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Chiasmi International

Volume 16, 2014

Between Yesterday and Tomorrow

Leonard Lawlor
Pages 293-305

Nascency and Memory: Reflections on Véronique Fóti’s Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty

This is a review essay on Véronique Fóti’s Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty. It attempts to display the pattern that constitutes “the in filigree tracings” of Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty. In other words, it reconstructs the conceptual features that go into the “unthought” of expression that Véronique Fóti has given us. The reconstruction takes place in two steps. The first reconstructs the concept of expression itself as Fóti sees it in Merleau-Ponty’s thought. Here, we follow Fóti’s analysis and resolution of what Merleau-Ponty himself called “the paradox of expression.” Fóti’s “resolution” of the paradox takes us then to a second step, in which we determine Fóti’s “radicalization” of the paradox. The radicalization of the paradox takes place through specific criticisms that Fóti levels against Merleau-Ponty’s writings on painting. These criticisms allow us to see that the unthought of expression lies in nascency. Fóti’s new concept of expression revolves around the idea of nascency. Nascency allows Fóti not only to envision a metaphysics of expression but also and especially an ethics. However, Fóti’s stress of nascency raises a difficult question that she does not pose. While the word “nascency” appears countless times in Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty, the word “death,” as far as I can tell, appears only twice in the entire book. I argue that the absence of death in Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty conjoined with the stress of nascency opens out onto the question of memory, hence the title of my presentation, “Nascency and Memory.” Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty exhibits a compelling combination of modesty and ambition. Undoubtedly, the modesty results from Fóti’s long-standing devotion to Merleau-Ponty’s thought. This devotion, however, did not stop her from recognizing the “failures” of Merleau-Ponty’s thinking. The ability to see beyond the thinking to which one is most devoted is truly one of the marks of a great philosopher.

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