Continental Philosophy Review

, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 141–167 | Cite as

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

  • Jacob Martin Rump


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.


Meaning Presence Perception Embodiment Intentionality Husserl Derrida Noë 



I would like to thank Walter Hopp and Lisa Chinn for helpful conversations concerning the ideas in this paper, David Carr and Dermot Moran for comments on earlier drafts of some of the material, and an anonymous referee for extremely helpful insights and suggestions on a previous draft.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kilachand Honors CollegeBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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