Merleau-Ponty on Seeing


From The Philosopher’s Magazine, an article on Merleau-Ponty by Dermot Moran (h/t However Fallible)

Seeing has always been the privileged sense for philosophers, the sense that most closely approximates to the transparency of thought, the sense that seems best equipped to render the object as it really is, the sense that inserts a distance between us and the world so that we think we are removed from tampering with the seen. Sight doesn’t manipulate things; it is the detached, neutral observer. It is objectivity itself. Seeing is believing.

Seeing seems always to escape from the body outwards into the visible. We don’t have any sense that we create the visible, yet we ourselves are visible within this sphere of visibility: “my seeing body subtends my visible body, and all the visibles with it,” the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty says in The Visible and the Invisible. Seeing’s invisibility to itself is what makes it approximate to thought, to transform itself into “insight” to capture itself as “reflection”. We are always seeing; seeing can stand for consciousness as a whole. Our seeing reaches into sleep. We see even in our dreams. We need to pay careful attention to all the different kinds of seeing – staring, glaring, looking, glancing, gazing, inspecting. There is a rich plurality to the practice of seeing. Continue reading

Boring Notes on Merleau-Ponty: Time and Subjectivity (plus Lemons)


I recently finished reading Lemon, a rather strange, but entertaining novel that details the rise and fall of a love affair between a man named Wendell and a lemon. There are obvious psychological interpretations one could wield here about projection, possession, obsession, fetish and so on, but that’s the less interesting route. There is a very funny sequence when he and the lemon visit his parents:

Do you talk to it? whispers his mother.

-Yes I do. But not condescendingly. Not like to a dog.

-Does it talk back to you?

-Mom, it’s a lemon.

-Is it a talking lemon?

-It speaks yes in a way to me, but not out loud. I’m not insane.

For some reason I kept thinking of Merleau-Ponty while I was reading Lemon. Continue reading