a proper perception of itself only in a relational mode. In fact,
according to Husserliana XIII (text 9, pp. 271-273), the body of the I can be
recognized in detail only thanks to the awakening (Weckung) provoked by the body
of the other. I want to stress the astonishing similarity with the Lacanian assumption
that the ego perceives its body as a whole by the way of the image of the body of the
other. And in fact, the quotation from Husserl refers to the specular relation between
ego and alter ego (on Lacan and his reference to Husserl, see Schmidgen 1994,
Gondek 1996, Le Gaufey 1997).
But this not the only complication in a new conception of the body. Very
recent studies on Husserls notion of passivity (Zahavy 1999, Lee 1993, Montavont
1999), especially the essay by Nam-In Lee, have shown that there is a Husserlian
conception of the body as an affective and impersonal body, impersonal but yet
subjective. It is the dimension of the drives, of that affective force (Triebkraft) that
moves the body itself. In this force too there is a tension to the other.
My proposal is then, according to some authors of sexual difference
(Irigaray 1974, Grosz 1994) to think the relational body as a sexed body, that is a
body carrying the marks of its complex constitution physical, organic, subjective
and yet impersonal - in the relations it comes from and in which it is involved.

Concerning the third question: how have we to consider the passive sphere
pertaining to Pairing? Is it a foundation? Is it only a matter of factual anteriority?
Here we come to grips with the ambiguous status of Pairing Husserl defines
it as an originary theoretical form, but he is also aware of the factual and
anthropological interpretation that can be given of it. If Pairing is an Urstiftung, an
original foundation, Husserl asks what founds my transcendental beginning? The
dependence from my relatives? (Hua XV Beil. I, p. 38). The problem is thus the
relation between the origin and the philosophical beginning.

My proposal is to think to Pairing as a recursive relation. Husserl himself says

that Pairing occurs at every level of experience (Paarung in jeder Stufe, Hua XV,
text 18, p. 317). According to some authors of sexual difference (especially Irigaray
and Muraro) relation structures the origin as well as the beginning of subjectivity and
of subjective experience since birth, our body was given with another body, the
mothers body, this is the very structure of our presence. This structure repeats itself in
the present, but as an analogical repetition. As Husserl says about Pairing, there is a
connexion made in the past that renews itself in the present but in analogical way, that
is to say not exactly in the same way, it is not a repetition in the strong sense, there is
a structural renewal but not an identity between origin and beginning.

Here I come to the second and main question. Pairing doesnt concern only the
factual, animal, anthropological or social sphere, but also the sphere of knowledge.
Now, in what kind of relation are the experience of the other and experience in
general? Husserl had the wellknown difficulty in organizing the experience of the other
on the model of the experience of the spatial object. A solution has been found in
considering them two separated regions. The first region is the theoretical one, the
second deals with anthropological or social matter. This solution is nevertheless
controversial, as the experience of the other doesnt seem to have the properties that
could make it a real form of knowledge constitution fails in the case of the other
(Sokolowski 1964).
But Pairing is a law of both the experience of the other and of experience in
general. It could be that universal form unifying the different structures of
experience. In this case one has to reconsider Husserls conception of knowledge as
an experiential formalization.

I here propose to reconsider knowledge, according to the sliding tile puzzle,

as a dynamic of relational positions one can take in respect of the different
questions arising from experience. Taking position is a relational dynamic
according to which one suspends and reconfigures the elements of ones
experience, taking profit to the wonderful variety, I would say differences,
partial congruence, synthesis of diversity, fusion, etc. that association in the form
of Pairing has provided us.


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