chapter  9
15 Pages


WithMaxime Doyon, Maren Wehrle

Of all the important contributions phenomenology has made to philosophy, it is perhaps the thematization of the role of the body in experience that is the most decisive one. Descriptions of the specific functions of the body feature in all phenomenological analyses of perception and action, as it is exemplary in the case of the pioneering work of Edmund Husserl (Hua XVI/1997), Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1945/2012), and Martin Heidegger (1927/2008). The body also has a central role to play in various other areas of phenomenological research, including some that might at first glance appear as thematically more remote, like for instance Max Scheler’s (1913/1970) conception of social relations, Merleau-Ponty’s investigations of arts and aesthetics (1964a), Jean-Paul Sartre’s (1943/1956) reflections on politics, and Emmanuel Levinas’s (1961/1969) thoughts on ethics and religious experience. For classical phenomenologists, the body was by no means a topic among others (cf. for a comprehensive overview of phenomenological thinking on embodiment, Alloa et al. 2012); not only does it occupy a central place in their exploration of most if not all dimensions of experience, but their reflections on embodiment also led some phenomenologists to draw important epistemological and even ontological conclusions about human experience and reality (Hua XXXVI; Merleau-Ponty 1964/1968). In the contemporary philosophical landscape, phenomenological analyses of embodiment have recently returned to the forefront of philosophical research, either as combined or in critical dialogue with other philosophical or scientific approaches, such as analytic philosophy of mind (Zahavi 2002), cognitive and neuroscience (Gallagher 2017), developmental psychology (Zahavi and Rochat 2015), feminist theory (Heinämaa 2003, Weiss 1999, De Beauvoir 1949) queer theory (Ahmed 2006), transgender theory (Salamon 2010), and post-colonial theory (Fanon 1952), to name but a few. The phenomenology embodiment is now bolstering, as it provides important insights to other philosophical and scientific disciplines, and profit, in return, of ideas borrowed from other areas of research (Gallagher and Zahavi 2012).