The concept of ‘body schema’ in Merleau-Ponty’s account of embodied subjectivity 1
The phenomenological point of view of the body is usually appreciated for having introduced the notion of the ‘lived’ body. We cannot merely analyse and explain the body as one of the elements of the world of objects. We must also describe it, for example, as the center of our perspective on the world, the place where our sensing is ‘localised’, the agens which directly executes our intentions. However, in Husserl, the idea of the body as lived primarily complements his objectivism: the body (Leib) is an objective and mental reality, a ‘double unity’, as he writes. In contrast, Merleau-Ponty’s later considerations of the body in Phenomenology of Perception tend to the idea of a circular relationship between the objective and subjective dimensions of the body – between the objective and the lived.
One of the means to overcome the idea of the body as a site of the correlation between two opposite and complementary realms is, for Merleau-Ponty, the philosophical interpretation of an early neurological notion of ‘body schema’. Body schema is neither an idea nor a physiological-physical fact, it is rather a practical diagram of our relationships with the world, an action-based norm in reference to which things make sense.