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Contemporary Issues in Merleau-Ponty


(Abstracts in English, French, and Italian)

I - La Recherche Audourd'hui / Current Research / La Ricerca Oggi

Mauro Carbone, The Nineties in Italy (written in Italian)
Giovanni Invitto, Italian Philosophers Investigating Merleau-Ponty: A Short History of Three Generations (written in Italian)
Renaud Barbaras, Research Worthy of the Name (written in French)
Leonard Lawlor, We Need a Name for What We Do: Report on Contemporary Merleau-Ponty Research in the United States (written in English)
Mario Teodoro Ramirez Cobián, The Current Situation Regarding Merleau-Ponty in Mexico (and in Argentina) (written in Italian)
Koji Hirose, Merleau-Ponty at the Limits of Modernity: The Current Situation Concerning Studies on Merleau-Ponty in Japan (written in French)

II - Les Actualites de Merleau-Ponty / Contemporary Issues in Merleau-Ponty / Le Attualita' di Merleau-Ponty

Bernhard Waldenfels, Showing by Words: Merleau-Ponty and the Linguistic Turn (written in French)
David Michael Levin, A Responsive Voice: Language without the Modern Subject (written in English)
Rudolf Bernet, The Phenomenon of the Gaze in Merleau-Ponty and Lacan (written in English)
Maurizio Ferraris, A Psychic which is not the one of Psychology (written in Italian)
Patrick Burke, The Moral Power of the Face of the Child (written in Italian)
Daniela Calabrò, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the “Labyrinth of Ontology” (written in Italian)
Enrica Lisciani-Petrini, Activity/Passivity: The Invisible of Merleau-Ponty (written in Italian)
Elio Franzini, Painting and Difference (written in Italian)
Renaud Barbaras, Merleau-Ponty at the Limits of Phenomenology (written in French)
Mauro Carbone, The Mythical Time of Ideas: Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze Readers of Proust (written in Italian)
Leonard Lawlor, The End of Ontology: Interrogation in Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze (written in English)
Paolo Gambazzi, The Fission of Being, Essences, and Absolute Visibility: Individuation and the Haecceity of the Thing in the Later Merleau-Ponty (written in Italian)
David Morris, The Fold and the Body Schema in Merleau-Ponty and Dynamic Systems Theory (written in English)
Pierre Cassou-Nogues, Towards a Merleau-Pontean Epistemology in Mathematics (written in French)
Nicoletta Grillo, The Subject at the Mirror: Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, and Valéry Starting from Qual Quelle (written in Italian)


CARBONE - The Nineties in Italy

The 1998 International Conference concerning the heritage of Merleau-Ponty and the first volume of Chiasmi International, which is publishing the proceedings of this conference, testify to the development of investigations devoted to Merleau-Ponty in Italy since 1993. The revised translation of The Visible and the Invisible in 1993 inaugurated a series of translations: first the résumés of the courses from the Collège de France, then the course notes themselves, which appeared in France since 1995. If there were signs of this renewed interest in the Eighties, notably the appearance of several issues of journals and collections of commentaries, this was confirmed beginning in 1993 – the year Ettore Rocca's L'essere e il giallo was published – by means of several important works. The works of Mauro Carbone (Il sensibile e l'eccedente) and Paolo Gambazzi (L'occhio e il suo inconscio, which is forthcoming) are based on the recently published course notes and are interested more particularly in the relation of Merleau-Ponty's ontology to aesthetics. But this interest in ontology has nevertheless not eclipsed the interest in his political thought, to which notably the translation of the letters concerning the break with Sartre (by Enrica Lisciani-Petrini and Daniela Calabrò) as well as the works of Alessia Graziano, Stare a sinistra, and Antonio Martone, Verità e comunità in Maurice Merleau-Ponty testify.

INVITTO - Italian Philosophers Investigating Merleau-Ponty. A Short History of Three Generations

When one considers Merleau-Ponty's influence on contemporary thought, one naturally turns to the evolution of Italian philosophers investigating the French philosopher. We have three generations of such philosophers. The Conference called “Merleau-Ponty vent'anni dopo” (Lecce, 15-16 maggio 1981) gathered together the first and the second generation of Italian commentators on Merleau-Ponty. Among this first generation were Andrea Bonomi, Gian Luigi Brena, Aldo Masullo, Sergio Moravia, Giuseppe Semerari. Because of other engagements, Franco Fergnani, Renato Barilli, Xavier Tillette (Italian by acquisition) and Silvana Folliero were absent. In particular, the greatest absence was Enzo Paci, who had died some years before. The second generation of commentators included Invitto, Ciro Senofonte, Salvatore Costantino, Ornella Pompeo Faracovi and Antonio Delogu. Shortly thereafter, Paolo Nepi and Anna Escher Di Stefano joined the group. The last to enter the “club” of Merleau-Ponty commentators were Sandro Mancini and Mauro Carbone. In 1986, Invitto, Angela Ales Bello, Mario Signore, Aniello Montano gave birth to the review “Segni e comprensione,” starting from the idea of a section – dedicated to Merleau-Ponty – of the “Centro Italiano di Ricerche Fenomenologiche.” In 1996, in Milan, the “Società di studi su Maurice Merleau-Ponty” was founded by Ales Bello, Carbone, Invitto, Mancini and Dalla Vigna.

BARBARAS - Research Worthy of the Name

In France, we are witnessing a new development in the publication of Merleau-Ponty's works; in particular, three volumes have appeared based on his lectures at the Collège de France: his lectures concerning the “concept of Nature,” the ones from 1959 to 1961 devoted to “the possibility of philosophy today,” and his lectures entitled “Husserl at the Limits of Phenomenology.” Moreover, over the last ten years, several important books have appeared which generally concern Merleau-Ponty's ontology or the connection of his work to art and literature.

RAMIREZ - The Current Situation Regarding Merleau-Ponty in Mexico (and in Argentina)

This report presents a concise overview of some papers concerning Merleau-Ponty's philosophy in Mexico and Argentina. We point out that the main aspect of the historical context for these papers is Merleau-Ponty's influence on Emilio Uranga, Mexican philosopher of the 1950's. Uranga was the first to translate Phenomenology of Perception into Spanish and he used phenomenological concepts in a critical “self-understanding” of Mexican culture.

Then, we provide information about the work being done on Merleau-Ponty in Argentina, in particular, the work of María Lucrecia Rovaletti and María Luisa Pfeiffer. They both extend the thought of the French philosopher, and phenomenology in general, to the field of reflection and psychological and psychiatric therapy.

Finally, we present a brief report on recent studies of Merleau-Ponty in Mexico. It provides an account of the work of Felipe Boburg, Professor at the Universidad Iberoamerica. It also provides some information about an essay by Eduardo González di Pierro and some basic ideas from two books written by Mario Teodoro Ramírez (El quiasmo. Ensayo sobre la filosofia de Merleau-Ponty and Cuerpo y arte. Para una estetica merleaupontyana). The report concludes with some reflections on how Merleau-Ponty's thought plays an important role in helping us to understand the philosophical problems of “culture” and “inter-culture” relations, which are currently a principal subject of discussion in Mexico and Latin America.

HIROSE - Merleau-Ponty at the Limits of Modernity.

The Current Situation Concerning Studies on Merleau-Ponty in Japan

Research on the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty has recently become very active in Japan. The Japanese Merleau-Ponty Circle has been acquiring a strong following since its establishment in 1993, and each year publishes the proceedings of its annual meeting. In fact, all of Merleau-Ponty's writings have been translated into Japanese (except the most recent lecture courses). The reason that there is a growing interest in Merleau-Ponty in Japan lies in the recognition of a certain closeness between Merleau-Ponty's thought and Japanese thought. But because there is no identity of traditional Japanese thought, we have not really sought to root Merleau-Ponty in the firm soil of our tradition. Instead, he has functioned as a sort of hinge (charnière) between Japenese thought and French thought. In particular, the recent investigations of Merleau-Ponty – which center on three areas in particular: his existentialism; his relation to phenomenology; his relation to the human sciences (linguistics and psychology) – interrogate modernity not in order to overcome it with post-modernism, but in order to place ourselves at the internal limits of our modernity, internal limits which are constantly displacing themselves.

WALDENFELS - Showing by Words: Merleau-Ponty and the Linguistic Turn

Taking into account authors like Husserl, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Searle, Foucault, and Proust, the author tries to show how Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of language avoids the alternative of either founding language in experience or submitting experience to pre-existing linguistic structures and rules. “Showing by words” means going between seeing and speaking. This practice is stimulated by the paradox of creative expression: “speaking and writing means translating experience which however only becomes a text by the words it evokes”.


An intrinsic delay is hidden in every philosophy which intends to determine the conditions of the possibility of experience: the fact of experience itself. Transcendental or reflexive philosophy does not strand itself in the sand of the unreflection from which it must depart, that is, in the world; rather, it becomes stranded in the pretense to define the experience starting from a categorial dimension (the intellect) which would give it its structure and make it possible at the same time. This is, in brief, Merleau-Ponty's critique of Kant's philosophy; this is the distance which divides phenomenology from any intellectual reconstruction of the experience. It looks as though there can be no point of agreement. In reality, if every form of being is in a relationship with a subjectivity, a point upon which everyone agrees, it would be necessary to understand the nature of this subjectivity, that is, of a mind which is a thing between other things and, as well, the condition of possibility of things.

Kant and Merelau-Ponty have the same attitude towards psychology when they assert that the psyche represents not only the possibility of an individual conscience, of an interiority, but also the possibility of a universal science. In other words, there is a psyche which is in and of the world (that is, empirical), and a psyche which assures the constitution of the world (that is, transcendental). But, its place is neither empirical nor transcendental. Only if one liberates the psyche from psychology, will one be able to have at the same time the genesis (singular and sensible) of a world that does not happen beyond the world, and the structure (universal and logical) of the same world, which continues to have value beyond its real genesis.

The Origin of the Truth, the title Merleau-Ponty intended to give to The Visible and the Invisible, concerns this difference and postulates, as one of the working note says, “a psyche which is not the one of psychology.”

BURKE - The Moral Power of the Face of the Child

One of the major programs of UNICEF is called “Adjustment with a Human Face”. It argues that any `model' for the economic, industrial, and military development of third world countries is justified only if it is applied with a human face, with a profound moral sensitivity to the needs and rights of all persons, as expressed in the face of the child. But the problem which UNICEF confronts theoretically and practically in this project would seeem to the be absence of, and the consequent need for, a theory of the person as other on which to ground any claim for the irreducible moral worth of children. If UNICEF were to consult certain philosophies, such as British empiricism or transcendental phenomenology, it may find only various and subtle forms of the forgetfulness of the face of the child. The purpose of the present essay is to focus on the writings of Maurice Merleau-Ponty to see if we can find there a theory of intersubjectivity and the foundation of human rights commensurate with UNICEF's program for justice in our world. Such a theory, if defensible, could constitute a significant aspect of the moral heritage of Merleau-Ponty.

Merleau-Ponty offers two arguments for the person as other. The first is a genetic argument, showing that otherness is a constitutive dimension of personhood. The second is a phenomenologicl argument centered on the reversibility of the touching and the touched, of subject and object, wherein the person as other is given in an originary way. These arguments are examined in the light of two texts, written in the 1980's and signed by Emmanuel Lévinas, which would question whether the social relation and/or the ethical relation could be established through intercorporeity. In these essays, Lévinas argues, contrary to Merleau-Ponty, that the ethical relation is beyond knowledge and within the modality of the gift. Is it to Lévinas, then, rather than to Merleau-Ponty that UNICEF should turn to find the philosophical framework adequate to its commitment to the moral power of the face of the child?

Contrary to Lévinas, this essay purports to demonstrate that a) Merleau-Ponty's reversibility schema does not preclude affirmation of what is irreducibly Other in the other but provides the common ground, lacking in Lévinas, for ethical communication, and that b) if `the gift' is ever to be received, the ethical relation will have to be conceived in terms of what Merleau-Ponty understands by a “humanism in extension” and “Virtu”. Thus, as part of its heritage, Merleau-Ponty's thought can form the theoretical and practical foundation for UNICEF's commitment to the moral power of the face of the child.

CALABRO' - Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the “Labyrinth of Ontology”

This paper is based on a series of unpublished manuscripts by Merleau-Ponty. It refers especially to Esquisse ontologique (March, 1959 [?]), which is part of the manuscript entitled “Projets et plan du livre en vue depuis 1958” (boîte III, D.M.O., B.N.F.), along with the annotations of September 23rd 1958, entitled “Pour l'ontologie” (boîte IV, D.M.O., B.N.F.), and the annotations of the 6th and 7th of October 1958 (boîte III, D.M.O., B.N.F.).

My choice of these particular documents from Merleau-Ponty's unpublished works is not random. The philosophical journey starts when Merleau-Ponty seems to break with his past considerations on time, space, and movement, and thus on nature, man and being in general. At this point, the relations between phenomenology, ontology, and Gestaltpsychologie become intrinsically linked.

Taking his inspiration from the criticism of 1) the science which encapsulates the idea of an “in itself” and of the survol which assumes an absolute spectator; 2) the reflective philosophy which replaces the possible with a sort of “actualism” without taking into account the unreflective and therefore passes directly to the One; 3) the speculative concept which implies an in principle access to being, Merleau-Ponty catches a glimpse of a solution to the problem of the relation between the koinoV kosµoV and the idioV kosµoV, a solution which is neither dualist nor immanentist. We have to speak – “ce sera la tâche de toute philosophie” – of the “dédoublement” of one over the other.

As a matter of fact, as Merleau-Ponty says in Esquisse ontologique, “ce qui manque toujours c'est un monde à plusieurs entrées: ou il y en a une, ou il y en a une infinité. Il n'y en pas plusieurs (ce qui veut dire une en plus ... Offenheit).” The Befragung does not consist in a reflection on the world or in an analysis of the world, but rather in a descent towards sense (a world of flesh and blood), “dévoilement du sens qui est en même temps latence.” It is a question of acknowledging the essential double-vision of the Besinnung just at the stage when it becomes Ruckfrage. This enables us to say that “l'Offenheit de l'Umwelt et l'ouverture du percevant sont même chose. C'est dans les choses que se trouve le rapport dit de connaissance.”

In a small marginal comment to L'interrogation de l'Etre brut, Merleau-Ponty responds to the question “où est la chose?, Où est la montagne Sainte Victoire?”, by saying “pas de ponctuel. Le est toujours anticipé ou dépassé, jamais en un point.” This means then that the previously mentioned Offenheit is constitutively “en haillons.” But, is it the case perhaps that this fragmentary approach to philosophy is leading us to perceive a new, final silence? The philosophical question is not hushed up; it forever begins anew.

LISCIANI-PETRINI - Activity/Passivity: The Invisible of Merleau-Ponty

If there is a concern which runs through all of Merleau-Ponty's work, it is that which is first elaborated in The Structure of Behavior: the return to a total picture of reality made up not of “things”, “articulated objects”, or “substances”, but rather of “lines of force.” In other words, for the French philosopher, one is trying from the beginning to arrive at a view of the world seen not as “substantial reality”, but rather as a system of related concordances”.

One of the theoretical starting points for this strand of thinking is the “particular case” of hands touching each other – an example taken, significantly, from Husserl. In fact, this “phenomenon”, with its specific sort of “reversibility”, shows that each relational pole finds its true identity through the other, starting from the other. Therefore from “a kind of reflection”, an uninterrupted exchange proceeds from one to the other. All of this allows us to glimpse a kind of connection (which had been completely unknown) in which the poles are not there, do not pre-exist (they cannot pre-exist) the relationship itself.

Here begins an ontological vision that is genuinely new, a vision in which the concepts of “substance”, “material”, “identity”, “time”, and “space” can no longer function. Now reality is presented as a “propagation” of “reflections” (of relationships) in which each element is the “zero-point”, “the nucleus of absence” in which the “rays of the world” meet one another.

But, here a “vertiginous” procedure really begins. If the world is a diffuse “pattern” of already present reflections (“in act”), then no one can explain why it happens, why this “pattern” exists: it is given. Just as in the “particular case” of hands touching each other – in which it is impossible to “coincide” with the moment in which the hand that is being touched gives itself as “passive material” for the activity of the other hand – that precise moment in fact, if reflexively considered, has already become something “constituted”, “in act.” This is, therefore, “the background which cannot be brought to reflection” – the true “invisible” – on which, literally, the whole “activity” flow diffused in the world is suspended.

In the end, on the basis of the whole relationship, there is a “synthesis” always already given, that is, a passivity which needs to be rethought in relation to activity in order to understand completely activity's absolute insubstantiality. In other words, the world is “suspended” in one “possibility” – to put it in classical Aristotelian terms, in one “potency” – that “as a matter of principle” is hidden by the reflection itself. A “possible” therefore “conceived not as another eventual occurence” (Themes from the Lectures at the Collège de France 1952-1960, p. 98), but is “endured” by the thought of not being able to go beyond itself. In its being, thought is, therefore, always only “activity” which cannot in any way provide a basis for itself, and which is made up of an instability which threatens from within. This is the problem that Merleau-Ponty summarizes in this concise but clear statement: “Philosophy has never spoken – I do not say of passivity: we are not effects – but I would say of the passivity of our activity” (The Visible and the Invisible, p. 221, my emphasis).

FRANZINI - Painting and Difference

In the history of the theories of Western painting, the Byzantine debate on iconoclasm opens the question of the visible and the invisible. Worship is not directed ultimately at images, because images have less reality than what they represent. In fact, the image is the reflection of an invisible Prototype. So, when Merleau-Ponty thinks about this relation, he wants perhaps to reflect upon some questions raised from the Neoplatonic tradition. But his starting point is totally different; he is conscious of the perceptive reality of the body, which he defines, in the wake of Herder, as “sensorium commune”. So, there is an analogy between Merleau-Ponty and Herder, since the tactile and visual body is always a unity that is organic, complete, and synthetic.

Merleau-Ponty's investigation of this pre-categorical unity of the body leads him to ontology. But, in the circuit of Being, where there are neither breaks nor particular questions, Merleau-Ponty runs the risk of losing the symbolic sense of the work of art as well as its sense as an event. In order to investigate the symbolic worth of art, we can examine two “iconoclastic” positions: that of G. Deleuze and that of J.-F. Lyotard. Both Deleuze and Lyotard simultaneously criticize and acknowledge a debt to Merleau-Ponty.

Deleuze criticizes the organic characteristic of the lived body in Merleau-Ponty; thus, he re-examines the role of tactility in Herder in order to annihilate the symbolic union of the body. In turn, Lyotard shows the necessity of suspecting (and of deconstructing) a philosophy such as that of Merleau-Ponty which sees itself as a metaphor of ontological unity: the event of art can be situated only in the free space opened by desire.

The two positions are perhaps excessive in their radicality, because a categorical definition of the “nature” of art disperses its intuitive particularity. But the theoretical positions of Deleuze and Lyotard nevertheless allow us to understand the aesthetical variety of the artistic form and the ambiguity of its temporal dimension. The time, the rhythm of time, is the essential plot of the symbolic character that belongs to the spatial reality of the images of the painting.

BARBARAS - Merleau-Ponty at the Limits of Phenomenology

It seems at first glance that phenomenology and cosmology are mutually exclusive. Phenomenology starts from an insurmountable eidetic difference between consciousness and reality, whereas cosmology is based on a decision which defines Being in a way which is neutral in regard to objectivity and subjectivity. If this is the case, then how can we understand the fact that Merleau-Ponty claims to provide a “cosmology of the visible”? Would the radicality of what phenomenology requires lead to a filling-in of this gap between consciousness and reality? Would it itself lead the way to its own transformation into cosmology?

Husserlian phenomenology is grounded on a presupposition that it never thematizes and that it shares with the metaphysical tradition. It considers Being from a previous Nothingness; such an approach means that Being is defined as the negation of Nothingness. This is the reason why, for this tradition, essence defines the ontological meaning of what exists. Only what can be defined thoroughly is able to surmount nothingness. This is also the reason why this philosophy comes to completion in transcendental phenomenology: to define presence as a presentation of the thing itself amounts to a positing of consciousness as the place of this presentation. So, Husserl's approach does not escape from being a “pensée de survol”. From the viewpoint of this “surveying thought”, it nevertheless condemns cosmology.

In contrast, Merleau-Ponty's reduction consists in neutralizing the presupposition of nothingness. It does not go from the natural world to consciousness but from nothingness to the phenomenal world as what is already there. Now, insofar as the world no longer negates a previous nothingness, it accepts into itself a negativity. This negativity comes from the fact that the world is given by remaining distant, that its visibility includes a part of irreducible invisibility. That is why the positivity of consciousness is criticized: the distance which is peculiar to experience does not result from its subjective character, but is constitutive of the being which can be attained through this experience. Subjectivity no longer refers to a singular being, but is a characteristic of Being, since it appears in the light of presence by means of stepping back into depth. In this way, the eidetic gap between consciousness and reality is filled-in so that Being includes both transcendence and subjectivity as its inner dimensions.

How can we account for the ontological meaning of this Being, which is “identity in difference”, in other words, which is excess or withdrawal? How can we give a sense to this invisible, this dimension of manifestation which is not different from the visible but nevertheless not identical to it? We suggest that this Being be characterized as the virtual as Deleuze defines this term, namely, as that whose reality is a task to be achieved and acquires actuality by producing differences. Insofar as the being of the invisible, defined as the virtual, is not different from its operation, it is able to realize itself as visible without merging with it. The self-distance that characterizes the Being disclosed by the reduction must be thought, in a dynamical way, as a virtuality that becomes actual through differences and whose virtuality is maintained by this becoming actual. Essence as virtuality, the principle of actuality, replaces essence as possibility which is opposed to reality.

With this idea of Being, we reveal an element that is more originary than the opposition between subjectivity and objectivity. And, therefore, we are in a position to conceive a cosmology. This dimension of virtuality cannot be thought as a real being existing beyond the realm of experience; the cosmology is always a cosmology of the visible world; the monism it expresses is phenomenological rather than metaphysical. So, Merleau-Ponty is placed at the limit of phenomenology in a double sense: insofar as he completes what phenomenology requires, he is located at the boundary between phenomenology and cosmology; he blurs their very opposition.

CARBONE - The Mythical Time of Ideas: Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze as Readers of Proust

Only a few years separate Merleau-Ponty's remarks on Proust's Recherche found in The Visible and the Invisible as well as in preparatory notes to the course entitled “L'ontologie cartésienne et l'ontologie d'aujourd'hui” (1960-61) and the original edition of Deleuze's Proust and Signs (1964). Nevertheless, even if these two readings are essentially focused on Proust's conception of “essences” or “ideas”, and even if both end with finding the truth of the sensible in art, they are actually more symmetrical than convergent. This lack of convergence also reveals the different ways in which Leibniz influences – especially through his notion of “total part” – Merleau-Ponty's thought (but also, in my opinion, Proust's work) and Proust's work as Deleuze interprets it. Indeed, Merleau-Ponty is inclined to judge art as an achievement of our common belonging to the sensible and to assimilate the ideas of art to “sensible ideas,” which he considers to be prior to the opposition between individual essences and universal essences. In contrast, Deleuze prefers to emphasize the discontinuity between “sensible sign” and “artistic sign”, devoting himself less to the search for the link which still must join the two since, in his opinion, the latter is the truth of the former. Thus, he points out that essences are absolutely “individual” only in the “artistic signs”, while in the “sensible signs” the essences maintain a “minimum of generality.” Furthermore, on the one hand, Merleau-Ponty seems to define the time in which sensible ideas live as a “mythical time,” which he characterizes by the invasion of succession by simultaneity so that “certain events `in the beginning' maintain a continued efficacity”; Deleuze, on the other hand, clearly distinguishes between an “original” and “identical to eternity” time, revealed only by the artistic signs, and a lost time that is found, on the contrary, through the sensible signs.

Even though a general examination inevitably tends to highlight the divergences existing between the different readings of Recherche made by Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty, nevertheless we can see some remarkable convergences when we think about the Deleuze's characterization of Proust's “sensible idea” that he has more widely examined: the idea of Combray (“the in itself of Combray”) seen in its essential relationship with its own temporality, and analyzed especially in Difference and Repetition where, in turn, Deleuze defines the time in which this “in itself” lives as “a past that was never present” and that tends all the same to propose itself as an “ancient mythical present.” If we think together Merleau-Ponty's characterization of the sensible idea and Deleuze's characterization of the in itself of Combray, then we are able to understand that the former is “a dimension that can never again be closed” only because, simultaneously, it also founds a “prior life” which will always permeate its own process of resumptions and recommencements. In turn, this allows us to avoid the Platonism that the clear-cut separation between the time of the artistic and the time of the sensible signs Deleuze makes in Proust and Signs seems to reveal; moreover this allows us to acknowledge that ideas have a body – this is precisely the “mythical time” – in virtue of which we can no longer assimilate the “initiation” to a metaphysical beginning. In other words, this allows us to comprehend that, with his notions of “sensible ideas” and of “initiation,” Merleau-Ponty was trying to bring to blossom, in his ontology, a thought that is, after all, not so different than the “transcendental empiricism” which Deleuze describes in Difference and Repetition as an exotic and subversive plant.

GAMBAZZI - The Fission of Being, Essences, and Absolute Visibility:

Individuation and the Haecceity of the Thing in the Later Merleau-Ponty

I would like to ask several questions which concern an important problem in Merleau-Ponty's ontology: the same as the other rather than the other as the other, identity as the difference of difference.

Merleau-Ponty's last writings have opened a field of philosophical interrogation within which Being as explosion, as non-coincidence, as differentiation, is located. Presence is originarily divergence (écart). One must therefore conceive of a “strange distance” of the subject from itself and of the thing from its own identity. The things are neither identical to themselves nor substantial atoms. They are variants of other things and other spatio-temporal positions. Differentiation is also a modulation. Therefore, while differing, the things are however “absolutely together”. There is a cohesion between them which turns them into “extreme differences, extreme divergences of one sole something”.

One must therefore find a response to the following questions: “Why are there several samples of each thing?”. Why is perception a “differentiation-integration”, “a `montage' of one universal, diacritical system”? This system is not an originary model which founds multiplicity, and to perceive is not to represent.

What is being asked here is the question of infinity. We have to start to ask this question in relation to the following extreme formulation that we find in Merleau-Ponty: Visibility in itself is formed “as upon two mirrors facing one another where two indefinite series of images set in one another arise which belong to neither of the the surfaces, since each is only the rejoinder of the other, and which therefore form a couple, a couple more real than either of them”.

The absence of a model upsets the status of the “Form”. Individuation is not established through a type of modeling, but by a modulation (Simondon). We cannot prioritize either the principle of individuation nor the individual being. The thingness of the thing and the truth of the subject are essentially somewhere below unity and identity. The thing is a Seinsgeschick and the subject is “anonymous”.

All of this radically puts individuation into question. There are “modes of individuation which are no longer those of a thing, of a person, or of a subject: for example, the individuation of an hour of the day, of a region, of a climate, of a flower, or a breeze, of an event” (Deleuze).

The concept must say the event, and no longer the essence. In "Everywhere and Nowhere” Merleau-Ponty writes that one has “to open up the concept without destroying it”, and in The Visible and the Invisible he argues that “Being is what requires creation of us for us to experience it”.

CASSOU-NOGUES - Towards a Merleau-Pontean Epistemology in Mathematics

The aim of this paper is to lay out some principles for an epistemology of mathematics based on, or at least coherent with, Merleau-Ponty's later writings, notably The Prose of the World and The Visible and the Invisible. In these texts, Merleau-Ponty has moved on from his famous dismissal of science in The Phenomenology of Perception. However, it seems he still fails to capture the true creativity of mathematical thinking. Therefore, we use Cavaillès' philosophy of science, and then apply to mathematics the concept of expression that Merleau-Ponty defines for language, painting and perception. Finally, we introduce the problem of physics.

GRILLO - The Subject at the Mirror: Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, and Valéry Starting from Qual Quelle

Qual Quelle, Derrida's 1971 essay on the problem of the “sources” in Valéry, analyzes the problem of the origin in a way similar to that of Merleau-Ponty: the origin can no longer be considered as fullness and presence of sense to itself. For Derrida, the origin is a result issuing from the play of différance; for Merleau-Ponty, the origin presents itself as a certain emptiness, hollow, or fissure in the interlacing of the world and the corporeal self, an emptiness which allows for the birth of the world and its dimensions of sense.

In Valéry, Derrida discovers that it is impossible for consciousness to constitute itself and see itself: the subject can return to itself only by losing itself in the mirror. The self is therefore always slipping, always doubling itself; it is difference and identity at the same time, interruption of the circuit between me and myself. All of Derrida's expressions, however, are similar to those employed by Merleau-Ponty in The Visible and the Invisible. The body touches itself touching, sees itself seeing in a coincidence that is, however, always in the future and never accomplished. Every vision, especially one's vision of oneself, is marked by a certain invisibility, a certain blindness; this blindness represents the “logic of the self-portrait” in Derrida's Memoirs of the Blind and the “narcissism of the flesh” in Merleau-Ponty's The Visible and the Invisible, as Robert Vallier emphasizes. But, how can we consider sense in a form other than that of presence? The problem consists in how one interprets the “unconscious”. Derrida explains Valéry's refusal of the unconscious as a refusal of sense as such; but Valéry does not refuse sense, he refuses sense considered as “fond,” as ground, as content existing independently from the process of expression that produces it. Merleau-Ponty had profoundly studied this criticism of the concept of meaning with premises similar to those of Derrida; but, in Merleau-Ponty, they become the possibility of another way of understanding sense. Sense is not the subject's possession; it is explosion and dimensionality of being; it is the frame of being, which gives itself only at a distance and never by coincidence. So, for Merleau-Ponty, differentiation's activity is not an unspeakable origin, as it is for Derrida, but an articulation which is not nothing, an articulation by means of which sense arises.

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