And here, as the continuation of the hand-written passage in the previous post is Sam’s (original) take on what I was trying to say in Ukrainian in this post (totally forgot about this passage in the book, this stuff has been lived through so many times, that the book seems to be just an episode among all those courses with him, before and after the book, a very useful and nostalgic episode nevertheless). Sam:
Yet, this phenomenology must be demonstrated repeatedly because our culture’s theories flat-out deny it. Merleau-Ponty routinely goes over dialectically the materialist and idealist, or empiricist and rationalist, epistemologies and psychologies to try to break us out of our fundamental “prejudice in favour of the [objective] world” (51, F62 and 53, F65). It makes the body an object like any other, locking it into the kind of relationships that only objects have, relating to each other blindly, causally, meaninglessly, by sheer material power or pure rational theoretical construction. It invents “sensation” to hide “sensing”, to substitute causal explanation for phenomenal experience, which is the ways we have of being knowingly and consciously in touch with reality through our senses and in a sensuous way. We have to follow these demonstrations by Merleau-Ponty to learn to bracket and put out of action these cognitive objectivist prejudices, which we have been taught to take up habitually as soon as we come to reflect on our bodiliness. He will teach us how to access our bodiliness again, reflect sensuously on our senses, learn how we are “right at grips”, “held”, and seized by the perceptual world itself. His extraordinarily thorough phenomenologies of perception will teach us most of all how the body has modes of knowledge and consciousness that are not only different from cognitive-linguistic knowledge, but in many ways are more important to life, to what we know and must know. After all, the main purpose in Part I is to introduce us to the phenomenological body so that we can access it and start to find out how it understands phenomena.
Our purpose is to gain familiarity with the phenomenological body, here its region of perceptual consciousness, by means of presenting Merleau-Ponty’s descriptions of it, for no one has come close to such a contribution to a phenomenology of perception. It is not our purpose to reargue his position, nor argue against our age’s thoroughly dominant cognitivist theories that turn sensing into sensation and perceiving into representation. So let’s re-describe Merleau-Ponty’s descriptions and put them in our context of learning about the phenomenological body in order to help us learn how to do a body phenomenology.
It’s a matter of seeing how sensing or perceiving is a mode of knowing the world without that knowledge being due to “mind” or the cognitive-linguistic region. It is almost an unshakeable theoretical prejudice that any knowledge of things, others or the world or even ourselves that we get through the senses is due entirely to mental processes (“syntheses” or “constructions” said the rationalists, “associations” said the empiricists). The senses with their sensations were then taken to be mere “data”, “sense-data” or “impressions”, blind impacts that were caused physically by the outside world. The senses were indeed taken to belong to a body, but a body that was defined as an object among other objects. The ‘consciousness’, ‘understanding’, ‘knowledge’ that Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger and Nietzsche found as a real part of bodily life itself, from emotions to practical action and now perception, was always attributed to mind, to mind somehow mixing itself up with the body or using it as an instrument like any other tool. Of course, this Cartesian dualism produced the key epistemological, metaphysical and ethical bias for philosophy for the next 500 years: How is it conceivable that totally distinctive spiritual/mind/soul substance and “pure subjectivity” can interact or even relate itself to sheer material substance like the bodies of things or humans? One of the most attractive aspects about phenomenology even in its early idealist phases like Husserl’s was that it started to show ways to overcome this subject-object split and mind-body dualism, through just describing the way we are. These descriptions show repeatedly that this dualism is indeed some kind of theoretical prejudice although almost inescapable for our historical period. Rather, our life smoothly integrates mind and body. Bodily intuition, sensitivity and know-how are often more knowledgeable and acutely conscious of the world than our ‘reason’ or ‘mind’ could ever be. Thus it is so important for us to bring home to ourselves, learn to see, following Merleau-Ponty’s lead, how perceptual bodily consciousness is a non-cognitive mode of knowing, one that has its own distinctive logos and reflexivity and its own ways of opening up and disclosing the world and itself.
(BOMM 77-9, digital)