Making sense of the lived body and the lived world: meaning and presence in Husserl, Derrida and Noë

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I argue that Husserl’s transcendental account of the role of the lived body in sense-making is a precursor to Alva Noë’s recent work on the enactive, embodied mind, specifically his notion of “sensorimotor knowledge” as a form of embodied sense-making that avoids representationalism and intellectualism. Derrida’s deconstructive account of meaning—developed largely through a critique of Husserl—relies on the claim that meaning is structured through the complication of the “interiority” of consciousness by an “outside,” and thus might be thought to lend itself to theories of mind such as Noë’s that emphasize the ways in which sense-making occurs outside the head. But while Derrida’s notion of “contamination” rightly points to an indeterminateness of meaning in an outside, extended, concrete lived world, he ultimately reduces meaning to a structure of signification. This casts indeterminateness in terms of absence, ignoring the presence of non-linguistic phenomena of embodied sense-making central to both the contemporary enactivist program and to the later Husserl, who is able to account for the indeterminateness of meaning in lived experience through his distinction between sense (Sinn) and more exact linguistic meaning (Bedeutung). Husserl’s transcendental theory of meaning also allows for a substantive contribution to sense-making from the side of the perceived object—an aspect missing from Noë’s account. Thus, in contrast to Derrida and to Noë, Husserl accounts for sense-making in terms of both the lived body and the lived world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-167
Number of pages27
JournalContinental Philosophy Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


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