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LCCP Seminar "The phenomenology of perception. Before and after Merleau-Ponty’"

  • Luz Ascarate
  • Circé Furtwängler
  • Quentin Gailhac
Thursday 3 March 2022

The Leiden Centre for Continental Philosophy is happy to invite the Seminar on phenomenology and transcendental philosophy of the Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne for a small workshop. Our three guests will present their current research, after which there will be time for exchange and discussion.

The event takes place on zoom. To get the link, send a mail to s.e.lindberg@phil.leidenuniv.nl


Luz Ascarate (University of Franche-Comté, University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

From the Phenomenology of the Phantom Limb to the Ontology of the Absent Present

We will analyse the relation between the phenomenon of the phantom limb and the  experience of time established in Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of perception (1945). The phantom limb is the amputated limb that continues to produce sensations of presence in the body that carried it. In Merleau-Ponty's view, this concept allows us to identify the limits of psychological and physiological perspectives, both guided by a “causal” understanding of the body. Thus, if the body can only be explained through cause-effect relations, we could not identify a legitimate physio-psychological cause of the phantom limb: any real cause is already, as a matter of principle, at the moment of the constitution of any phantom sensation, absent. According to Merleau-Ponty, we can only understand this lack of correspondence between lived experience (sensation of the limb) and known reality (which we know to be amputated) through an understanding of the body as a temporal “being-in-the-world”, where “body”, “being-in-the-world” and “temporality” are concepts traversed by the ambiguity that persists between experience and reality. Since the body is constituted on the basis of its environment and of the experience of time, it is understandable that the stimuli produced by the environment in the lived past remain in the present. It is therefore phenomenology, Merleau-Ponty believes, the most adequate perspective to explain the experience of the pain of the absent in the present body. This perspective is also called, by Merleau-Ponty, the perspective of existence. In fact, this perspective would integrate the psychological and the physiological perspective into the concrete unity of existence. We will problematise and enrich Merleau-Ponty's analyses with the reflections of Husserl's The Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness (1928). This will allow us to distinguish the specificity of the constitution of the experience of the present and of the past. In doing so, we will formulate two questions that will allow us to identify the limits of the phenomenological perspective and to turn to ontology. Firstly, we will ask ourselves whether the unity of world and time that is concretised in the body needs an a-temporal foundation as Husserl proposes, and whether it is in this a-temporality or “suspension of time” that the phantom limb is situated, or whether it is possible to think of a dynamic phantom unity in the form of a vacuum that centripetally recovers the stimuli of the environment. Basically, this problem touches on the ontological nature of the present: is it timeless or temporal, with content or empty? Secondly, we will oppose Husserl's linear perspective of time with Merleau-Ponty's perspective of time as a burst or dehiscence, where unity can only be understood ontologically, that is, in nexus with an open environment.

Biographical Note
Luz Ascarate is a non-tenured lecturer and researcher (ATER) on philosophy at the University of Franche-Comté and holds a PhD in philosophy and social sciences from the EHESS in Paris. Her PhD dissertation focused on imagination and emancipation according to Paul Ricoeur. She is currently working on a second PhD dissertation, on the phenomenology of the possible, under the supervision of Renaud Barbaras, at the University Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne. She is the author of several articles on phenomenology and hermeneutics, as well as books of poetry. She currently co-directs the seminar for doctoral students and young researchers in phenomenology of the University Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne.

Quentin Gailhac (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, ED 280, HiPHiMo)

Hyletic Sphere and Intentionality in Husserl’s Phenomenology of Perception

The promotion of a ‘‘material philosophy’’ among some French phenomenologists (as Michel Henry) has often been justified on the basis of a purely ‘‘hyletic’’ reading of Husserl’s texts, thus minimising the ‘‘noetic’’ and properly intentional dimension in favour of the ‘‘noetic’’ layer. If Husserl distinguished, in the Logical Investigations, intentional experiences from non-intentional ones, such as acts of apprehension that make ‘‘objects’’ appear to sensations that do not appear objectively, he also granted the contents of sensations a founding role. In this sense, sensations found the intentional acts by informing them, and perceptual acts are thus based on them. This is why the critique of Husserl’s purely ‘‘material’’ reading would not be well conducted if it refused to grant the contents of sensation any founding function, to the contrary benefit of a conceptual determination of the noema. Such a reading (Føllesdal, 1969), risks missing the function proper to the hyletic sphere, which Husserl never ceased to think in relation to the intentional and noetic dimension of perception. We will thus see the role that some of Husserl’s texts on the Internal Time-Consciousness after 1917 can play on the right appreciation of the hyletic sphere in intentional perception.

Biographical Note
Phd Student in Philosophy at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne in phenomenology of music perception, Quentin Gailhac is a former student of the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (2013-2017) and the Paris Conservatoire (CNSMDP, 2016-2020). He successfully passed the national competitive examination called “Agrégation” in philosophy in 2015. Visiting Scholar in the Husserl Archives of Cologne (Universität zu Köln), he is the author of several articles in philosophy and a forthcoming book: De la répétition. Langage musical et formes de l’invariance (Paris: Musica Falsa, 2022).  

Circé Furtwängler (University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

Mikel Dufrenne’s phenomenology of aesthetic perception

The determining influence of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy on Mikel Dufrenne's work has often been emphasized, to the point of sometimes characterizing him as an 'aesthetic epigone' (Thomas-Fogiel, 2016), just as Claude Lefort's work is said to have constituted the political extension of Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology. From Merleau-Ponty, Dufrenne borrows much: the phenomenology he develops adopts a concern for description based on perception, seeking to develop it in the field of aesthetics (Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience, 1953). Aesthetics is however not just a region of experience among others, to which the lessons of the Phenomenology of perception should be applied: instead of being just a particular case of perception, aesthetic perception is, according to Dufrenne, the model of sensible perception in general. Aesthetic perception proceeds from a spontaneous epoche: the condition of possibility of an aesthetic experience is that we do not consider the object from a practical or a theoretical viewpoint, so that the “sensible” can “appear in [its] glory.” It has often been said that the reduction was unmotivated in Husserl: what justifies it is the result that it provides, namely the scientific ideal of a self-evident, apodictic knowledge. In the aesthetic reduction, it is the object that solicits this suspension in the subject. Aesthetic perception is thus the accomplishment of the phenomenological function that Merleau-Ponty, following Husserl, attributed to perception: that to make appear the phenomenon of the world, as correlate of the ego, independently of any ontological position towards the being of the world.

In the Phenomenology of perception, Merleau-Ponty emphasized the fact that the world is characterized by a property of expressiveness, that solicits the subject, who never fully constitutes the meaning of her experience. This property is exemplified in the perception of colors: “blue” is not just a wavelength of visible light, but a certain “attitude” of the body towards the experience of “blueness”. According to Dufrenne, aesthetic perception epitomizes this property, insofar as aesthetic objects always imply the affective conditions of their perception in the form of an aesthetic “world” or atmosphere. Bitter and fervent Christianity in Rouault’s paintings, the romantic feeling of the pathetic in Beethoven’s music, or the Greek sense of measure and order in the Parthenon are not only sentiments we can feel in front of these works-of-art but also the very conditions of their aesthetic experience. When perceiving an aesthetic object, the subject experiences it as a glimpse into a new meaning of the world and discovers within herself an affective disposition of its reception, in the form of a “feeling”. To feel is to experience this familiarity with the world that characterizes our experience insofar as it is embodied.

uld we then read the phenomenology of perception as a phenomenology of aesthetic experience? Is the phenomenological attitude of “description” epitomized by aesthetic perception? I will argue that this interpretation of the phenomenology of perception is not a reduction of it to a region of experience but provides the foundation of a renewed understanding of the phenomenological method, in the form of an inventory of the affective conditions of experience.

Biographical Note
Circé Furtwängler is a PhD candidate at University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and a teacher holder of the “agrégation” of philosophy. Her research focuses on Mikel Dufrenne’s philosophy and the relationship between post-Husserlian phenomenology and Schelling’s Naturphilosophie.

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