Merleau-Ponty on Style as the Key to Perceptual Presence and Constancy

Journal of the History of Philosophy 55 (4):693-727 (2017)
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In recent discussions of two important issues in the philosophy of perception, viz. the problems of perceptual presence and perceptual constancy, Merleau-Ponty’s ideas have been garnering attention thanks to the work of Sean Kelly and Alva Noë. Although both Kelly’s normative approach and Noë’s enactive approach highlight important aspects of Merleau-Ponty’s view, I argue that neither does full justice to it because they overlook the central role that style plays in his solution to these problems. I show that a closer look at the Phenomenology and several other texts from this period reveals that, on Merleau-Ponty’s account, we are able to perceive the absent features of objects as present, constant properties, and constant objects because we recognize that the objects we perceive have a unique style that persists through and unifies all their appearances.

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Samantha Matherne
Harvard University


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