Body Animal (Husserl)


MK tells me that corporeality constitutes a major philosophical topos for Husserl in Ideas II. But the body-animal makes a brief appearance in the earlier (1913) Ideas in a section on “animalia and psychological consciousness.” Of interest here are the “animal realities” of “men and beasts” and how streaming consciousness are bound up with “animated bodies.” As explained by Husserl, on one hand, consciousness is absolute, while remaining a “subordinate real event within this world.” The question is to how this tension “tallies.” The idea here is that consciousness, so to speak, enters into the real world. There’s the connecting of consciousness and body already in middle period Husserlian phenomenology that does not get talked about a lot, as best as I understand the discourse. Consciousness becomes “a very part of nature” (pp.149-50).

As it seems to have appeared to him, or at least to me reading him, absolute eidetic consciousness is neither static, aridly rationalistic nor abstract, but rather streaming, impressionistic and open to fantasy, and embodied-animate. I wonder if this has something to do with the use of the word “animate” later in the text, where Husserl describes how the “noetic phases” “animate” the material elements, and how this speaks to the relation between “hyletic phases” (sensory, etc) and “animating apprehensions.”

I was not sure when I was every going to get to Husserl. I’m almost sure I would not have done so without having read first Elliot Wolfson’s new book on A Dream Interpreted Within A Dream. I’ll need to go back again to double check how Elliot reads Husserl. But I’m now utterly convinced that there’s more to Husserl than has been made to meet the eye in critical theory. This to me is important, because if one of the reasons that philosophy after Heidegger wants to get past phenomenology and move into ontology, that it might have done so on the pretense of a false caricature of Husserl.

This will be my last post on Husserl until I get to Ideas II sometime at the end of the summer, maybe August. It’s been more fun than I ever could have imagined.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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