Phenomenology of Perception

Reading Merleau-Ponty: On Phenomenology of Perception
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Merleau-Ponty and the Phenomenology of Perception

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The ultimate ontological chiasm, that between the sensible and the intelligible, is matched by an ultimate epistemological chiasm, that of philosophy itself. By using our website, you agree to the use of cookies as described in our Privacy Policy. In contrast, Merleau-Ponty argues that the basic level of perceptual experience is the gestalt, the meaningful whole of figure against ground, and that the indeterminate and contextual aspects of the perceived world are positive phenomenon that cannot be eliminated from a complete account. Image and Ontology in Merleau-Ponty. Phenomenology is concerned with providing a direct description of human experience. While each thing has its individual style, the world is the ultimate horizon or background style against which any particular thing can appear.

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Read preview. Synopsis Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important contributions to philosophy of the twentieth century. These include: Merleau-Ponty's debt to Husserl Merleau-Ponty's conception of philosophy perception, action and the role of the body consciousness and self-consciousness naturalism and language social rules and freedom.

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By using our website, you agree to the use of cookies as described in our Privacy Policy. He also says, however, that phenomenology is a method of describing the nature of our perceptual contact with the world.

Phenomenology of Perception

Phenomenology is concerned with providing a direct description of human experience. Perception is the background of experience which guides every conscious action. The world is a field for perception, and human consciousness assigns meaning to the world. We cannot separate ourselves from our perceptions of the world. Merleau-Ponty argues that both traditional Empiricism and Rationalism are inadequate to describe the phenomenology of perception.

Empiricism maintains that experience is the primary source of knowledge, and that knowledge is derived from sensory perceptions.

Phenomenology & Perception

Rationalism maintains that reason is the primary source of knowledge, and that knowledge does not depend on sensory perceptions. Merleau-Ponty says that traditional Empiricism does not explain how the nature of consciousness determines our perceptions, while Rationalism does not explain how the nature of our perceptions determines consciousness. Perception may be structured by associative forces, and may be focused by attention. Attention itself does not create any perceptions, but may be directed toward any aspect of a perceptual field.

Attention can enable conscious perceptions to be structured by reflecting upon them.

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Merleau-Ponty explains that a judgment may be defined as a perception of a relationship between any objects of perception. A judgment may be a logical interpretation of the signs presented by sensory perceptions.


But judgment is neither a purely logical activity, nor a purely sensory activity. Judgments may transcend both reason and experience. Perception is not purely sensation, nor is it purely interpretation. Consciousness is a process that includes sensing as well as reasoning.

Experience may be reflective or unreflective. Unreflective experience may be known by subsequent reflection. Reflection may be aware of itself as an experience. Reflection may also be a way to understand and to structure experience. Reflection may be focused successively on different parts of a perceptual field.

According to Merleau-Ponty, perceptual objects have an inner horizon in consciousness and an outer horizon in the external world.