Phenomenology of Perception

The Phenomenology of Perception (French: Phénoménologie de la perception) is a 1945 book by French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

Following the work of Edmund Husserl, Merleau-Ponty's project is to reveal the phenomenological structure of perception. However, Merleau-Ponty's conceptions of phenomenology, and for that matter the dialectic, do not follow Husserl's nor Heidegger's exactly. The central thesis of the book is what Merleau-Ponty later called the "primacy of perception." We are first perceiving the world, then we do philosophy. This entails a critique of the Cartesian cogito, resulting in a largely different concept of consciousness. The Cartesian dualism of mind and body is called into question as our primary way of existing in the world and is ultimately rejected in favor of an intersubjective conception or dialectical concept of consciousness. What is characteristic of his account of perception is the centrality that the body plays. We perceive the world through our bodies; we are embodied subjects, involved in existence. Further, the ability to reflect comes from a pre-reflective ground that serves as the foundation for reflecting on actions. In other words, we perceive phenomena first, then reflect on them via this mediation, which is instantaneous and synonymous with our being and perception in, as, and with body, i.e., embodiment.

His account of the body helps him undermine what had been a long-standing conception of consciousness, which hinges on the distinction between the for-itself (subject) and in-itself (object), which plays a central role in Sartre's philosophy. (One of his main targets was his colleague Sartre, who released Being and Nothingness in 1943, shortly before the publication of Phenomenology of Perception.) The body stands between this fundamental distinction between subject and object, ambiguously existing as both.

Famous quotes containing the word perception:

    What, then, is the basic difference between today’s computer and an intelligent being? It is that the computer can be made to see but not to perceive. What matters here is not that the computer is without consciousness but that thus far it is incapable of the spontaneous grasp of pattern—a capacity essential to perception and intelligence.
    Rudolf Arnheim (b. 1904)