Aesthetic movements of embodied minds
between Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze
Animating Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological idea of the body as a pre-reflective organizing principle in perception, consciousness and language has become a productive and popular endeavor within philosophy of mind during the last two decades. In this context Merleau-Ponty's descriptions of an embodied mind has played a central role in the attempts to naturalize phenomenological insights in relation to cognitive science and neuropsychological research. In this dialogue the central role of art and aesthetics in phenomenology has been neglected or at best treated as a peripheral phenomenon. In this article I argue that the failure to place art and aesthetics at the center of thought within phenomenology leads to a neglect of the expressive primacy of the body in movement. In the current naturalization of phenomenology the questions related to expressive movement are often consigned to the notions of motor intentionality or gesture. However, in his book How the Body Shapes the Mind (2005, Oxford & New York: Clarendon Press) the philosopher Shaun Gallagher interestingly concludes, based on experimental results, that bodily movements of gesture cannot be accounted for by the phenomenologically adapted notions of "body image' and "body schema'. Symptomatically, Gallagher ends his chapter on bodily gesture with a section title asking the relevant question that remains unanswered within a phenomenology of mind: Expressive movement from the beginning? The search for an answer to this question points, in my view, to the possibility of a more radical understanding of the embodied mind based on the primacy of expressive experimentation rather than representational experience, which makes the question of art and aesthetics a core issue. Following the image of thought in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze I argue that art, as the production of sensation through experimentation, presents us with a mode of thinking that accounts for expressive bodily movement as a constitutive force in subjective thought and experience.
Levin, K. (2016). Aesthetic movements of embodied minds: between Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze. Continental Philosophy Review 49 (2), pp. 181-202.
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