Friday, April 30, 2004

Genesis, Generativity and Anonymity


Merleau-Ponty moves to genetic phenomenology through a discussion of the meaning of pathology, and the inability of separating bodily injury from symbolic consciousness - "It was through sight that mind in him was impaired." (Schneider, PhP126).

The task of genetic ph. is to understand how "Form integrates within itself the content until the latter finally appears as a mere mode of form itself" (127) The architectonic of embodied consciousness must recognize a movement from bodily content to mental form; consciousness as leaping-off of bodily or natural accident ("spontaneity") and the tendency of its acts to become sedimented and provide springboards for further acts. Thus, "...mental illness may... be linked with some bodily accident... because it cannot be consciousness without playing on the significances given either in the absolute past of nature or in its own personal past, and because any form of lived experience tends towards a certain generality whether that of our habits or that of our 'bodily functions'." (137)


Merleau-Ponty moves to generative phenomenology through the discussion of sexuality. The discussion of economics and historical materialism is relegated to a footnote.

Zahavi describes generative ph. as "An intersubjective transformation of transcendental philosophy" (109)

Husserl says that "What I generate from out of myself (primally instituting) is mine. But I am a 'child of the times'; I am a member of a we-community in the broadest sense... I am what I am as an heir" (Hua 14/223, in Zahavi, 138)

Through generative phenomenology, Husserl comes to see the birth and death of the subject as having not only empirical, but also transcendental significance.

and Anonymity

We can only understand Merleau-Ponty's account of sensation in generative terms. "Each sensation... is a birth and a death... it arises from sensibility which has preceded it and which will outlive it, just as my birth and death belong to a natality and a mortality which are anonymous." (216)

Through this account of sensation, Merleau-Ponty preserves Husserl's view that generative intersubjectivity must unfold itself through a "transcendental primal ego" (Zahavi, 139). That is, that the discovery of generative intersubjectivity does not undermine the necessity of the phenomenological method, which takes its departure from the first-person perspective. We must come to understand the meaning of these anonymous traditions through an explication of the way in which they are inhabited, through the meanings that constitute and constrain experience.

The anonymity of generativite intersubjectivy is thus the 'one' in the cryptic phrase: "I ought to say that one perceives in me, and not that I perceive." (215)

It is important, however, to realise that this anonymity is not the product of ignorance. Generative intersubjectivity cannot be made explicit once and for all, and the phenomenological task of revealing the essences of experience in incompletable.

It is at this point that phenomenology and anonymity begins to take on new significance. Anonymity becomes the freedom through which these essences can change, and phenomenology becomes a kind of responsibility to this anonymity, through which "The world [and the other] is wholly inside and I am wholly outside myself" (407).

We need to look in PhP for precursors to the lectures on the perception of others in Consciousness and the Acquisition of Language.

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