Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Maurice Merleau-Ponty


Tonight I'll be summarizing theory: Maurice Merleau-Ponty. - "The Intertwining -- The Chiasm" from The Visible and the Invisible.

This work is incredibly dense. We are reading it in our Contemporary Art History class, and it has inspired rage in several people. "Intellectual masturbation," it has been called by some, "bullshit," by others. I, personally, didn't mind it that much. As an exercise, a jaunt into the bog of abstract ideas and exploratory thinking, I found it relatively entertaining. It did take a frickin' long time to read (Truth: I didn't actually read the whole thing, but I've been assured that nothing startling happens in the second half). So, yes, it is very abstract. It has to do with perception and the relationship of the subject and object. 

Okay, here we go:

"The Intertwining -- The Chiasm," by Merleau-Ponty is an exploration, in thought, of our subjective experience; our relationship with our senses, and our relationship, through our senses, to objects and beings outside of ourselves. Through an analysis of visibility and the visual experience, touch, speech, thought, and language, Merleau-Ponty attempts to show that there is no real separation between the observer, and that which is being observed; that perception is limited by the body (the means of perception), and that there is a true essence/substance of all things, ourselves included, the understanding of which, is not attainable. 

According to his view, the individual is connected to all other individuals, and to objects, through his/her similarity in tissue; in actual physical matter. However, the individual is also forever separated by his/her lack of ability to see/sense beyond the skin of appearances.

Through a rigorous mental investigation, Merleau-Ponty examines age-old questions of, "How do we understand our world?", and "How do we understand ourselves?". His answer to these questions is that we are fated, by our material selves. to accept only a nominal grasp of the substance of our existence. He seems to suggest, through his analytical approach, that the best we can do is to understand the complexities and contradictions of our perception, and to remember that everything is us, and also, not as it seems.