The Site of Affect in Husserl’s Phenomenology: Sensations and the Constitution of the Lived Body

Philosophy Today 44 (Supplement):51-59 (2000)
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To discover affects within Husserl’s texts designates a difficult investigation; it points to a theme of which these texts were forced to speak, even as they were explicitly speaking of regional ontologies and the foundations of sciences. For we may at first wonder: where can affection find a positive role in the rigor of a pure philosophy that seeks to account for its phenomena from within the immanence of consciousness? Does this not mean that the very passivity and foreignness of affect will be overlooked; will it not be continually linked to a Vorstellung that issues as a ray of the pure ego? That is, will the phenomenological account of affect be reduced to the cognition of an object, as Emmanuel Levinas suggests? Yet there are affects in Husserl’s texts that maintain their autonomy and resist subsumption to an objectivating intentionality.We may see this in the Lectures On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time: in the longitudinal intentionality of retention, through which consciousness becomes aware of its elapsed phases without making them into objects—a passive synthesis that gives the flow of time-constituting consciousness the form of a continually deferred auto-affection.1We find it again as early as the fifth Logical Investigation, 2 providing us with the impetus to radicalize Husserlian phenomenology.

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Alia Al-Saji
McGill University


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