Master of Arts (MA)


Philosophy and Religious Studies

Document Type



In my thesis, I discuss the accounts of the lived body in Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Derrida in terms of the extent to which they succeed as counter-accounts to the Cartesian metaphysical view of the body-object, as well as the limits of each account. I first introduce Descartes’ account of the body as substantiality (res extensa), which isolates the body as the object from its subject, the mind, the “I think” (res cogitans). After contextualizing the body as non-living objectivity in Cartesian metaphysics, I discuss the later Heidegger’s appropriation of the Husserlian notion of the lived body (Leib)—as separate from the corporeal body (Körper)—in Zollikon Seminars. I argue that this account helps to dissolve the mind-body dualism, but is limited by the aporetic duality of Leibkörperlichkeit, rendering the abysmal relation between the bodily nature of Dasein in its “unalive” being—loss-of-the-world, and animality—poor-in-the-world (as distinguished in Being and Time). In contrast, Merleau-Ponty’s account of the body (le corps) in Phenomenology of Perception is both lived and corporeal. The body is lived as the personal existence with practical intention “I can”, alongside the pre-personal organism that underlies the body-subject. Later in The Visible and the Invisible, Merleau-Ponty takes the pre-personal existence of the body to be the element of Being, flesh (la chair). I demonstrate that this ontology of flesh amounts to a dislocation or deconstruction of the body-subject. The account of the flesh, however, is criticized by Derrida in On Touching—Jean-Luc Nancy, for the intuitionism underlying the example of “my hand” in Merleau-Ponty—an auto-affection of touch already found in Husserl’s Ideas II. I discuss Derrida’s account of touch as “auto-hetero-affection” and also, his acknowledgment of the impossibility to live outside the intuitionism embedded in the Western philosophical tradition—despite his recognition of the Nancean term “the technē of bodies” as an attempt to break away from the immediate presence of the Body Proper (Leib) in Husserl.



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Committee Chair

Raffoul, François