Filosoferen over littekens | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 109, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0002-5275
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1244



In this paper, I provide a philosophical reflection on the meaning of scars while drawing on phenomenological studies of the body. According to Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, the body as or (lived body) functions as a transcendental condition for world disclosure. Because of this transcendental reasoning, phenomenological studies concerning embodiment often prioritize a form of embodied subjectivity that is virtually immaterial. Endowing meaning to one’s world by becoming engaged in actions and projects is most successful when one’s body is ‘absent,’ ‘transparent,’ or, at least, if it is not in the center of one’s attention. This taken-for-granted nature can be disturbed by discomfort, disability, and disfigurement. Habituation to these kinds of disturbances aims at maintaining or restoring the body’s taken-for-grantedness. Successful restoration of this taken-for-grantedness is mostly understood in terms of incorporation. My analysis of the case of a woman who successfully habituated to her mastectomy scar demonstrates, however, that habituation to a perceptible scar can be understood only partly in terms of incorporation. Next to a decrease of explicit attention for the scar and the discomfort it produces (i.e. incorporation), the scar should also stop being a sign that refers to something else than itself. This is only possible, I argue, by taking the body’s materiality seriously, rather than it being wiped out as a result of transcendental reasoning.


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