I recently picked up a copy of “Phenomenology of Perception” by Maurice Merleau-Ponty. I have only been flicking through it so far, but I was startled to read the following in the last chapter (“Freedom”):

“For myself I am neither ‘jealous’, nor ‘inquisitive’, nor ‘hunchbacked’, nor ‘a civil servant’. It is often a matter of surprise that the invalid or cripple can put up with himself. The reason is that such people are not for themselves deformed or at death’s door. Until the final coma, the dying man is inhabited by a consciousness, he is all that he sees, and enjoys this much of an outlet. Consciousness can never objectify itself into invalid-consciousness or cripple-consciousness, and even if the old man complains of his age or the cripple of his deformity, they can do so only by comparing themselves with others, or seeing themselves through the eyes of others…”

Now, a bit of context. The germ of the idea for this blog came because I am a fan of the poetry of fellow Melburnian Andy Jackson (see ‘Among the Regulars’ on my blogroll). Andy has Marfan’s Syndrome. The only significant impact on his life due to this condition been connected with a curvature of the spine (to which his poem I have a hunch alludes). I was amazed at the coincidence that Merleau-Ponty specifically mentioned such a somewhat unusual and very specific kind of “lived body” in his example that happened to be very relevant to a poet (and his poetry) that I admire and which was the inspiration for this blog and the inspiration for reading M-P and PP in the first place. I have no idea whether Andy Jackson has ever read Merleau-Ponty or Phenomenology of Perception.

I might comment on Phenomenology of Perception in future blogs.
For now, here are a couple of ABC Radio (The Philosopher’s Zone) transcripts related to Merleau-Ponty and his philosophy:
1. Merleau-Ponty and the lived body
2. The philosophy of illness – Havi Carel


About middleeuropeanmelancholy

64 year old Australian born male. Into travel, poetry, philosophy, music, popular physics, mathematics (especially topology)...
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2 Responses to Merleau-Ponty

  1. Andy Jackson says:

    Great quote, Norman. I’ve had Maurice on my list of authors to read for a while (suspect I may have something of the phenomenologist-consciousness in me), but haven’t gotten around to it. That quote has pushed him further up the list… We’ll have to engage further, once we’ve both read more…

    • Andy Jackson says:

      Oh, and I have to say that, as someone with an “abnormal” body (deliberate quote marks), I do intuitively feel that my experience of embodiment can only be experienced as normal. Bodies find their own way of being based on their own givens. However, Maurice also opens the door to something more complex – “… by seeing themselves through the eyes of others”. I suspect there is a kind of schizophrenia going on – we get our self-image partly from others, so if we are seen as strange, do we then experience estrangement? Can I be my own Other?…

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