Philosophy Today

Volume 58, Issue 2, Spring 2014

Lucia Angelino
Pages 265-278

Merleau-Ponty's Thinking Eye

The general aim of this paper is to reach a better understanding of the dynamic process that gives rise to a self and its conscious activity. In order to meet this overall goal, I will analyse in detail the three main stages of the creative process, taking Merleau-Ponty’s reflections on the painter’s experience provided in Eye and Mind as my starting point. My argument will unfold in three main stages. First, I will focus on his notion of flesh, in order to explore the experience of bodily feeling (le sentir) that precedes the very emergence of a self in the midst of perceptual life. Second, I will analyze descriptions of the circle of artistic creation, provided by famous painters—such as Paul Klee and Paul Cézanne—in order to reach a better understanding of the dynamic process through which bodily selfhood occurs and brings about consciousness in a continuous intertwining with the world that constantly nurtures the performance of its expressive gesture. Third, I will return to Merleau-Ponty’s notion of flesh, this time grasped in its practical form as a moving and expressive body, in order to achieve a more radical formulation of this same process. In conclusion, this approach should show that the arousal of consciousness, this shining eye allowing things hidden in the shadow to appear, is in some way conditional upon an expressive gesture which prolongs vision and leads back to it.