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Structure of Expressivity Section

I. Intro:
a. Mans particular relation to his body as being-inside and being the body, mans
instrumentality as a split between mind and body
b. Expressivity and instrumentality as the framework under which mans particular relation
to himself unfolds.
c. The decoupling of mind from body as the decoupling of expressivity and instrumentality
d. Human action as the reintegration of the instrumentality and expressivity
e. Laughing and crying as forms of expression which reveal the decoupling specific to man

In order to understand Plessners argument that the difference between cultural and natural behavior is
empirically verifiable, it is necessary to first review how Plessner conceives of the specificity of human
behavior. Human behavior is defined by a specific relation of the human organism to its body that does
not appear, for example, in the animal. While the animal, for Plessner, is characterized by an extra-
physical relation to its body, both having its body and the same time being this body, the humans
relation to its body as a master or possessor of this body is characterized by a separation between
himself and this body, a being inside this body, which the animal does not have. This difference is that of
being conscious: in being conscious of ourselves as a bodies, we take up an instrumental relation to
them as their possessors, but as opposed to the animals instrumental relation to itself the human
possesses himself by being absent from the physical world in which his body is found. Mans specificity is
thus a variation of the instrumentality that is already present in animals, but one characterized by the
qualities which one would ascribe to a knowing, conscious subject. Nonetheless, as living behavior,
mans actions must meet the same constraints as those placed on the animal: namely, he cannot merely
have his body, he must also be it. This means that human behavior, as the behavior of being-in-the
body, must also be the behavior of being-that-body. Instrumentality and expressivity are, for Plessner,
fundamental and inseparable characteristics of all living behavior, and as such, the specifically human
form of instrumentality must also be complemented by an expressivity, a return to the being of its body.
What differentiates the animal relation to its expressivity from that of the human is that the animal has
its body by being that body, its instrumentality and expressivity are implemented in the same act. By
taking up a position to the body within the body, the human expressly separates instrumentality from
the implementation of the expressive act. By virtue of existing within the body, of acting from a position
not equitable with this body, conscious instrumentality and immediate (non-conscious) expression
become distinguishable acts. As we will become clearer in the case of cultural forms, all human action is
thus defined in its specificity by a reintegration of instrumentality and expressivity, what Plessner
describes as a mediation of the tension between being-in-the-body and being-the-body.

One might ask at this point: if all human behavior is the reintegration of instrumentality with
expressivity, of a mediation of the tension between first and third-person perspectives (mittelpunkt,
nicht mittelpunkt, usw.), then in what sense is this reintegrated behavior structurally any different from
that of the non-human animal? The difference lies in the fact that the relation between the two poles,
expressivity and instrumentality, is now contingent: expression is no longer an inherent effect or
consequence of useful action, but a demand, which will happen regardless of whether produces an
instrumental action or not. By taking up a position inside the body as a conscious subject, the human
being takes up a perceptive relationship to its world which does not necessarily entail a corresponding
response. This is what differentiates the consciousness of the human, for Plessner, from the perception
of an animal: while the latter only perceives something to the extent that this act of perception is
connected with a corresponding response --- a stimuli reaction relationship --- the human perceives
situations for which it has no pre-determined response, that is, it must find a position to take up
towards this situation i.e. come up with an answer (not a reaction) on the basis of its knowledge of the
situation. The fundamental factor thus differentiating human instrumentality from that of the animal is
its ability to fail to find a response to certain situations. As such, the consequence of the humans
shifting of the instrumental relation to a position inside of or unequal to the body is that expressivity
becomes something that can happen regardless of whether the instrumental relation succeeds in
implementing itself as an answer or reaction to a situation in the world. To the extent that most of what
we call culture is constituted by the reintegration of instrumental and expressive action, these forms of
phenomena speaking, planned action, forming -- do not itself reveal the contingency of the
connection between these two poles of human behavior. They thus do not reveal the human in its
specificity compared to the animal and thus do not reveal the irreducibility of the cultural sphere.
However, to the extent that the human being must express himself regardless of whether he can
produce a response to a given situation, the specificity of the human being and of the cultural sphere
must then come to light in those expressions that occur at the limits of human behavior, that is, during
its encounter with situations for which no answer can be provided.

[Section on laughing and crying versus mimic expressions.]

Expressivity, as we will see in the following section, has the function for the organism of opening it up to
a present world of stimuli to which it can react. Without expressivity, the actions of an organism cant
appear as effects or responses to an immediately present world. That these two poles of living behavior
become split in the human being has the effect of opening up a new possibility for it: that the
expressivity, which has the function of bringing the organism back to the point where it can immediately
react to its world, is not a result of a preceding instrumental use of the body, of an action of having the
body. The separation of instrumentality from expressivity, which is inherent in the humans ability to use
his body in a way not merely defined as a pre-determined reaction to stimuli, puts the human into
relation with situations in the world which compel him to act but as situations or states of affairs do not
necessarily contain the steps for doing so. The possibility of finding no response to a given situation, as
inherent to the nature of what would be a conscious answer (not reaction) to this situation, implies also
the possibility that the necessary expressivity of the human could happen without a preceding

This explains why laughing and crying, as expressions of the fundamental failure of consciousness to
come up with an answer to a perceived situation, would appear as bodily mechanisms bereft of all
cognitive intentionality. Expressivity, as that which enables and expresses the change of perceived
stimuli in the mind of the organism, can only be said to be part of the behavior of the organism to the
extent that it is implemented by subject who has or is in possession of the body which implements it.
While every form of living behavior is defined by this double-sidedness of being and having, it is the
having specifically which gives the bodily behavior the appearance of being the possession of an entity
which exceeds this physical body. As such, the conscious form of instrumentality, as a form of having
which is not determined as a reaction to any specific stimuli and thus capable of failing should the
situation to which it is a response be unanswerable, can thus lead to a form of expression which itself
not a consequence of the preceding stimuli, that is, which does not illustrate a change in perceptive
awareness from one thing to the next. The failure of the instrumental stance towards ones body from
within ones body to produce a corresponding answer to the situation which it perceives thus implies
that the expressivity to which it must lead will thus fail to be appear as a transition from one perceived
situation to the next. The expressivity exercises its function as returning the human being to the state in
which can be affected by stimuli, but fails to be seen as the behavior of an extra-physical mind to which
it is subject. In precisely this sense, the mind disappears from the body in laughing and crying, the two
main expressions which results from mans confrontation with unanswerable situations, and behavior
appears as a mechanical, merely bodily reaction, like sneezing or scratching.