Volume 15, 2013
Existence, Diacritics, Animality
Ecrire la Chair
L’expression diacritique chez Merleau-Ponty
Merleau-Ponty acknowledges several levels of ‘expression’ running from the most basic forms of sensation to painting, poetry and philosophy. This essay concentrates on his notion of ‘diacritical perception’ as key to this expressive continuum. It shows how Merleau-Ponty makes the radical move of bringing together phenomenological description with structural linguistics to reveal how perception is fundamentally structured like language. It also suggests that this move is part of his overall pursuit of an ‘indirect ontology’. Expression operates by an ‘indirect method’ of gaps, elisions, folds, latencies, absences, hollows, silences, lacunas – or what Merleau-Ponty calls ‘negativities that are not nothing’: nothing but the non-being which reveals being. The radical implications of ‘diacritical perception’ are powerfully explored in Merleau-Ponty’s Collège de France seminar Le monde sensible et le monde de l’expression (1953) and in his late essay ‘Indirect Language and the Voices of Silence’. To perceive diacritically is to read and write the flesh.