The Living Body as the Origin of Culture: What the Shift in Husserl’s Notion of “Expression” Tells us About Cultural Objects

Husserl Studies 25 (1):57-79 (2009)
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Husserl’s philosophy of culture relies upon a person’s body being expressive of the person’s spirit, but Husserl’s analysis of expression in Logical Investigations is inadequate to explain this bodily expressiveness. This paper explains how Husserl’s use of “expression” shifts from LI to Ideas II and argues that this shift is explained by Husserl’s increased understanding of the pervasiveness of sense in subjective life and his increased appreciation for the unity of the person. I show how these two developments allow Husserl to better describe the bodily expressiveness that is the source of culture. Husserl’s account of culture is thoroughly intentionalistic, but it does not emphasize thought at the expense of embodiment. Culture originates not in an abstract subjectivity, but by persons’ expressing themselves physically in the world. By seeing how Husserl develops his mature position on bodily expressiveness, we can better appreciate the meaningfulness and the bodily concreteness of cultural objects.


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Molly Brigid McGrath
Assumption College