Body, Time and Subject

  • José Ignacio MurilloEmail author
Part of the Historical-Analytical Studies on Nature, Mind and Action book series (HSNA, volume 2)


Is it possible to reconcile an objective, scientific description of the body with the subjective experience of being or having a body? This chapter argues that because an objective account understands subjectivity as a function of the biological organism, it fails to explain the complex and often paradoxical relation between subjectivity and corporeity. Contemporary philosophers such as Plessner, Heidegger and Jonas have pointed out the importance of the concept of life for understanding subjectivity. Moreover, through their analysis of life, they confirm Kant’s insight into the close relationship between subjectivity and temporality. It is no mystery that many attempts to reconcile subjectivity and the body fail to capture movement and time, as they often rely on definitions of living systems for which time is always extrinsic. A different and more successful strategy is to invoke the Aristotelian concept of enérgeia, or perfect activity, to describe the distinctive character of living processes. This notion also illuminates the role of consciousness, which at face value appears to be out of time, thus posing an even harder problem. For Aristotle, consciousness depends on a vital activity: the activity of the intellect (nous). Thus this chapter integrates the discoveries of contemporary biology with key Aristotelian concepts like enérgeia and nous to develop a concept of the living body as a center of coordinated vital activities, including the generation of consciousness, presence and temporality, and to grasp their characteristic temporality as synchrony. This view inspires both an understanding of the body as more than a mere thing, and a means of reconciling the atemporality of conscious experience with the instability and exteriority of our body.


Aristotle enérgeia nous Subjectivity Corporeity Temporality Plessner 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mind-Brain Group, Institute for Culture and Society (ICS)University of NavarraPamplonaSpain

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