Experiences we go through. Sensing, Bodily Affordances and the Institution of the Self
Date & Time: 30 October 2019, 17:15-19:00
Room: MIS04, 4122
This paper deals with Merleau‑Ponty’s philosophy of perception, and aims at indicating why a reconception of what it means to be sensing also has implications for the understanding of processes of subjectivation. Connecting Merleau-Ponty’s early criticism of sense data with the later explorations around the notion of “institution,” the point is to show how a self is not a mere receptacle for sensory contents but is instituted as a self through the very experiences it undergoes. Experience is not a thing we “do” or “have,” but something we go through and something through which we become what we are. From a recapitulation of Merleau‑Ponty’s account of sense‑emergence as a Gestaltist process and the analysis of the negative, diacritical structure of the experiential field, the argument moves to the mute demands of sensible environments (“affordances”) and the types of embodied responsivity they call for. As the paper argues, affective, “pathic” events that touch the subject are also what brings the subject into existence. Consequently, subjectivity appears as the field of becoming, a becoming shaped through sensible requests and instituted by means of the creative responses given to the requests put forward by other beings, things, and subjects.