Sensation rebuilt: Carnal ontology in Levinas and Merleau-Ponty

Sensation rebuilt: Carnal ontology in Levinas and Merleau-Ponty

Tom Sparrow

Language: English

Pages: 234

ISBN: 2:00179026

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The phenomenological approaches to embodiment presented by Levinas and Merleau-Ponty cannot provide an adequate account of bodily identity because their methodological commitments forbid them from admitting the central role that sensation plays in the constitution of experience. This neglect is symptomatic of their tradition's suspicion toward sensation as an explanatory concept, a suspicion stemming from Kant's critique of empiricist metaphysics and Husserl's critique of psychologism and objectivism. By contrast, I suggest that only with a robust theory of sensation can the integrity of the body and its relations be fully captured. I therefore develop--contra Kant and Husserl's idealism--a realist conception of sensation that is at once materialist and phenomenological.

The phenomenologists distort the nature of intercorporeal relations and their most significant insights prove to be non-phenomenological. I find this useful for rebuilding the concept of sensation on materialist grounds. Merleau-Ponty grants too much control to the lived body, and thereby neglects its passive aspects. His view that relations between bodies are reversible is thus inadequate. Levinas endows the body with a substantial passivity, to the point that the susceptibility of the body becomes its defining feature. I defend a more balanced position that features the body's plasticity --its capacity to give form to its environment while receiving form from that same environment. My theory synthesizes the phenomenologists with other historical figures, from Spinoza to Deleuze, as well as critical race, feminist, and embodied cognition theorists. To conclude, I suggest that only the plastic body adequately describes the subject's aesthetic relations, and can therefore serve as the basis for an immanent ethics of embodiment.
















Show sample text content

Download sample