The Visible and the Invisible (book review) Maurice Merleau-Ponty

210318 second reading, two years later, review: reading again, there is actually more or at least 'different' difficulty. at least for me reading a philosophy text must now go through all the other thoughts read, of this author and other thinkers, fully understood or simply as mentioned, such that clarity, pace, rhythm of reading is often paused, gone back and read again and again. when for example i have to think- did i understand a passage this way or that way and do i now understand it better...? there is the call for reflection on 'reflection' of the usual philosophy that tends to 'intellectualism'. there is coming across more definitions of the 'visible' and the 'invisible', more quotations of proust examined (no, i am not likely to read him again...), there is some argument against ever 'bracketing' the perception of the world, that perception of all sorts are 'perceptual faith' and not misplaced. there is examination of sartre's 'nothingness'. there is some reference to bergson not going far enough. there is some clearer distinction of phenomenological 'how' rather than positivistic 'that'. but again, especially in 'chiasm' essay/chapter and assertion of 'flesh' and 'reversibility', this book is definitely a five...


this is a much later addition (one year): reading 'm-p aesthetics reader' at the moment, has a brief four-part outline by m-p about what is the 'invisible': 1) what is not actually visible, but could be (hidden, elsewhere) 2) what, relative to the visible, could nevertheless not be seen (existentials, dimensions, non-figurative framework) 3) what exists only as tactile, or kinesthetically 4) the 'leka', the Cogito. there, from m-p himself, not much clearer and not reduction...


this is a later addition: just reading some of the 'working notes' and i can see how frustrating, how much must be argued, from these notes that are yes in chronological order, but are notes to himself, notes that focus on where he is going often repeating titles, often approaching it over and over, but it is also inspiring to follow some of his ideas in formation. his notes are over years of thought. he has several sections titled as the final vision in but this does not help fully explain, i primarily feel my mistake in trying to identify those terms: he is talking more about the sensible, visible, being that which i can see and sense, and invisible is somehow implicit but not 'ground' as that too is the vis... well he did write an entire book on these concepts so i should not be surprised it is so difficult to understand...


020416 first review: great work if you like merleau-ponty, if you can read also his disagreements with sartre, his extension and critiques of bergson, husserl, heidegger, if you are interested in where he is going with phenomenology, if you are intrigued by the thoughts in process, particularly in 'working notes', if you do not mind speculative intro, elaboration of thoughts maybe more coherent even incomplete, if you mourn his early death, if you wonder where he was going, if you like merleau-ponty...


now, what is 'the visible' and what is 'the invisible'? well this was the last title and no guarantee m-p would not change it again, with a concluding chapter/essay in which he works the concept of 'flesh', something other than 'empiricism', where he argues against the limiting of what is reflected on, or 'idealism', which tends to 'intellectualism'... but visin first sort of shows up as what is truly worthy of 'hyper-reflection' after m-p describes how what is thought, what is investigated, how this is different from sartre, especially his 'nothingness', which m-p evades, doubts, denies, thinks too encompassing, totalizing, when he prefers how thought is 'invisible' as a 'fold'....


in a way, he does remind me of sartre, does use the language that might precede s but that is where i first heard of the 'in-itself' and the 'for-itself', and how this struggle animates, describes, forms so much thought and human life... that the 'invisible' seems to inhabit the 'visible' in the same way, whereas for hd the 'nothing noths' and so there is no 'thing' of 'nothingness', for m-p it seems the 'invisible' in something similar 'invisibles', and most of this work, the central text which is only about 40 000 words or 160 pages, is devoted to describing, affirming, conceiving exactly what is this 'visible' and thus not much on the 'invisible'...


but there are ideas i have read of m-p before, that he uses here again, or i read in some previous essays, such as the grid or lines of a swimming pool are not perceived as independent of the intervening water, as 'really' grid or lines, and yet also not in this water but... seen according to this water, according to this 'style', and how we 'seer' must necessarily be in the world and of the same being to perceive the world... m-p did call his big book phenomenology of 'perception', after all, and to be embodied, to be 'visible' seems to be needed to see or sense the rest of the world 'visible'...


so maybe i do not understand m-p, but i certainly enjoy not understanding, and can see how inspiring his thought is of what i think i understand... he dismisses atomistic empirical theories of 'quale' (how exactly do we sense music the same as colour?) and this makes me think of 'multiplicity' of bergson, he decides that the key to perception is to be embodied and not separate into 'consciousness' let alone 'ego', he refuses any gap to 'representation' and any defining 'lack' or 'nothing' ready to be filled by 'the sensible', which he derides in its nature as being an equivalence between 'nothing' and 'being', in this way launching on, as chapters list 'reflection and interrogation' then 'interrogation and dialectic' then 'interrogation and intuition'... leading to that 'chiasm'...


i look at this review, i give it a five, not because it explains this dyad of 'visible' and 'invisible', but because it stimulates me to think more on m-p, stimulates me to reread other work on m-p, and brings an awareness to me of what sort of philosophy texts i most enjoy reading. the interpretation could be i am an amateur but i willingly confess my ignorance and try to understand what i read. and what i read tends in these latter works, in collections of essays, in other authors explaining/using thoughts of big names in continental philosophy, is not intending to follow all arguments and logic and terminology, but to start with some ideas already accepted and seeing where their thoughts go...


i like to read philosophy. i have not always read big texts- i have read 'being and nothingness' but not 'being and time', but i have read enough to know who is fluid, engaging, interesting eg. bergson and who is not eg. husserl (except his last work 'crisis of...').... though i will struggle through both, hoping to understand, so i have read 'matter and memory' and also 'cartesian meditations' but not 'ideas 1'... i have read some philosophy and of that some phenomenology- not knowing enough to claim Socratic ignorance and wisdom- so i know what i prefer, how i prefer, to read and think, and that even after this work 'invisible' escapes my full comprehension, it is becoming another root of the 'rhizomatic' eg. grass, way of exploring its cousins and descendants in thought... i think i think with a useful idea of what m-p is on about it this work, but maybe i need to read more... there are so many books to read and so little time...

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