The Role of Painting in the Phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty

Daniel Guentchev


The paper examines the importance of painting for Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology. Painting, as the celebration of visibility, is an important supplement to that project. It is a way of exploring the possibilities of embodied perception that does not rely on linguistic concepts. That is, in painting we can encounter a philosophy of vision that is performed and understood in terms of vision as embodied perception. Since in his phenomenology Merleau-Ponty is in search of a primitive contact with the lived world prior to the level of explicit reflection, painting provides a suitable example of such contact that cannot be fully explained through the use of language. “Cezanne’s Doubt” presents the similarity between the methods and goals of phenomenology and those of painting. “Eye and Mind” articulates the ontological significance of visibility. The contribution of painting to phenomenology is not in the explication of the former by the latter and its use as an example. Rather, painting pursues the same goals without the use of language, something that the philosophical discipline on its own cannot do.

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