Vol. 41 No. 1 (2021): The body and its surplus

Through the body: typologies of expression

Fiorenza Toccafondi
Università degli Studi di Parma
Teoria, vol 41, issue 1, 2021, cover

Published 2021-06-25


  • Expression,
  • Expressive gestures,
  • Living body (Leib),
  • Physical body (Körper),
  • Perception

How to Cite

Toccafondi, F. (2021). Through the body: typologies of expression. Teoria. Rivista Di Filosofia, 41(1), 151–168. https://doi.org/10.4454/teoria.v41i1.124


In the first decades of the twentieth century, the debate on the distinction between lived-living body (Leib) and physical body (Körper) was lively and stimulating in the German area. The paper will start from what Max Scheler had called «the psychophysical indifference» of the lived-living body and its expressions. Through this principle, Scheler intended to affirm that expressive manifestations are necessary and sufficient condition for understanding the other people’s basic feelings. After showing the contemporary valorisation of Scheler’s conception in the phenomenological field and in the light of recent neurophysiological research, the paper will examine the contrast posed by Klages between expressive gestures and pantomimic gestures. Through F.J.J. Buytendijk ‘s and H. Plessner’s theses, the specificity of expressions linked to voluntariness, cultural traditions, and to the social and communicative dimension of human beings will be shown. Finally, through K. Bühler’s views and their valorization of the theses contained in J. J. Engel’s Ideen zu einer Mimik (1785-1786) the ability of the gesture to make present what is absent and even to indicate it (as shown by the type of deixis named by Scheler as deixis ad phantasmata) will be addressed.