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Maurice Merleau-Ponty quotes (showing 1-30 of 136)

“The body is our general medium for having a world.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“The world is... the natural setting of, and field for, all my thoughts and all my explicit perceptions. Truth does not inhabit only the inner man, or more accurately, there is no inner man, man is in the world, and only in the world does he know himself. ”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
“We know not through our intellect but through our experience.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
“Humanity is not an aggregate of individuals, a community of thinkers, each of whom is guaranteed from the outset to be able to reach agreement with the others because all participate in the same thinking essence. Nor, of course, is it a single Being in which the multiplicity of individuals are dissolved and into which these individuals are destined to be reabsorbed. As a matter of principle, humanity is precarious: each person can only believe what he recognizes to be true internally and, at the same time, nobody thinks or makes up his mind without already being caught up in certain relationships with others, which leads him to opt for a particular set of opinions. Everyone is alone and yet nobody can do without other people, not just because they are useful (which is not in dispute here) but also when it comes to happiness.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The World of Perception
“The perception of other people and the intersubjective world is problematic only for adults. The child lives in a world which he unhesitatingly believes accessible to all around him. He has no awares of himself or of others as private subjectives, nor does he suspect that all of us, himself included, are limited to one certain point of view of the world. That is why he subjects neither his thoughts, in which he believes as they present themselves, to any sort of criticism. He has no knowledge of points of view. For him men are empty heads turned towards one single, self-evident world where everything takes place, even dreams, which are, he thinks, in his room, and even thinking, since it is not distinct from words.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“Our view of man will remain superficial so long as we fail to go back to that origin [of silence], so long as we fail to find, beneath the chatter of words, the primordial silence, and as long as we do not describe the action which breaks this silence. the spoken word is a gesture, and its meaning, a world.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“We must therefore rediscover, after the natural world, the social world, not as an object or sum of objects, but as a permanent field or dimension of existence.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“Because we are in the world, we are condemned to meaning, and we cannot do or say anything without its acquiring a name in history.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“Language transcends us and yet we speak.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“Nothing determines me from outside, not because nothing acts upon me, but, on the contrary, because I am from the start outside myself and open to the world.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“Visible and mobile, my body is a thing among things; it's caught in the fabric of the world, and its cohesion is that of a thing. But, because it moves itself and sees, it holds things in a circle around itself.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
“Science manipulates things and gives up living in them. It makes its own limited models of things; operating upon these indices or variables to effect whatever transformations are permitted by their definition, it comes face to face with the real world only at rare intervals. Science is and always will be that admirably active, ingenious, and bold way of thinking whose fundamental bias is to treat everything as though it were an object-in-general - as though it meant nothing to us and yet was predestined for our own use.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, L'Œil et l'Esprit
“All thought of something is at the same time self-consciousness [...] At the root of all our experiences and all our reflections, we find [...] a being which immediately recognises itself, [...] and which knows its own existence, not by observation and as a given fact, nor by inference from any idea of itself, but through direct contact with that existence. Self-consciousness is the very being of mind in action.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“The flesh is at the heart of the world.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible
“To ask for an explanation is to explain the obscure by the more obscure.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
“The phenomenological world is not the bringing to explicit expression of a pre-existing being, but the laying down of being. Philosophy is not the reflection of a pre-existing truth, but, like art, the act of bringing truth into being.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“It is the essence of certainty to be established only with reservations.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“The full meaning of a language is never translatable into another. We may speak several languages but one of them always remains the one in which we live. In order completely to assimilate a language it would be necessary to make the world which it expresses one's own and one never does belong to two worlds at once.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“Language signifies when instead of copying thought it lets itself be taken apart and put together again by thought. Language bears the sense of thought as a footprint signifies the movement and effort of a body. The empirical use of already established language should be distinguished from its creative use. Empirical language can only be the result of creative language. Speech in the sense of empirical language - that is, the opportune recollection of a preestablished sign – is not speech in respect to an authentic language. It is, as Mallarmé said, the worn coin placed silently in my hand. True speech, on the contrary - speech which signifies, which finally renders "l'absente de tous bouquets" present and frees the sense captive in the thing - is only silence in respect to empirical usage, for it does not go so far as to become a common noun. Language is oblique and autonomous, and if it sometimes signifies a thought or a thing directly, that is only a secondary power derived from its inner life. Like the weaver, the writer works on the wrong side of his material. He has only to do with the language, and it is thus that he suddenly finds himself surrounded by sense.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Signs
“Being established in my life, buttressed by my thinking nature, fastened down in this transcendental field which was opened for me by my first perception, and in which all absence is merely the obverse of a presence, all silence a modality of the being of sound, I enjoy a sort of ubiquity and theoretical eternity, I feel destined to move in a flow of endless life, neither the beginning nor the end of which I can experience in thought, since it is my living self who think of them, and since thus my life always precedes and survives itself.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“The number and richness of man’s signifiers always surpasses the set of defined objects that could be termed signifieds. The symbolic function must always precede its object and does not encounter reality except when it precedes it into the imaginary…”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
“The perceived world is the always-presupposed foundation of all rationality, all value, and all existence.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
“True reflection presents me to myself not as idle and inaccessible subjectivity, but as identical with my presence in the world and to others, as I am now realizing it: I am all that I see, I am an intersubjective field, not despite my body and historical situation, but, on the contrary, by being this body and this situation, and though them, all the rest.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“I will never know how you see red and you will never know how I see it. But this separation of consciousness is recognized only after a failure of communication, and our first movement is to believe in an undivided being between us.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Primacy of Perception: And Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology, the Philosophy of Art, History and Politics
“If every statement is incomplete and every expression is situated upon a silent tacit comprehension, then it must be that things are said and are thought by a Speech and by a Thought which we do not have but which has us.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
“How do we know that it refers to the past? That is the real problem of memory.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
“I discover vision, not as a "thinking about seeing," to use Descartes expression, but as a gaze at grips with a visible world, and that is why for me there can be another's gaze.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“It is no more natural and no less conventional to shout in anger or to kiss in love than to call a table 'a table'. Feelings and passional conduct are invented like words. Even those which like paternity seem to be part and parcel of the human make-up are in reality institutions. It is impossible to superimpose on man a lower layer of behavior which one chooses to call 'natural' followed by a manufactured cultural or spiritual world. Everything is both manufactured and natural in man as it were in the sense that there is not a word, not a form of behavior which does not owe something to purely biological being and which at the same time does not elude the simplicity of animal life and cause forms of vital behavior to deviate from their pre-ordained direction through a sort of leakage and through a genius for ambiguity which might serve to define man.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
“History flows neither from the past nor to the future alone: it reverses its course and, when you get right down to it, flows from all the presents.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Husserl at the Limits of Phenomenology
“This also means that philosophy itself must not take itself as established in the truths it has managed to utter, that philosophy is an ever-renewed experiment of its own beginning, and finally, that radical reflection is conscious of its own dependence on an unreflected life that is its initial, constant, and final situation.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception

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