Volume 59, Issue 2, June 2019
On Painting and its Philosophical Significance
Merleau-Ponty and Maritain
Merleau-Ponty’s writings on the philosophy of painting, though widely influential and much discussed, remain enigmatic. In this paper I compare his views on painting with those of his older contemporary, Jacques Maritain, who also holds that painting can give us a non-conceptual insight into deep truths about things that are inaccessible to discursive thought. I argue that some ideas that are obscure and undeveloped in Merleau-Ponty are developed more clearly and fully in Maritain. Even where there are significant differences between them, these are not as great as it might at first seem. This comparison can help us to see the ways in which both philosophers’ theories of art are important for understanding their philosophies as a whole. Furthermore, the views they hold in common can continue to suggest a plausible and fruitful way to think about art today.