25 Jan 2011

The Sympathy of Sensation: Rhythm and Body in Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze

by Corry Shores
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The Sympathy of Sensation:
Rhythm and Body in Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze

What does our aesthetic integration with the world got to do with us?

Imagine we take a bite from an apple while it still hangs from the tree. Our teeth penetrate the world all while the world enters us, in the form of a piece of bitten apple. Our whole bodies are made of little bits of the world around us. And when we sense the world, we in a way sympathize with it. When we hear a sound frequency from the air, it is because our ear apparatus is vibrating at the same frequency and translating the patterns for our brain.

But all this does not explain what makes our world noticeable and interesting rather than monotonous and dull. Instead it could be that we feel the world only when we sense our difference with it, our incompatibility or our incoherence with it. There are always sounds entering our ears. They get used to a sort of range of variations, and soon we do not hear things so specifically. The hum of a fan might completely disappear from our awareness. But if the fan malfunctions and makes banging sounds, we start to hear the fan again. This is because something hit our ears which we were not sympathetic to. It was instead like an unwelcome invasion.

It could be that what fills our life and world are differences. Redundancies go unnoticed, unless they stand out for some reason.

Brief Summary

For Merleau-Ponty, our body's senses already from the beginning are integrated with one another. As well, they are likewise already integrated with the world they sense, in a sympathetic manner. By means of these integrations, our body is able to synthetically constitute the world around us. Our means of performing this constitution is our intentional awareness. It has a focus. At its outer boundaries we are indirectly aware of indeterminate content on the horizon of our awareness. By moving our attention into the indeterminate horizon, we are pushing ourselves into the future (when we will have our new focus), all while keeping the past with us. It is in this manner that we integrate the parts of time to constitute a flowing passage of time with a meaningful history. What links the moments are our subjectivity taking the different moments as all its own. So our subjectivity is like the glue of time.

Points Relative to Deleuze

But for a Deleuzean phenomenology, we are only able to have sensations when our body's parts are not working in an organically integrated way. This perhaps includes the senses not agreeing on what they are sensing. And this also involves our body's feeling the world as different, and hence not sympathetically. The glue of time is not our subjectivity thrusting itself away from itself to a new subjectivity. That new subjectivity is already upon us. Time is not something given to us only through the process of passage through moments. Time is given to us immediately, like when we look in the mirror and see years of difference that we did not yet notice. The future is already thrown upon us, and we are never fully ourselves, but rather we are cracked by differences of time given immediately and simultaneously. Time is a difference immediate to the instant.

Merleau-Ponty will emphasize the integration of the body's parts and functions in the way our body mixes sensations with each other and with physical behaviors. He discusses cases where the patient cannot perceive the visual color-quality of something colored. But she can still discern the color by other bodily events she experiences when seeing the colored-thing.

Green is commonly regarded as a ‘restful’ colour. ‘It encloses me within myself and brings a peaceful state,’ says one patient. It ‘makes no demands on us and does not enjoin us to do anything,’ says Kandinsky. Blue seems to ‘yield to our gaze,’ says Goethe. On the other hand, he adds, red ‘invades the eye.’ Red has a ‘rending’, and yellow a ‘stinging’ effect, says one of Goldstein’s patients. Generally speaking we have on the one hand, with red and yellow, ‘an experience of being torn away, of a movement away from the centre’; on the other hand, with blue and green, that of ‘repose and concentration’. We can reveal the soporific and motor basis of qualities, or their vital significance, by employing stimuli which are either weak or of short duration. In this case the colour, before being seen, gives itself away through the experience of a certain bodily attitude appropriate only to that colour and precisely indicative of it: ‘there is in my body a sensation of slipping | downwards, so that it cannot be green, and can be only blue but in fact I see no blue’, says one subject. Another says: ‘I clenched my teeth, and so I know that it is yellow.’ (244c-245, boldface mine)
[...] before becoming an objective spectacle, quality is revealed by a type of behaviour which is directed towards it in its essence, and this is why my body has no sooner adopted the attitude of blue than I am vouchsafed a quasi-presence of blue. We must therefore stop wondering how and why red signifies effort or violence, green restfulness and peace; we must rediscover how to live these colours as our body does, that is, as peace or violence in concrete form. When we say that red increases the compass of our reactions, we are not to be understood as having in mind two distinct facts, a sensation of redness and motor reactions—we must be understood as meaning that red, by its texture as followed and adhered to by our gaze, is already the amplification of our motor being. The subject of sensation is neither a thinker who takes note of a quality, nor an inert setting which is affected or changed by it, it is
a power which is born into, and simultaneously with, a certain existential environment, or is synchronized with it. (245c.d, boldface mine)
Le vert passe communément pour une couleur « reposante ». « Il me renferme en moi-même et me met en paix », dit une malade. Il « ne nous demande rien et ne nous appelle à rien », dit Kandinsky. Le bleu semble « céder à notre regard » dit Goethe. Au contraire, le rouge « s'enfonce dans l'oeil » dit encore Goethe. Le rouge « déchire », le jaune est « piquant » dit un malade de Goldstein. D'une manière générale on a d'un côté avec le rouge et le jaune « l'expérience d'un arrachement, d'un mouvement qui s'éloigne du centre », d'un autre côté avec le bleu et le vert celle du « repos et de la concentration ». On peut mettre à nu le fond végétatif et moteur, la signification vitale des qualités en employant des stimuli faibles ou brefs. La couleur, avant d'être vue, s'annonce alors par l'expérience d'une certaine attitude du corps qui ne convient qu'à elle et la détermine avec précision : « il y a un glissement de haut en bas dans mon corps, ce ne peut donc pas être du vert, ce ne peut être que du bleu; mais en fait je ne vois pas de bleu » dit un sujet. Et un autre:
« J'ai serré les dents et je sais par là que c'est du jaune » (255a.c, boldface mine)
avant d'être un spectacle objectif la qualité se laisse reconnaître par un type de comportement qui la vise dans son essence et c'est pourquoi dès que mon corps adopte l'attitude du bleu j'obtiens une quasi-présence de bleu. Il ne faut donc pas se demander comment et pourquoi le rouge signifie l'effort ou la violence le vert le repos et la paix, il faut réapprendre à vivre ces couleurs comme les vit notre corps, c'est-à-dire comme des concrétions de paix ou de violence. Quand nous disons que le rouge augmente l'amplitude de nos ractions, il ne faut pas 'l'entendre comme s'il s'agtissait la de deux faits distincts une sensation de rouge et des réactions motrices, - il faut comprendre que le rouge, par sa texture que notre regard suit et épouse, est déjà l'amplification de notre être moteur. Le sujet de la sensation ne ni un penseur qui note une qualité, ni un milieu inerte qui serait affecte ou modifié par elle, il est
une puissance qui co-naît à un certain milieu d'existence ou se synchronise avec lui. (256a.b, boldface mine)
Merleau-Ponty also describes this synchronization with the world in terms of a rhythm of sorts. He speaks of color-qualities being associated with certain bodily movements. [There is a plane cutting our body in half, left from right side, called the sagittal plane. When we move a limb away from the sagittal plane, this is abduction. When we draw our limb in toward this plane, it is adduction.]

The Sagittal Plane
Sagittal plane abduction adduction
(Thanks wikipedia)
Merleau-Ponty writes:
Movements outwards are accelerated by green and slowed down by red. Localization of stimuli on the skin is modified by red in the direction of abduction. Yellow and red emphasize errors in judging weight and time, though in the case of cerebellar patients blue and particularly green have a compensating effect. In these various experiments each colour always acts with the same tendency, with the result that a definite motor value can be assigned to it. Generally speaking, red and yellow favour abduction, blue and green abduction [sic: adduction]. Now, on the whole, the significance of abduction [sic: adduction] is that the organism turns towards the stimulus and is attracted by the world—of abduction that it turns away from the stimulus and withdraws towards its centre. Sensations, ‘sensible qualities’ are then far from being reducible to a certain indescribable state or quale; they present themselves with a motor physiognomy, and are enveloped in a living significance. (243a.b)
Les mouvements vers le dehors sont accélérés par le vert et ralentis par le rouge. La localisation des stimuli sur la peau est modifiée dans le sens de l'abduction par le rouge. Le jaune et le rouge accentuent les erreurs dans l'estimation du poids et du temps, chez les cérébelleux le bleu et | surtout le vert les compensent. Dans ces différentes expériences chaque couleur agit toujours dans le même sens de sorte qu'on peut lui attribuer une valeur motrice définie. Dans l'ensemble le rouge et le jaune sont favorables à l'abduction, le bleu et le vert à l'adduction. Or, d'une manière générale, l'adduction signifie que l'organisme se tourne vers le stimulus et est attiré par le monde, - l'abduction qu'il se détourne du stimulus ct se retire vers son centre. Les sensations, les « qualités sensibles » sont donc loin de se réduire à l'épreuve d'un certain état ou d'un certain quale indicibles elles s'offrent avec une physionomie motrice, elles sont enveloppées d'une signification vitale. (253-254)
When we sense the world, we enter into a communion with it. When we breathe-out, the world breathes-in; so our inhalations are the world's exhalations too. And we surrender parts of our bodies, like sense organs, to the source of the sensation, so that our flesh can be a place that is both us and the object at the same time.
The relations of sentient to sensible are comparable with those of the sleeper to his slumber: sleep comes when a certain voluntary attitude suddenly | receives from outside the confirmation for which it was waiting. I am breathing deeply and slowly in order to summon sleep, and suddenly it is as if my mouth were connected to some great lung outside myself which alternately calls forth and forces back my breath. A certain rhythm of respiration, which a moment ago I voluntarily maintained, now becomes my very being, and sleep, until now aimed at as a significance, suddenly becomes a situation. In the same way I give ear, or look, in the expectation of a sensation, and suddenly the sensible takes possession of my ear or my gaze, and I surrender a part of my body, even my whole body, to this particular manner of vibrating and filling space known as blue or red. Just as the sacrament not only symbolizes, in sensible species, an operation of Grace, but is also the real presence of God, which it causes to occupy a fragment of space and communicates to those who eat of the consecrated bread, provided that they are inwardly prepared, in the same way the sensible has not only a motor and vital significance, but is nothing other than a certain way of being in the world suggested to us from some point in space, and seized and acted upon by our body, provided that it is capable of doing so, so that sensation is literally a form of communion. (245-246b, boldface mine)
Les rapports du sentant et du sensible sont comparables à ceux du dormeur et de son sommeil : le sommeil vient quand une certaine attitude volontaire reçoit soudain du dehors la confirmation qu'elle attendait.
Je respirais lentement et profondément pour appeler le sommeil et soudain on dirait que ma bouche communique avec quelque immense poumon extérieur qui appelle et refoule mon souffle, un certain rythme respiratoire tout à l'heure voulu par moi, devient mon être même et le sommeil, visé jusque-là comme signification, se fait soudain situation. De la même manière je prête l'oreille ou je regarde dans l'attente d'une sensation, et soudain le sensible prend mon oreille ou mon regard, je livre une partie de mon corps, ou même mon corps tout entier a cette manière de vibrer et de remplir l'espace qu'est le bleu ou le rouge. Comme le sacrement non seulement symbolise sous des espèces sensibles une opération de la Grâce, mais encore est la présence réelle de Dieu, la fait résider dans un fragment d'espace et la communique à ceux qui mangent le pain consacré s'ils sont intérieurement préparés, de la même manière le sensible a non seulement une signification motrice et vitale mais n'est pas autre chose qu'une certaine manière d'être au monde qui se propose à nous d'un point de l'espace, que notre corps reprend et | assume s'il en est capable, et la sensation est à la lettre une communion. (256c.257, boldface mine)
We find that this rhythm of sense communion is a sympathetic sort. Our awareness is directed towards some object of its attention. This directedness is the 'intentionality' of our awareness. We should see it that our eye for example vibrates bluely when we see blue; it sympathizes with the blueness it sees.
This is what we are doing when we define sensation as co-existence or communion. The sensation of blue is not the knowledge or positing of a certain identifiable quale throughout all the experiences of it which I have, as the geometer’s circle is the same in Paris and Tokyo. It is in all probability intentional, which means that it does not rest in itself as does a thing, but that it is directed and has significance beyond itself. But what it aims at is recognized only blindly, through my body’s familiarity with it. It is not constituted in the full light of day, it is reconstituted or taken up once more by a knowledge which remains latent, leaving it with its opacity and its thisness. Sensation is intentional because I find that in the sensible a certain rhythm of existence is put forward—abduction or adduction— and that, following up this hint, and stealing into the form of existence which is thus suggested to me, I am brought into relation with an external being, whether it be in order to open myself to it or to shut myself off from it. If the qualities radiate around them a certain mode of existence, if they have the power to cast a spell and what we called just now a sacramental value, this is because the sentient subject does not posit them as objects, but enters into a sympathetic relation with them, makes them his own and finds in them his momentary law. (248a.b, boldface mine)
C'est ce que nous faisons en définissant
la sensation comme coexistence ou comme communion. La sensation de bleu n'est pas la connaissance ou la position d'un certain quale identifiable à travers toutes les experienees que j'en ai comme le cercle du géomètre est le même à Paris et à Tokio. Elle est sans doute intentionnelle, c'est-à-dire qu'elle ne repose pas en soi comme une chose, qu'elle vise et signifie au-delà d'elle-même. Mais le terme qu'elle vise n'est reconnu qu'aveuglément par la familiarité de mon corps avec lui, il n'est pas constitué en pleine clarté, il est reconstitué ou repris par un savoir qui reste latent et qui lui laisse son opacité et son eccéité. La sensation est intentionnelle parce que je trouve dans le sensible la proposition d'un certain rythme d'existence, - abduction ou adduction, - et que, donnant suite à cette proposition, me glissant dans la forme d'existence qui m'est ainsi suggérée, je me rapporte à un être extérieur, que ce soit pour m'ouvrir ou pour me fermer à lui. Si les qualités rayonnent autour d'elles un certain mode d'existence, si elles ont un pouvoir d'envotîtement et ce que nous appelions tout à l'heure une valeur sacramentelle, c'est parce que le sujet sentant ne les pose pas comme des objets, mais sympathise avec elles, les fait siennes et trouve en elles sa loi momentanée. (258bc.d, boldface mine)
Our communion with what we sense breaks down the division between us. We might think that there are two different things at work in sensation: the part of us that is doing the sensing and the thing being sensed. And we might also regard their relation in a certain way: the sensed thing impacts our sense apparatus with its qualities. But consider how we need to adjust ourselves in order to properly see each thing. We have to make ourselves sympathetic to what we want to sense. So it is not just us looking at the world. The world first looks at us, and this tells us how to look at it.
Let us be more explicit. The sensor and the sensible do not stand in relation to each other as two mutually external terms, and sensation is not an invasion of the sensor by the sensible. It is my gaze which subtends colour, and the movement of my hand which subtends the object’s form, or rather my gaze pairs off with colour, and my hand with hardness and softness, and in this transaction between the subject of sensation and the sensible it cannot be held that one acts while the other suffers the action, or that one confers significance on the other. Apart from the probing of my eye or my hand, and before my body synchronizes with it, the sensible is nothing but a vague beckoning. ‘If a subject tries to experience a specific colour, blue for example, while trying to take up the bodily attitude appropriate to red, an inner conflict results, a sort of spasm which stops as soon as he adopts the bodily attitude corresponding to blue.’ Thus a sensible datum which is on | the point of being felt sets a kind of muddled problem for my body to solve. I must find the attitude which will provide it with the means of becoming determinate, of showing up as blue; I must find the reply to a question which is obscurely expressed. And yet I do so only when I am invited by it, my attitude is never sufficient to make me really see blue or really touch a hard surface. The sensible gives back to me what I lent to it, but this is only what I took from it in the first place. As I contemplate the blue of the sky I am not set over against it as an acosmic subject; I do not possess it in thought, or spread out towards it some idea of blue such as might reveal the secret of it, I abandon myself to it and plunge into this mystery, it ‘thinks itself within me’, I am the sky itself as it is drawn together and unified, and as it begins to exist for itself; my consciousness is saturated with this limitless blue. (248c-249b, boldface mine)
Précisons. Le sentant et le sensible ne sont pas l'un en face de l'autre comme deux termes extérieurs et la sensation n'est pas une invasion du sensible dans le sentant. C'est mon regard qui sous-tend la couleur, c'est le | mouvement de ma main qui sous-tend la forme de l'objet ou plutôt mon regard s'accouple avec la couleur ma main avec le dur et le mou, et dans cet échange entre le sujet de la sensation et le sensible on ne peut pas dire que l'un agisse et que l'autre pâtisse, que l'un donne sens à l'autre. Sans l'exploration de mon regard ou de ma main et avant que
mon corps se synchronise avec lui, le sensible n'est rien qu'une sollicitation vague. « Si un sujet essaye d'éprouver une couleur déterminée, par exemple du bleu tout en cherchant à donner à son corps l'attitude qui convient au rouge, il en résulte une lutte intérieure, une sorte de spasme qui cesse aussitôt qu'il adopte l'attitude corporelle qui correspond au bleu. » Ainsi un sensible qui va être senti pose à mon corps une sorte de probleme confus. Il faut que je trouve l'attitude qui va lui donner le moyen de se déterminer et de devenir du bleu, il faut que je trouve la réponse à une' question mal formulée. Et cependant je ne le fais qu'à sa sollicitation, mon attitude ne suffit jamais à me faire voir vraiment du bleu ou toucher vraiment une surface dure. Le sensible me rend ce que je lui ai prêté, mais c'est de lui que je le tenais. Moi qui contemple le bleu du ciel, je ne suis pas en face de lui un sujet acosmique, je ne le possède pas en pensée, je ne déploie pas au devant de lui une idée du bleu qui m'en donnerait le secret, je m'abandonne à lui, je m'enfonce dans ce mystère, il « se pense en moi », je suis le ciel même qui se rassemble, se recueille et se met à exister pour soi, ma conscience est engorgée par ce bleu illimité. (258-259c, boldface mine)
This integration with the world is so thorough and pre-given that it precedes a sense of my own distinct self having these perceptions.
Each time I experience a sensation, I feel that it concerns not my own being, the one for which I am responsible and for which I make decisions, but another self which has already sided with the world, which is already open to certain of its aspects and synchronized with them. Between my sensation and myself there stands always the thickness of some primal acquisition which prevents my experience from being clear of itself. I experience the sensation as a modality of a general existence, one already destined for a physical world and which runs through me without my being the cause of it. (251a.b, boldface mine)
Chaque fois que j'éprouve une sensation, j'éprouve qu'elle intéresse non pas mon être propre, celui dont je suis responsable et dont je décide, mais un autre moi qui a déjà pris parti pour le monde, qui s'est déjà ouvert à certains de ses aspects et
synchronisé avec eux. Entre ma sensation et moi, il y a toujours l'épaisseur d'un acquis originaire qui empêche mon expérience d'être claire pour elle-même. J'éprouve la sensation comme modalité d'une existence générale, déjà vouée à un monde physique et qui fuse à travers moi sans que j'en sois l'auteur. (261b, boldface mine)
Merleau-Ponty then enters a discussion of Kant's a priori representation of space. Merleau-Ponty's point will be that there is an a priori integration of the senses. He first notes that all our sensations are of things, and for that reason, are already spatial.
A sensation would be no sensation at all if it were not the sensation of something, and ‘things’ in the most general sense of the word, for example specific qualities, stand out from the amorphous mass of impressions only if the latter is put into perspective and coordinated by space. Thus all senses are spatial if they are to give us access to some form or other of being, if, that is, they are senses at all. And, by the same necessity, they must all open on the same space, otherwise the sensory beings with which they bring us into communication would exist only for the relevant sense—like ghosts which appear only by night—they would lack fullness of being and we could not be truly conscious of them, that is to say, posit them as true beings. (254c, boldface mine)
Une sensation serait un néant de sensation si elle n'était sensation de quelque chose, et des « choses » au sens le plus général du mot, par exemple des qualités définies, ne se dessinent dans la masse confuse des impressions que si elle est mise en perspective et coordonnée par l'espace. Ainsi tous les sens sont spatiaux s'ils doivent nous faire accéder à une forme quelconque de l'être, c'est-à-dire s'ils sont des sens. Et, par la même nécessité, il faut qu'ils s'ouvrent tous sur le même espace, sans quoi les êtres sensoriels avec lesquels ils nous font communiquer n'existeraient que pour le sens dont ils relèvent - comme les fantômes ne se manifestent que la nuit -, il leur manquerait la plénitude de l'être et nous ne pourrions pas en avoir vraiment conscience, c'est-à-dire les poser comme des êtres vrais. (262bc.d, boldface mine)
Both our sense of sight and our touch perceive space. Each on its own can do so. But when we perceive space, we use both. And in fact the two are so integrated that we cannot think of them really as two separate senses that add their data together. Their data come from their already being integrated from the beginning of the sense experience. In a way, space is given a priori because our senses are already integrated together and with a spatial world. (252d-253c)

Our senses give us data through their immersed integrated contact with the world. Such a world has meeting places for our senses to make contact. So our senses, as receptive to the world and integrated with it, are already reaching out to the world as a spatial thing, or we might say, our senses are already open to sense spatialized data. And as we noted above, the perception of space is not something that only one sense can do. A blind person can still perceive the distances between fairly distant things. Now, vision can see a distance all at once, as if it were a line. But touch requires the passage of time. So the blind person's perception of spatial distance suggests that even without eyes, his touching the world is already integrated with a form of seeing. So, as long as we sense the world, we do so with integrated senses, because they altogether merge in a field where they all relate. So it is only because our senses are
a priori integrated that we are receiving the world as spatial. But also, since more than one sense is required, there is a priori a diversity of senses. [As we will see in a moment, the blind person does not sense space in a visual way, but his tactile way is pre-integrated with the spatial way, so that when he does obtain his vision, he can from the beginning know that the spatiality of touch translates directly into the spatiality of vision.]
The unity of the senses, which was regarded as an a priori truth, is no longer anything but the formal expression of a fundamental contingency: the fact that we are in the world—the diversity of the senses, which was regarded as given a posteriori, including the concrete form that it assumes in a human subject, appears as necessary to this world, to the only world which we can think of consequentially; it therefore becomes an a priori truth. Every sensation is spatial; we have adopted this thesis, not because the quality as an object cannot be thought otherwise than in space, but because, as the primordial contact | with being, as the assumption by the sentient subject of a form of existence to which the sensible points, and as the co-existence of sentient and sensible, it is itself constitutive of a setting for co-existence, in other words, of a space. We say a priori that no sensation is atomic, that all sensory experience presupposes a certain field, hence co-existences, from which we conclude, against Lachelier, that the blind man has the experience of a space. But these a priori truths amount to nothing other than the making explicit of a fact: the fact of the sensory experience as the assumption of a form of existence. Moreover, this assumption implies also that I can at each moment absorb myself almost wholly into the sense of touch or sight, and even that I can never see or touch without my consciousness becoming thereby in some measure saturated, and losing something of its availability. Thus the unity and the diversity of the senses are truths of the same order. The a priori is the fact understood, made explicit, and followed through into all the consequences of its latent logic; the a posteriori is the isolated and implicit fact. It would be contradictory to assert that the sense of touch is devoid of spatiality, and it is a priori impossible to touch without touching in space, since our experience is the experience of a world. But this insertion of the tactile perspective into a universal being does not represent any necessity external to touch, it comes about spontaneously in the experience of touching itself, in accordance with its own distinctive mode. Sensation as it is brought to use by experience is no longer some inert substance or abstract moment, but one of our surfaces of contact with being, a structure of consciousness, and in place of one single space, as the universal condition of all qualities, we have with each one of the latter, a particular manner of being in space and, in a sense, of making space. It is neither contradictory nor impossible that each sense should constitute a small world within the larger one, and it is even in virtue of its peculiarity that it is necessary to the whole and opens upon the whole. (256c.257c, boldface mine)
L'unité des sens, qui passait pour vérité a priori, n'est plus que l'expression formelle d'une contingence fondamentale: le fait que nous sommes au monde, - la diversité des sens, qui passait pour donnée a posteriori, y compris la forme concrète qu'elle prend dans un sujet humain, apparaît comme nécessaire à ce monde-ci, c'est-à-dire au seul monde que nous puissions penser avec conséquence; elle devient donc une vérité a priori. Toute sensation est spatiale, nous nous sommes rangés à cette thèse non pas parce que la qualité comme objet ne peut être pensée que dans l'espace, mais parce que, comme contact primordial avec l'être, comme reprise par le sujet sentant d'une forme d'existence indiquée par le sensible, comme coexistence du sentant et du sensible, elle est elle-même constitutive d'un milieu de coexistence, c'est-à-dire d'un espace. Nous disons a priori qu'aucune sensation n'est ponctuelle, que toute sensorialité suppose un certain champ, donc des coexistences, et nous en concluons contre Lachelier que l'aveugle a l'expérience d'un espace. Mais ces vérités à priori ne sont rien d'autre que l'explicitation d'un fait : le fait de l'expérience sensorielle comme reprise d'une forme d'existence, et cette reprise implique aussi qu'à chaque instant je puisse me faire presque tout entier toucher ou vision, et que même je ne puisse jamais voir ou toucher sans que ma conscience s'engorge en quelque mesure et perde quelque chose de sa disponibilité. Ainsi l'unité et la diversité des sens sont des vérités de même rang. L'a priori est le fait compris, explicité et suivi dans toutes les conséquences de sa logique tacite, l'a posteriori est le fait isolé et implicite. Il serait | contradictoire de dire que le toucher est sans spatialité, et il est impossible a priori de toucher sans toucher dans l'espace, puisque notre expérience est l'expérience d'un monde. Mais cette insertion de la perspective tactile dans un être universel n'exprime aucune nécessité extérieure au toucher, elle se produit spontanément dans l'expérience tactile elle-même, selon son mode propre. La sensation telle que nous la livre l'expérience n'est plus une matière indifférente et un moment abstrait, mais une de nos surfaces de contact avec l'être, une structure de conscience, et au lieu d'un espace unique, condition universelle de toutes les qualités, nous avons avec chacune d'elles une manière particulière d'être à l'espace et en quelque sorte de faire de l'espace. Il n'est ni contradictoire ni impossible que chaque sens constitue un petit monde à l'intérieur du grand et c'est même à raison de sa particularité qu'il est nécessaire au tout et qu'il s'ouvre sur lui. (266b.267ab, boldface mine)
Merleau-Ponty offers another example to show how the senses are integrated in the field of space. Consider a person who was blind all their life. Then later on, she has an operation that restores sight. We hold something out in front of her. She reaches for it and grabs it. She must have already understood the spatiality of touch for her to know that her touching hand could cross a certain distance in order to reach the object.
To distinguish by sight a circle from a rectangle, he has to run his eyes round the outline of the figure, as he might with his hand, and he always tends to take hold of objects set before his eyes. What conclusion is to be drawn from this? that tactile experience is no preparation for the perception of space? But unless it were in some way spatial, would the subject stretch out his hand towards the object shown to him? This gesture presupposes that touch opens on to a setting at least analogous to that of visual data. (259a, boldface mine)
Sight would never communicate directly with touch, as it in fact does in the normal adult, if the sense of touch, even when artificially isolated, were not so organized as to make coexistences possible. (259cd)
Pour distinguer un rond d'un rectangle par la vue, il lui faut suivre des yeux le bord de la figure, comme il le ferait avec la main, et il tend toujours à saisir les objets que l'on présente à son regard. Que conclure de là ? que l'expérience tactile ne prépare pas à la perception de l'espace? Mais si elle n'était pas du tout spatiale, le sujet tendrait-il la main vers l'objet qu'on lui montre? Ce geste suppose que
le toucher s'ouvre sur un milieu au moins analogue à celui des données visuelles. (268a.bc, boldface mine)
La vue ne communiquerait jamais directement avec le toucher comme elle le fait chez l'adulte normal si le toucher, même artificiellement isolé, n'était organisé de manière à rendre possibles les coexistences. (269a)
Before we move on, let's also note that Merleau-Ponty continues to emphasize the a priori diversity of the senses which are a priori integrated. Each sense has its own sort of spatiality, and these variations do not correspond with each other perfectly. Merleau-Ponty will still stress their integration. If each sense had its own sort of space, we would be confused as to what space is. But we are not. We move about in the world without confusion as to what space is. Hence, all these variations are integrated into a common experience of space.
When, in the concert hall, I open my eyes, | visible space seems to me cramped compared to that other space through which, a moment ago, the music was being unfolded, and even if I keep my eyes open while the piece is being played, I have the impression that the music is not really contained within this circumscribed and unimpressive space. It brings a new dimension stealing through visible space, and in this it surges forward, just as, in victims of hallucinations, the clear space of things perceived is mysteriously duplicated by a ‘dark space’ in which other presences are possible. Like the perspective of other people making its impact on the world for me, the spatial realm of each sense is an unknowable absolute for the others, and to that extent limits their spatiality. These descriptions, which to critical philosophy appear as empirical oddities, leaving a priori certainties untouched, assume, as far as we are concerned, philosophical importance, because the unity of space can be discovered only in the interplay of the sensory realms. (257-258b, boldface mine)
Far from ruling out the idea of a tactile space, the facts prove on the contrary that there is a space so strictly tactile that its articulations do not and never will stand in a relationship of synonymity with those of visual space. (259d)
The fact, for example, that touch cannot simultaneously cover more than a small amount of space—that of the body and its instruments—does not affect merely the presentation of tactile space, but also changes its significance. For the intelligence—or at least for a certain intelligence which is that of classical physics—simultaneity is the same, whether it occurs between two adjacent points or two remote ones, and in any case it is possible gradually to construct with short-distance simultaneities a long-distance one. But for experience, the thickness of time which thus intrudes into the operation affects the result, producing a certain ‘blurring’ in the simultaneity of the extreme points, and to this extent the breadth of visual perspectives will be a true revelation to the patient whose blindness has been cured by operation, because it provides a demonstration, for the first time, of remote simultaneity itself. These patients declare that tactile objects are not genuine spatial totalities, that the apprehension of the object is here a mere ‘knowledge of the mutual relation of parts’, that the circle and the square are not really perceived by touch, but recognized from certain ‘signs’—the presence or absence of ‘corners’. We conclude that the tactile field has never the fullness of the visual, that the tactile object is never wholly present in each of its parts as is the case with the visual object, and in short that touching is not seeing. It is true that the blind and the normal person talk to each other, and that it is perhaps impossible to find a single word, even in colour vocabulary, to which the blind man does not manage to attach at least a rough meaning. (260a.c)
Dans la salle de concert, quand je rouvre les yeux, l'espace visible me paraît étroit en regard de cet autre espace où tout à l'heure la musique se déployait, et même si je garde les yeux ouverts pendant que l'on joue le morceau, il me semble que la musique n'est pas vraiment contenue dans cet espace précis et mesquin. Elle insinue à travers l'espace visible une nouvelle dimension où elle déferle, comme, chez les hallucinés, l'espace clair des choses perçues se redouble mystérieusement d'un « espace noir » où d'autres présences sont possibles. Comme la perspective d'autrui sur ie monde pour moi, le domaine spatial de chaque sens est pour les autres un inconnaissable absolu et limite d'autant leur spatialité. Ces descriptions, qui n'offrent pour une philosophie eriticiste que des curiosités empiriques et n'entament pas les certitudes a priori, reprennent pour nous une importance philosophique, parce que
l'unité de l'espace ne peut être trouvée que dans l'engrenage l'un sur l'autre des domaines sensoriels. (267bc.d, boldface mine)
Loin d'exclure l'idée d'un espace tactile, les faits prouvent au contraire qu'il y a un espace si strictement tactile que les articulations n'en sont pas d'abord et n'en seront même jamais avec celles de l'espace visuel dans un rapport de synonymie. (269ab)
Que par exemple le toucher ne puisse embrasser simultanément qu'une faible étendue - celle du corps et de ses instruments - ce fait ne concerne pas seulement la présentation de l'espace tactile, il en modifie le sens. Pour l'intelligence, - ou du moins pour une certaine intelligence qui est celle de la physique classique, - la simultanéité est la même, qu'elle ait lieu entre deux points contigus ou entre deux points éloignés, et en tout cas on peut construire de proche en proche avec des simultanéités à courte distance une simultanéité à grande distance. Mais pour l'expérience, l'épaisseur de temps qui s'introduit ainsi dans l'opération en modifie le résultat, il en résulte un certain « bougé » dans la simultanéité des points extrêmes et dans cette mesure l'ampleur des perspectives visuelles sera pour l'aveugle opéré une véritable révélation, parce qu'elle procurera pour la première fois l'exhibition de la simultanéité lointaine elle-même. Les opérés déclarent que les objets tactiles ne sont pas de véritables touts spatiaux, que l'appréhension de l'objet est lei un simple « savoir de la relation réciproque des parties », que le rond et le carré ne sont pas vraiment perçus par le toucher mais reconnus d'après certains « signes» - présence ou absence de « pointes ». Entendons que jamais le champ tactile n'a l'ampleur du champ visuel, jamais l'objet tactile n'est tout entier présent à chacune de ses parties comme l'objet visuel, et en somme que toucher n'est pas voir. Sans doute entre l'aveugle et le normal la conversation s'engage et il est peut-être impossible de trouver un seul mot, même dans le vocabulaire des couleurs, | auquel l'aveugle ne réussisse à donner un sens au moins schématique. (269b.270)
Merleau-Ponty then moves to the synesthetic experiences that people have when taking mesculin.
under mescalin, the sound of a flute gives a bluish-green colour, the tick of a metronome, in darkness, is translated as grey patches, the spatial intervals between them corresponding to the intervals of time between the ticks, the size of the patch to the loudness of the tick, and its height to the pitch of the sound. (265bc)
sous mescaline, un son de flûte donne une couleur bleu vert, le bruit d'un métronome se traduit dans l'obscurité par des taches grises, les intervalles spatiaux de la vision correspondant aux intervalles temporels des sons, la grandeur de la tache grise à l'intensité. (274b)
Yet whether by means of drugs or not, we always perceives things synaesthetically. The senses are disparate but they come together to give meaning to our world.
Synaesthetic perception is the rule, and we are unaware of it only because scientific knowledge shifts the centre of gravity of experience, so that we have unlearned how to see, hear, and generally speaking, feel, in order to deduce, from our bodily organization and the world as the physicist conceives it, what we are to see, hear and feel. Sight, it is said, can bring us only colours or lights, and with them forms which are the outlines of colours, and movements which are the patches of colour changing position. But how shall we place transparency or ‘muddy’ colours in the scale? In reality, each colour, in its inmost depths, is nothing but the inner structure of the thing overtly revealed. The brilliance of gold palpably holds out to us its homogeneous composition, and the dull colour of wood its heterogeneous make-up. The senses intercommunicate by opening on to the structure of the thing. One sees the hardness and brittleness of glass, and | when, with a tinkling sound, it breaks, this sound is conveyed by the visible glass. One sees the springiness of steel, the ductility of red-hot steel, the hardness of a plane blade, the softness of shavings. The form of objects is not their geometrical shape: it stands in a certain relation to their specific nature, and appeals to all our other senses as well as sight. The form of a fold in linen or cotton shows us the resilience or dryness of the fibre, the coldness or warmth of the material. Furthermore, the movement of visible objects is not the mere transference from place to place of coloured patches which, in the visual field, correspond to those objects. In the jerk of the twig from which a bird has just flown, we read its flexibility or elasticity, and it is thus that a branch of an apple-tree or a birch are immediately distinguishable. One sees the weight of a block of cast iron which sinks in the sand, the fluidity of water and the viscosity of syrup. In the same way, I hear the hardness and unevenness of cobbles in the rattle of a carriage, and we speak appropriately of a ‘soft’, ‘dull’ or ‘sharp’ sound. Though one may doubt whether the sense of hearing brings us genuine ‘things’, it is at least certain that it presents us, beyond the sounds in space, with something which ‘murmurs’, and in this way communicates with the other senses. Finally, if, with my eyes closed, I bend a steel bar and a lime branch, I perceive in my hands the most essential texture of the metal and the wood. If, then, taken as incomparable qualities, the ‘data of the different senses’ belong to so many separate worlds, each one in its particular essence being a manner of modulating the thing, they all communicate through their significant core. (266bc.267d, boldface mine)
La perception synesthésique est la règle, et, si nous ne nous en apercevons pas, c'est parce que le savoir scientifique déplace l'expérience et que nous avons désappris de voir, d'entendre ct, en général, de sentir pour déduire de notre organisation corporelle et du monde tel que le conçoit le physicien ce que nous devons voir, entendre et sentir. La vision, dit-on, ne peut nous donner que des couleurs ou des lumières, et avec elles des formes, qui sont les contours des couleurs, et des mouvements, qui sont les changements de position des taches de couleur. Mais comment situer dans l'échelle des couleurs la transparence ou les couleurs « troubles »? En réalité, chaque couleur, dans ce qu'elle a de plus intime, n'est que la structure intérieure de la chose manifestée au dehors. Le brillant de l'or nous présente sensiblement sa composition homogène, la couleur terne du bois sa composition hétérogène. Les sens communiquent entre eux en s'ouvrant à la structure de la chose. On voit la rigidité et la fragilité du verre et, quand il se brise avec un son cristallin, ce son est porté par le verre visible. On voit l'élasticité de l'acier, la ductilité de l'acier rougi, la dureté de la lame dans un rabot la mollesse des copeaux. La forme des objets n'en est pas le contour géométrique : elle a un certain rapport avec leur nature propre et parle à tous nos sens en même temps qu'à la vue. La forme d'un pli dans un tissu de | lin ou de coton nous fait voir la souplesse ou la sécheresse de la fibre, la froideur ou la tiédeur du tissu. Enfin le mouvement des objets visibles n'est pas le simple déplacement des taches de couleur qui leur correspondent dans le champ visuel. Dans le mouvement de la branche qu'un oiseau vient de quitter; on lit sa flexibilité ou son élasticité, et c'est ainsi qu'une branche de pommier et une branche de bouleau se distinguent immédiatement. On voit le poids d'un bloc de fonte qui s'enfonce dans le sable, la fluidité de l'eau, la viscosité du sirop. De la même manière, j'entends la dureté et l'inégalité des pavés dans le bruit d'une voiture, et l'on parle avec raison d'un bruit « mou », « terne » ou « sec ». Si l'on peut douter que l'ouïe nous donne de véritables « choses », il est certain du moins qu'elle nous offre au delà des sons dans l'espace quelque chose qui « bruit » et par là elle communique avec les autres sens. Enfin, si je courbe, les yeux fermés, une tige d'acier et une branche de tilleul, je perçois entre mes deux mains la texture la plus secrète du métal et du bois. Si donc, prises comme des qualités incomparables, les « données des différents sens » relèvent d'autant de mondes séparés, chacune, dans son essence particulière, étant une manière de moduler la chose, elles communiquent toutes par leur noyau significatif. (275ab.276c, boldface mine)

One sense in a way vibrates in the others, echos through them. This is because all our senses are synchronized and integrated.
The sight of sounds or the hearing of colours come about in the same way as the unity of the gaze through the two eyes: in so far as my body is, not a collection of adjacent organs, but a synergic system, all the functions of which are exercised and linked together in the general action of being in the world, in so far as it is the congealed face of existence. There is a sense in saying that I see sounds or hear colours so long as sight or hearing is not the mere possession of an opaque quale, but the experience of a modality of existence, the synchronisation of my body with it, and the problem of forms of synaesthetic experience begins to look like being solved if the experience of quality is that of a certain mode of movement or of a form of conduct. When I say that I see a sound, I mean that I echo the vibration of the sound with my whole sensory being, and particularly with that sector of myself which is susceptible to colours. Movement, understood not as objective movement and transference in space, but as a project towards movement or ‘potential movement’ forms the basis for the unity of the senses. It is fairly well known that the talking film not only adds a sound accompaniment to the show, but also changes the tenor of the show itself. When I go to see a film ‘dubbed’ in French, I do not merely notice the discrepancy between word and image, I suddenly have the impression that something else is being said over there. The ‘dubbed’ text, though it fills the auditorium and my ears, has not even an auditory existence for me, and I have ears for nothing but those other soundless words that emanate from the screen. When a breakdown of sound all at once cuts off the voice from a character who nevertheless goes on gesticulating on the screen, not only does the meaning of his speech suddenly escape me: the spectacle itself is changed. The face which was so recently alive | thickens and freezes, and looks nonplussed, while the interruption of the sound invades the screen as a quasi-stupor. For the spectator, the gestures and words are not subsumed under some ideal significance, the words take up the gesture and the gesture the words, and they inter-communicate through the medium of my body. Like the sensory aspects of my body they are immediately and mutually symbolical, precisely because my body is a ready-made system of equivalents and transpositions from one sense to another. The senses translate each other without any need of an interpreter, and are mutually comprehensible without the intervention of any idea. These remarks enable us to appreciate to the full Herder’s words: ‘Man is a permanent sensorium commune, who is affected now from one quarter, now from another.’ With the notion of the bodily schema we find that not only is the unity of the body described in a new way, but also, through this, the unity of the senses and of the object. My body is the seat or rather the very actuality of the phenomenon of expression (Ausdruck), and there the visual and auditory experiences, for example, are pregnant one with the other, and their expressive value is the ground of the antepredicative unity of the perceived world, and, through it, of verbal expression (Darstellung) and intellectual significance (Bedeutung). My body is the fabric into which all objects are woven, and it is, at least in relation to the perceived world, the general instrument of my ‘comprehension’. (272a.273c, boldface mine)
La vision des sons ou l'audition des couleurs se réalisent comme se réalise l'unité du regard à travers les deux yeux: en tant que mon corps est, non pas une somme d'organes juxtaposés mais un système synergique dont toutes les | fonctions sont reprises et liées dans le mouvement général de l'être au monde, en tant qu'il est la figure figée de l'existence. Il y a un sens à dire que je vois des sons ou que j'entends des couleurs si la vision ou l'ouïe n'est pas la simple possession d'un quale opaque, mais l'épreuve d'une modalité de l'existence, la synchronisation de mon corps avec elle, et le problème des synesthésies reçoit un commencement de solution si l'expérience de la qualité est celle d'un certain mode de mouvement ou d'une conduite. Quand je dis que je vois un son, je veux dire qu'à la vibration du son, je fais écho par tout mon être sensoriel et en particulier par ce secteur de moi-même qui est capable des couleurs. Le mouvement, compris non pas comme mouvement objectif et déplacement dans l'espace, mais comme projet de mouvement ou « mouvement viriuel » est le fondement de l'unité des sens. Il est assez connu que le cinéma parlant n'ajoute pas seulement au spectacle un accompagnement sonore, il modifie la teneur du spectacle lui-même. Quand j'assiste à la projection d'un film doublé en français, je ne constate pas seulement le désaccord de la parole et de l'image, mais il me semble soudain qu'il se dit là-bas autre chose et tandis que la salle et mes oreilles sont remplies par le texte doublé, il n'a pas pour moi d'existence même auditive et je n'ai d'oreille que pour cette autre parole sans bruit qui vient de l'écran. Quand une panne du son laisse soudain sans voix le personnage qui continue de gesticuler sur l'écran, ce n'est pas seulement le sens de son discours qui m'échappe soudain: le spectacle lui aussi est changé. Le visage, tout à l'heure animé, s'épaissit et se fige comme celui d'un homme interloqué et l'interruption du son envahit l'écran sous la forme d'une sorte de stupeur. Chez le spectateur, les gestes et les paroles ne sont pas subsumés sous une signification idéale, mais la parole reprend le geste et le geste reprend la parole, ils communiquent à travers mon corps, comme les aspects sensoriels de mon corps ils sont immédiatement symboliques l'un de l'autre parce que mon corps est justement un système tout fait d'équivalences et de transpositions intersensorielles. Les sens se traduisent l'un l'autre sans avoir besoin d'un interprète, se comprennent l'un l'autre sans avoir à passer par l'idée. Ces remarques permettent de donner tout son sens au mot de Herder: « L'homme est un sensorium commune perpétuel, qui est touché tantôt d'un côté et tantôt de l'autre ». Avec la notion de schéma corporel, ce n'est pas seulement l'unité du corps qui est décrite d'une manière neuve, c'est aussi, à travers elle, l'unité des sens et l'unité de l'objet. Mon corps est le lieu ou plutôt l'actualité même du phénomène d'expression (Ausdruck), en lui l'expérience visuelle et l'expérience auditive, par exemple, sont prégnantes l'une de l'autre, et leur valeur expressive fonde l'unité antéprédicative du monde perçu, et, par elle, l'expression verbale (Darstellung) et la signification intellectuelle (Bedeutung). Mon corps est la texture commune de tous les objets et il est, au moins à l'égard du monde perçu, l'instrument général de ma « compréhension ». (280c.282a, boldface mine)
Merleau-Ponty will then associate the synthesis of time with the synthesis of our senses. He first has us consider if we put all our rapt attention into perceiving something, in a sense, 'plunging' into it. We then lose our perceptions of ourself. But then we come out of that state and back to an awareness of ourselves. We figure that while we were perceptually concentrating, we had perceptual events that took place in our 'individual history'. So our perception is immediately given in this unified state. We might secondarily analyze the different parts of our perception into qualities and sensations. But we are wrong to assume then that the synthesis of these parts of perception happened secondarily. They were already given as integrated, because they were given by means of our bodies, which already interweave the parts of our perception.

My act of perception, in its unsophisticated form, does not itself bring about this synthesis; it takes advantage of work already done, of a general synthesis constituted once and for all, and this is what I mean when I say that I perceive with my body or my senses, since my body and my senses are precisely that familiarity with the world born of habit, that implicit or sedimentary body of knowledge. (277a, boldface mine)
The person who perceives is not spread out before himself as a consciousness must be; he has historical density, he takes up a perceptual tradition and is faced with a present. In perception we do not think the object and we do not think ourselves thinking it, we are given over to the object and we merge into this body which is better informed than we are about the world, and about the motives we have and the means at our disposal for synthesizing it. That is why we said with Herder that man is a sensorium commune. In this primary layer of sense experience which is discovered only provided that we really coincide with the act of perception and break with the critical attitude, I have the living experience of the unity of the subject and the intersensory unity of the thing, and do not conceive them after the fashion of analytical reflection and science. (277c.d)
Mon acte de perception, pris dans sa naïveté, n'effectue pas lui-même cette synthèse, il profite d'
un travail déjà fait, d'une synthèse générale constituée une fois pour toutes, c'est ce que j'exprime en disant que je perçois avec mon corps ou avec mes sens, mon corps, mes sens étant justement ce savoir habituel du monde, cette science implicite ou sédimentée. (285bc, boldface mine)
Celui qui perçoit n'est pas déployé devant lui-même comme doit l'être une conscience, il a une épaisseur historique, il reprend une tradition perceptive et il est confronté avec un présent. Dans la perception nous ne pensons pas l'objet et nous ne nous pensons pas le pensant, nous sommes à l'objet et nous nous confondons avec ce corps qui en sait plus que nous sur le | monde, sur les motifs et les moyens qu'on a d'en faire la synthèse. C'est pourquoi nous avons dit avec Herder que l'homme
est un sensorium commune. Dans cette couche originaire du sentir que l'on retrouve à condition de coïncider vraiment avec l'acte de perception et de quitter l'attitude critique, je vis l'unité du sujet et l'unité intersensorielle de la chose, je ne les pense pas comme le feront l'analyse réflexive et la science. (285-286)

But the pregiven synthesis of the object's phenomenal contents in the body is possible on by means of temporality, which is somehow subjectivity itself. When we first see an object, it is given to us indeterminately. By focussing on it in an effort to determine it, we are putting behind us the indeterminate impact it has on us, and we move forward to when it will be more clearly determined. But when we determine it, we will realize that it was only because we had just previously received it as indeterminate a moment ago, which provoked us to grasp it more clearly. So we need time for our body to synthesize the object's phenomenal parts. But for this reason, time is like a biproduct of our body's synthetic activities. And because each new moment pushes the current one into the past, we are ever in a state of becoming the object for a self ulterior to present self, a self on the horizon of ourself.
For us the perceptual synthesis is a temporal synthesis, and subjectivity, at the level of perception, is nothing but temporality, and this is what enables us to leave to the subject of perception his opacity and historicity. I open my eyes on to my table; and my consciousness is flooded with colours and confused reflections; it is hardly distinguishable from what is offered to it; it spreads out, through its accompanying body, into the spectacle which so far is not a spectacle of anything. Suddenly, I start to focus my eyes on the table which is not yet there, I begin to look into the distance while there is as yet no depth, my body centres itself on an object which is still only potential, and so disposes its sensitive surfaces as to make it a present reality. I can thus re-assign to its place in the world the something which was impinging upon me, because I can, by slipping into the future, throw into the immediate past the world’s first attack upon my senses, and direct myself towards the determinate object as towards a near future. The act of looking is indivisibly prospective, since the object is the final stage of my process of focusing, and retrospective, since it will present itself as preceding its own appearance, as the ‘stimulus’, the motive or the prime mover of every process since its beginning. The spatial synthesis and the synthesis of the object are based on this unfolding of time. In every focusing movement my body unites present, past and future, it secretes time, or rather it becomes that location in nature where, for the first time, events, instead of pushing each other into the realm of being, project round the present a double horizon of past and future and | acquire a historical orientation. There is here indeed the summoning, but not the experience, of an eternal natura naturans. My body takes possession of time; it brings into existence a past and a future for a present; it is not a thing, but creates time instead of submitting to it. But every act of focusing must be renewed, otherwise it falls into unconsciousness. The object remains clearly before me provided that I run my eyes over it, free-ranging scope being an essential property of the gaze. The hold which it gives us upon a segment of time, the synthesis which it effects are themselves temporal phenomena which pass, and can be recaptured only in a fresh act which is itself temporal. The claim to objectivity laid by each perceptual act is remade by its successor, again disappointed and once more made. This everrecurrent failure of perceptual consciousness was foreseeable from the start. If I cannot see the object except by distancing it in the past, this is because, like the first attack launched by the object upon my senses, the succeeding perception equally occupies and expunges my consciousness; it is because this perception will in turn pass away, the subject of perception never being an absolute subjectivity, but being destined to become an object for an ulterior I. Perception is always in the mode of the impersonal ‘One’. It is not a personal act enabling me to give a fresh significance to my life. The person who, in sensory exploration, gives a past to the present and directs it towards a future, is not myself as an autonomous subject, but myself in so far as I have a body and am able to ‘look’. Rather than being a genuine history, perception ratifies and renews in us a ‘prehistory’. And that again is of the essence of time: there would be no present, that is to say, no sensible world with its thickness and inexhaustible richness, if perception, in Hegel’s words, did not retain a past in the depth of the present, and did not contract that past into that depth. It fails at this moment to realize the synthesis of its object, not because it is the passive recipient of it, as empiricists would have it, but because the unity of the object makes its appearance through the medium of time, and because time slips away as fast as it catches up with itself. It is true that I find, through time, later experiences interlocking with earlier ones and carrying them further, but nowhere do I enjoy absolute possession of myself by myself, since the hollow void of the future is for ever being refilled with a fresh present. There is no related object without relation | and without subject, no unity without unification, but every synthesis is both exploded and rebuilt by time which, with one and the same process, calls it into question and confirms it because it produces a new present which retains the past. The duality of naturata and naturans is therefore converted into a dialectic of constituted and constituting time. If we are to solve the problem which we have set ourselves—that of sensoriality, or finite subjectivity—it will be by thinking about time and showing how it exists only for a subjectivity, since without the latter, the past in itself being no longer and the future in itself being not yet, there would be no time—and how nevertheless this subject is time itself, and how we can say with Hegel that time is the existence of mind, or refer with Husserl to a self-constitution of time. (278b.280b, boldface mine)
Mais la synthèse perceptive est pour nous une synthèse temporelle, la subjectivité, au niveau de la perception, n'est rien d'autre que la temporalité et c'est ce qui nous permet de laisser au sujet de la perception son opacité et son historicité. J'ouvre les yeux sur ma table, ma conscience est gorgée de couleurs et de reflets confus, elle se distingue à peine de ce qui s'offre à elle, elle s'étale à travers son corps dans le spectacle qui n'est encore spectacle de rien. Soudain, je fixe la table qui n'est pas encore là, je regarde à distance alors qu'il n'y a pas encore de profondeur, mon corps se centre sur un objet encore virtuel et dispose ses surfaces sensibles de manière à le rendre actuel.
Je peux ainsi renvoyer à sa place dans le monde le quelque chose qui me touchait, parce que je peux, en reculant dans l'avenir, renvoyer au passé immédiat la première attaque du monde sur mes sens, et m'orienter vers l'objet déterminé comme vers un avenir prochain, L'acte du regard est indivisiblement prospectif, puisque l'objet est au terme de mon mouvement de fixation, et rétrospectif, puisqu'il va se donner comme antérieur à son apparition, comme le « stimulus », le motif ou le premier moteur de tout le processus depuis son début. La synthèse spatiale et la synthèse de l'objet sont fon- | dées sur ce déploiement du temps. Dans chaque mouvement de fixation, mon corps noue ensemble un présent, un passé et un avenir, il sécrète du temps, ou plutôt il devient ce lieu de la nature où, pour la première fois, les événements, au lieu de se pousser l'un l'autre dans l'être, projettent autour du présent un double horizon de passé et d'avenir et reçoivent une orientation historique. Il y a bien ici l'invocation, mais non pas l'expérience d'un naturant éternel. Mon corps prend possession du temps, il fait exister un passé et un avenir pour un présent, il n'est pas une chose, il fait le temps au lieu de le subir. Mais tout acte de fixation doit être renouvelé, sans quoi il tombe à l'inconscience. L'objet ne reste net devant moi que si je le parcours des yeux, la volubilité est une propriété essentielle du regard. La prise qu'il nous donne sur un segment de temps, la synthèse qu'il effectue sont elles-mêmes des phénomènes temporels, s'écoulent et ne peuvent subsister que ressaisies dans un nouvel acte lui-même temporel. La prétention à l'objectivité de chaque acte perceptif est reprise par le suivant, encore déçue et de nouveau reprise. Cet échec perpétuel de la conscience perceptive était prévisible dès son commencement. Si je ne peux voir l'objet qu'en l'éloignant dans le passé, c'est que, comme la première attaque de l'objet sur mes sens, la perception qui lui succède occupe et oblitère elle aussi ma conscience, c'est donc qu'elle va passer à son tour, que le sujet de la perception n'est jamais une subjectivité absolue, qu'il est destiné à devenir objet pour un Je ultérieur. La perception est toujours dans le mode du « On ». Ce n'est pas un acte personnel par lequel je donnerais moi-même un sens neuf à ma vie. Celui qui, dans l'exploration sensorielle, donne un passé au présent et l'oriente vers un avenir, ce n'est pas moi comme sujet autonome, c'est moi en tant que j'ai un corps et que je sais « regarder ». Plutôt qu'elle n'est une histoire véritable, la perception atteste et renouvelle en nous une « préhistoire ». Et cela encore est essentiel au temps; il n'y aurait pas le présent, c'est-à-dire le sensible avec son épaisseur et sa richesse inépuisable, si la perception, pour parler comme Hegel, ne gardait un passé dans sa profondeur présente et ne le contractait en elle. Elle ne fait pas actuellement la synthèse de son objet, non qu'elle le reçoive passivement, l la manière empiriste, mais parce que l'unité de l'objet apparait par le temps, et que le temps s'échappe ù mesure qu'il se ressaisit. J'ai bien, grâce au temps, un emboîtement et une reprise des expériences antérieures dans les expériences ultérieures, mais nulle part une possession absolue de moi par moi, puisque le creux de l'avenir se remplit toujours d'un | nouveau présent. Il n'y a pas d'objet lié sans liaison et sans sujet, pas d'unité sans unification, mais toute synthèse est à la fois distendue et refaite par le temps qui, d'un seul mouvement, la met en question et la confirme parce qu'il produit un nouveau présent qui retient le passé. L'alternative du naturé et du naturant se transforme donc en une dialectique du temps constitué et du temps constituant. Si nous devons résoudre le problème que nous nous sommes posé - celui de la sensorialité, c'est-à-dire de la subjectivité finie - ce sera en réfléchissant sur le temps et en montrant comment il n'est que pour une subjectivité, puisque sans elle, le passé en soi n'étant plus et l'avenir en soi pas encore, il n'y aurait pas de temps - et comment cependant cette subjectivité est le temps lui-même, comment on peut dire avec Hegel que le temps est l'existence de l'esprit ou parler avec Husserl d'une autoconstitution du temps. (286c.288b, boldface mine)

Now we will consider these ideas from the perspective of a Deleuzean phenomenology.

Let's first recall Merleau-Ponty's notion of the communion of the body with the world through a rhythmic relationship. In order to sense something, our sense organs need to become receptive and sensitive to what they sense; they need to sympathize with it. Often times this involves us either moving ourselves out exploratively into the world or us retracting back into it. And there is a rhythm to this back-and-forth pattern. And this motion is like a sort of mouth-to-mouth breathing with the world. As we reach out into the world, the world receives us, and as the world penetrates us, we receive it. Again, there is a rhythm to this back-and-forth movement of us and the world. We feel a sort of partnership with the world, as if it were our dance partner or lover.

For Deleuze as well there is a rhythm of sensation, but it is a very different kind. Let's consider the Spinozistic sense of affective rhythm first. We are affected not when our body accords with what is impacting us. Our body is made up of differential relations, which are like calculus differentials, because the are the differential relations between the speed values of our infinitely divided parts. These relations are always changing because other bodies (likewise made of differential relations) are constantly impacting our own simple parts, causing their values to change. Because their values are always in variation, at any moment of contact with other bodies, there is an instantaneous affection. This is like an instantaneous velocity, and hence also it is like a calculus differential. In this case, the instantaneous affection is more like the degree to which a body's differential values are tending to change at a given moment. When our body contacts another body, we are simultaneously varying one another mutually. If we jump into the water, the water affects our body at the same time that we affect the shape and motion of the water wave. In order to swim, we need to change our body's internal differential relations so that they can maintain themselves while in contact with the waves differential relations. In other words, we change the patterns of motions of our body so that we swim through the wave. Being able to respond by self-differentiating is what Deleuze calls a sense of rhythm. But it is not a knowledge of repeating patterns. Rather, it is a feel for how to make modifications in oneself, different at each instant, in order to maintain differential relations with external bodies. Rhythm itself, in this example, would be the variations between us and the wave. And because we and the wave are already differential variations, rhythm then is a variation between variations. He gives also another illustration. Imagine a violin and a piano playing together. They are not playing a pre-written score, but their sounds are thrown together, like when jumping into the wave. Just as one changes itself to try to fit with the other, the other one has already itself changed. The rhythm is found in those initial efforts when there are variations between their variations. As soon as they reach a point of accord in their development, when they are on auto-pilot, it might seem like they have 'struck' a rhythm, but really they lost their rhythm, because the variations between their variations slowly diminished into recognizable patterns or characteristics. Likewise with the swimming: it might seem that the swimmer, once establishing a pattern of strokes and breathing, has found her rhythm. But in that case, she may take her mind off her relation with the, go on auto-pilot. But that would mean she is not profoundly affected by her relation with the water. There are no longer strong variations between their variations.

Let's also note Deleuze's Kantian sense of 'rhythm'. We are given infinitely small parts of perceptions in infinitely small parts of time. These do not extend in time or space. So they are merely intensities. We put the pieces together to form the objects we sense, and we can only do so over a finite extent of time. As we do this, we try to keep everything in proportion. When we put together the parts of a tree, we consider its height to be about that of 10 people. But the problem is that the instantaneous intensities that are given to us are not standardized units of time. They have no temporal measure. Each one is a different feeling of a magnitude of change. When we synthesize these parts, we sum-up the differential variations like in integral calculus. This allows us to ignore the variations and think instead of a homogenized spatial and temporal field where the contents were given. And this, as we said, is based on differential relations with other things we sense: the tree as 10 people tall. But these extensities distract us from the pure intensities that are originally given to us. In (mathematically) sublime experiences, we can no longer formulate these comparisons of magnitude as between the tree and the person, because there is no unit that can is common to both. When we are no longer able to synthesize the intensive parts together, that means in the first place we are not discerning objects in the world around us. We are only sensing their intensities. But it also means that we are not experiencing the world by mean of a temporal passage. We feel the world only instantaneously. And there is a chaos in the untamable variations given to us. But this chaos is merely the normal order of things, it is not really chaos, like a breakdown of order. Really, difference is the principle of givenness. We can think of that as chaos, but only in comparison to the extensive constitutions we secondarily make. Now, rhythm is this chaos or difference of immediate intensive givenness. Rhythm is
But rhythm is also the cause for our object constitutions. We only constitute an object on the grounds that it has different parts, which are the variations. When our eyes scan the length of the table, they stop at the edges not because of the affinity in the differences leading up to the edge. It is because we noted a difference in the rhythm of the sensations, and this difference was notable in that circumstance. Recall the Spinozistic rhythm. We in a way are dancing with the variations we interact with. What this means is we are changing while the world is changing, but differentially so. When we constitute objects, we are dancing in a certain way with our sense data. It is given to us in an irregular fashion. Every instant, we respond by changing which differences we force together more than others. So when we lift our glass, we do not differentiate the contents from its container. But when we drink from it, we do. We had to know the right moment when to break the constitution to make the parts incompatible, to make the fluid unable to remain in the glass so that it drains into our mouth.

Our point then is that we have sensations of the world not because we accord with it. Consider when our skin becomes perfectly 'sympathetic' with the room temperature. We don't notice the temperature. But when we step outside into the cold, we fell the temperature, and this is because our skin was not sympathetic to the world. Our skin had one temperature in mind and the world forced another upon it. The two were incompatible, so we felt temperature as a difference. Now imagine that after training, we were able to continue feeling the colder temperature just as it first felt, without getting adjusted to it. We would continue to need to not be in tune with the cold. We would have to remain unsympathetic to it. We would not, like Merleau-Ponty suggests, give our sense organs over to the cold so that they may vibrate with it accordantly. Instead, we would maintain our differential relation to the cold. Only this way can it remain a phenomenal appearance to us. Otherwise, it diminishes.

So our first main difference between Merleau-Ponty and a Deleuzean phenomenology is this: for a Merleau-Pontian phenomenology, our bodies sympathetic communion with the word is the grounds for us to sense the world, and there is a give-and-take rhythm to our active sensual integration with the world; but for a Deleuzean phenomenology, we could only possible sense something when we are not in communion with the world, and the rhythm of our interaction with the world is not complementary but rather dually differential.

The next difference will concern synaesthesia. For Merleau-Ponty, all senses are unique in the data they give us. But they are already integrated even prior to experience. And their a priori integration is based on their coming together to give content to the common spatial world they all feel. So the senses a priori integration with each other is also based on their a priori integration with the world. But for Deleuze, when we have sensations, there is a discordination between the body's parts. Consider again when we step out into the cold and abruptly notice the temperature change. Parts of our body are still operating as though it were warm. What are minds are thinking for the temperature comes into direct differential contact with what our skin is telling us. Perhaps our breathing and heartrates are slow to adjust. We might still be sweating despite that now being a problem. As soon as all the parts come into accord with each other and with the world, the sensation of cold diminishes.

But this does not address specifically the idea of two different senses being anti-synaesthetic. For this, consider Deleuze's discussion of the screams that Francis Bacon paints, for example, in his
Study After Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X.

Francis Bacon. Study After Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X
Francis Bacon. Study After Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X
(Thanks artinvest2000)

Deleuze says that Bacon here paints invisible forces. Perhaps this has something to do with the discoordination of the senses. With a Merleau-Pontian mindset, we would say that generally speaking if you see something that also has a sonic quality to it, we can hear it too. So if we see glass shattering, but the sound waves do not reach us for some reason, it still hits our ears in a way, we can still hear the sound with our vision. In this painting, we see a scream. But do we feel it hitting our ears? Perhaps there is something else about it visually which tells us the sound is muted. Perhaps it is the fact that there is no real density to the body, so it seems impossible that a sound could emanate from it. But for some reason, this painting might give us the feeling of the chill of silence. And yet, we can also with our eyes feel in a tactile way the forces squeezing on the pope. So we feel the pressure, and we see the opening for its release, and yet we do not synaesthetically hear the scream. In a sense, the hearing part of our perception, the seeing, and the touching have been torn apart from one another. They do not agree on a common object. Is it a sound or is it silence? Is the figure empty of sound, or is it overfull but unable to release it? Our senses cannot agree on what they see. And yet, it is by this means that we obtain an incredible sensation from this painting. And it allows our differentially relating senses to indirectly perceive the invisible intensive forces acting on the figure and on us sensationally.

So the second main difference we draw between a Merleau-Pontian and a Deleuzean phenomenology is the following. In a Merleau-Pontian phenomenology, we have sensations on the basis of all our senses speaking through one another. But in a Deleuzean phenomenology, would have more intense sensations when our senses can no longer communicate to one another what they are perceiving.

We noted also that how Merleau-Ponty ties the notion of time with the horizonal structure of our bodily perception. When we first sense something, we do so indeterminately. It is on the horizon of our awareness. Then by directing ourselves to it, we are aiming ourselves into the future with the intent of leaving the present behind us in the past. And the subject now doing the perceiving will become an object for an ulterior I. Perhaps we may assume that this ulterior I is the one that awaits us in the future, the one that is on the horizon. So our body synthetically constitutes the world by means of its
a priori integration of the senses in conjunction with our senses' already given immersion into the world. This synthesizing involves our intentional awareness, which means that at the very edges of the scope of our awareness, there lies things that we are aware-of indeterminately. But this is not just at the spatial margins, for example. It is also at the temporal margins. We are protentionally aware of the coming intentions that are now on our temporal horizon. Motivation is the force that moves our awareness toward the horizons so to determine their contents. So we are motivated to push ourselves into the future so that we may be more explicitly aware of its contents. This means that are continually in a state of breaking away from ourselves and of regarding their being a self ulterior to us, that is now on our horizon. The synthesis of time, then, comes from this intentional awareness between our present and our coming self. That part of us that links the two modes of our self is also the part of us that links two parts of time. Our continual trans-temporal self-identification, in the midst of our continual temporal self-distantiation, is what glues the successive parts of time together to make a meaningful history rather than the pure passage of time in the present.

In a similar way, Deleuze ties a sort of distantiation of selfhood to time. But the distance between selves is not a matter of one self being on our temporal horizon, awaiting us to arrive to it as a memory. It is not an exstatic moving away from ourselves to an indeterminate temporal horizon. Consider those times when we really notice ourselves. For example, we look in the mirror and we see signs that we have aged. This is like us walking out into the cold. We had one idea in mind as to what we look like, then our senses are telling us something different. Here in a way, our past self has been thrown into our current self. But because we are shocked, it feels as though our future self was just thrown upon us. What we feel as time is not like some kind of motion, like we are riding around in a train all day at a constant speed. When we look in the mirror and see 5 years of aging that went unnoticed before, we feel 5 years in an instant. But it is more like 5 years of difference, and not five years of time that we feel. And our assumed appearance along with our 5 years-older actual appearance are not separated by 5 years of time. They are both there together simultaneously. It is not that we are moving away from our present selves to our future selves. Rather, our future selves are continually colliding into us, and who we are is always the difference between. In other words, we are the crack between our moments. Time is really a series of cracks running through who we are. What gives any one of us a history is the fact that so many of our past instantiations are still contained with us now in the form of memory, which is also retained in our bodily habits. Who we are is not any one of our instantiations. We are the series of differences between our instantiations. Because our past and our future selves are continually thrown upon us so to all be simultaneous in the instant, we constitute time as a sort of integral sum of these differences.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. Transl. Colin Smith. London/New York: Routledge, 1958.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phénoménologie de la perception. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1945.

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Sagital Plane image:
(Thanks wikipedia)

Francis Bacon. Study After Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X
(Thanks artinvest2000)

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