Studia Phaenomenologica

Volume 22, 2022


Paola Pazienti
Pages 87-103

Structure, Institution and Operative Essence
The Role of Gesture in Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenological Ontology

What is the role of gestures within the wider problem of corporeity in Maurice Merleau‑Ponty? How do gestures exemplify and complicate the bodily experience? The aim of this article is to investigate the thematic of gesture in Merleau‑Ponty’s production, with particular attention to the Phenomenology of Perception (1945) and the lessons held at the Collège de France about institution, passivity and nature (1954–60), down to the final indirect ontology inThe Visible and the Invisible. Gestures could be understood as forms (Gestalten), i.e. dynamic structures which express individual and collective behaviours, as well as institutions (Stiftungen), underlying the process of sedimentation and reactivation of meanings. In both cases, gestures have a heuristic or generative function: they shape the individual style in the encounter with the world through “typics” or recurring “motifs”. As a conclusion, the paper argues for the key‑role of gesture, in order to re‑think eidetic intuition as the grasping of operative and emotional essences.