Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty: Aesthetics, Philosophy of Biology, and Ontology
The French philosopher Renaud Barbaras remarked that late in Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s career, “The phenomenology of perception fulfills itself as a philosophy of expression.” In Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty: Aesthetics, Philosophy of Biology, and Ontology, Véronique M. Fóti addresses the guiding yet neglected theme of expression in Merleau-Ponty’s thought. She traces Merleau-Ponty’s ideas about how individuals express creative or artistic impulses through his three essays on aesthetics, his engagement with animality and the “new biology” in the second of his lecture courses on nature of 1957–58, and in his late ontology, articulated in 1964 in the fragmentary text of Le visible et l’invisible (The Visible and the Invisible). With the exception of a discussion of Merleau-Ponty’s 1945 essay “Cezanne’s Doubt,” Fóti engages with Merleau-Ponty’s late and final thought, with close attention to both his scientific and philosophical interlocutors, especially the continental rationalists. Expression shows itself, in Merleau-Ponty’s thought, to be primordial, and this innate and fundamental nature of expression has implications for his understanding of artistic creation, science, and philosophy.