Philosophy of Body: Husserl, Heidegger, Derrida, and Lacan—A Phenomenological Overview

  • Jude Godwins
Keywords: metaphysical reflections, phenomenological description, psychophysical whole, intertwining, lived-body, phenomenal body, Leib, kinaesthetic sensations, perceptual gestalt, self-constituting presence


With Husserl, we now know that the Leib is an inseparable “unity” of the “physical and the aesthesiological” that can only be sundered in the abstract, a “psycho-physical property” (Husserl, 1989, 152-163). The Leib and its character of sensibility are conditionally dependent on circumstances. The Leib is not only a Nullpunkt (a point in reference to which every position and every extension are delineated), but also a system of organs. It is a unity of the “material” and the “psychic,” and a concrete whole (Husserl, 1989, 36). It is a unit composed of materiality and immateriality. The Leib or the lived-body is “not just a body but precisely an animate organism” (Husserl, 1999, 97). It is a “psychophysical whole” (Husserl, 1999, 98).

Husserlian phenomenology (Husserl, 1937, 16, § 62) was inspirational because it obliged phenomenologists to make a thorough description of the intentional character of human experience as a prerequisite to any theoretical constructions; constructions that all too frequently only blurred instead of shedding light on die Sachen selbst (the things themselves).

Merleau-Ponty had an unwavering dedication to the Husserlian phenomenological description, seeing in it a safeguard against an abstract theorizing that is devoid of any relationship to facts on the ground. However, even as Merleau-Ponty was passionate about the Husserlian phenomenological project, he was saddened by the details of that program. He was as passionate about the unattainableness of a full-length reduction as he was about (Husserl’s emphasis on) the need for a thorough phenomenological description.

Our embodied account of being human notes with interest Lacan’s recognition of the phenomenological relevance of the body in the constitution of human subjectivity; his recognition of the role of the cultural in the formation of the body image/notion; his appreciation of the place of man’s relationship with his body in any theory of the self ; his acknowledgement of the place of the Other in our knowledge of ourselves; his recognition of the place of self-movement in our self-knowledge (See Lacan, 1988a, 168-171; 1988b, 166-167, 169-170; Lacan, 1953, 12-13). Our embodied account also observes with admiration that the constituting ego of Lacan’s phenomenology of the imaginary is “itself constituted by the perceived unity of others and objects” (Bonner, 1999, 237-238). For, the perceptual gestalt that the constituting ego perceives is, as Lacan puts it, “certainly more constituent than constituted” (Lacan, 1949/1977, 2).

Heidegger, Derrida, and other deconstructivist thinkers agree that traditional metaphysics unduly accentuates the aspiration for a direct access to meaning. As Heidegger indicates, it aspires to a meaning that is directly present to us now as well as to meaning that is eternally present to us, as with the undying laws of science. This leads it to a metaphysic that claims that meaning is immediately and fully present to us rather than that some elements of meaning are absent in our grasp of meaning. Metaphysical reflections, from Plato up to Descartes and to Husserl, follow this thought trajectory (Derrida, 1998, 236). Derrida shows how what is taking place now and what is in the conscious mind at the moment no longer exhaust the sphere of what is important. Happenings leave their traces behind. Two species of trace belong here. The first are the memories we recall. The second are the behavioural patterns that keep recurring when situations akin to the original incident present themselves. Hence traces of earlier experiences influence present moments. Our study will understand Derrida’s and Heidegger’s invaluable insights as a legitimization of multiple narratives and pluralist metaphysics. These insights have indeed a couple of helpful implications for contemporary scholarship. They reopen the epistemological and metaphysical spaces for the genuine exploration of the depth of human incarnation and reason. Psychotherapists, for instance, now recognize that what the mind dreams up, what the hand writes down, what the memory recalls, and what the mind reflects on, all can be relevant to therapeutic sessions.


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How to Cite
Godwins, J. (2023). Philosophy of Body: Husserl, Heidegger, Derrida, and Lacan—A Phenomenological Overview. European Journal of Science, Innovation and Technology, 3(5), 360-369. Retrieved from