Chiasmi International

Volume 21, 2019

Merleau-Ponty, Literature, and Literary Language

Rawb Leon-Carlyle
Pages 355-368

Wild Red: Synesthesia, Deuteranomaly, and Euclidean Color Space

In a promising working note to the Visible and Invisible, Merleau-Ponty proposes that we understand Being according to topological space – relations of proximity, distance, and envelopment – and move away from an image of Being based on homogeneous, inert Euclidean space. With reference to treatments of cross-sensory perception, color-blindness, and the concept of quale or qualia, I seek to rehearse this shift from Euclidean to topological Being by illustrating how modern science confines color itself to a Euclidean model of color space. I discuss “being as Object” in Merleau-Ponty’s later work before showing how color, and indeed all perception, is reduced to being as Object in the form of “quale”. Next, I address discussions in Merleau-Ponty’s work and contemporary research to illustrate how synesthesia and so-called color-blindness are rendered abnormal by this objectified being of color. Merleau-Ponty’s reading of synesthesia follows directly from his rejection of quale, and his use of color perception serves as a rejection of solipsism. With appeal to his proposed topological model of Being, I conclude by recognizing the problematic nature of synesthesia and color-blindness as being ontological, not psychological.