Maurice Merleau-Ponty


French Phenomenological Philosopher

Author Quotes

We must therefore rediscover, after the natural world, the social world, not as an object or sum of objects, but as a permanent field or dimension of existence.

The world is already constituted, but also never completely constituted; in the first case we are acted upon, in the second we are open to an infinite number of possibilities... There is, therefore, never determinism and never absolute choice, I am never a thing and never bare consciousness.

We pass from double vision to the single object, not through an inspection of the mind, but when the two eyes cease to function each on its own account and are used as a single organ by one single gaze. It is not the epistemological subject who brings about the synthesis, but the body.

The full meaning of a language is never translatable into another. We may speak several languages but one of them always remains the one in which we live. In order completely to assimilate a language it would be necessary to make the world which it expresses one's own and one never does belong to two worlds at once.

The function [of objective thinking] is to reduce all phenomena which bear witness to the union of subject and world, putting in their place the clear idea of the object as in itself and of the subject as pure consciousness. It therefore severs the links which unite the thing and the embodied subject, leaving only sensible qualities to make up our world (to the exlusion of the modes of appearance which we have described), and preferably visual qualities, because these give the impression of being autonomous, and because they are less directly linked to our body and present us with an object rather than introducing us into an atmosphere. But in reality all things are concretions of a setting, and any explicit perception of a thing survives in virtue of a previous communication with a certain atmosphere.

Since the beginning of the century many great books have expressed the revolt of life's immediacy against reason. Each in its own way has said that the rational arrangement of Ii system of morals or politics, or even of art, is valueless in the face of the fervor of the moment, the explosive brilliance of an individual life, the "premeditation of the unknown."

The lemon is extended throughout its qualities, and each of its qualities is extended throughout each of the others. It is the sourness of the lemon, which is yellow; it is the yellow of the lemon, which is sour. We eat the color of a cake, and the taste of this cake, and the taste of this cake is the instrument, which reveals its shape and its color to what may be called the alimentary intuition.

So the process of looking at human beings form the outside ? that is, at other people ? leads us to reassess a number of distinctions which once seemed to hold good such as that between mind and body.

The number and richness of man?s signifiers always surpasses the set of defined objects that could be termed signifieds. The symbolic function must always precede its object and does not encounter reality except when it precedes it into the imaginary.

Socrates reminds us that it is not the same thing, but almost the opposite, to understand religion and to accept it.

The objects, which haunt our dreams, are meaningful in the same way.

Speech is not a means in the service of an external end. It contains its own rule of usage, ethics, and view of the world, as a gesture sometimes bears the whole truth about a man.

The perceived world is the always-presupposed foundation of all rationality, all value, and all existence.

Suffice it to say that even when painters are working with real objects, their aim is never to evoke the object itself, but to create on the canvas a spectacle, which is sufficient unto it.

The phenomenological world is not the bringing to explicit expression of a pre-existing being, but the laying down of being. Philosophy is not the reflection of a pre-existing truth, but, like art, the act of bringing truth into being.

Taken together, all these factors contribute to form a particular overall cinematographical rhythm.

The phenomenologist returns to the world which precedes [scientific description], [the world] of which science always speaks, and in relation to which every scientific characterization is an abstract and derivative sign language, as is geography to the countryside

The body is our general medium for having a world.

The certainties of common sense and natural attitude to things... being the presupposed basis of any thought, they are taken for granted, and go unnoticed, and because in order to arouse them and bring them to view, we have to suspend for a moment our recognition of them.

The child lives in a world which he unhesitatingly believes accessible to all around him.

The creators of the future, just like those of today, will still have to discover new relationships without being guided to them; then, as now, the viewer will experience the unity and necessity of the temporal progression in a work of beauty without ever forming a clear idea of it.

The eidetic method is the method of a phenomenological positivism which bases the possible on the real.

The eidetic reduction is, on the other hand, the determination to bring the world to light as it is before any falling back on ourselves has occurred, it is the ambition to make reflection emulate the unreflective life of consciousness.

The essential point is clearly to grasp the project towards the world that we are.

The flesh is at the heart of the world.

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French Phenomenological Philosopher