Merleau-Ponty and the Other World of Painting: A Response

This paper is a response to a recent claim made by Norwegian philosopher Tarjei Larsen in the Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology that Merleau-Ponty’s own theory of painting undermines the important distinction made in his thought between primordial perception and cultural construction because it requires that perception take different cultural and historical forms in order to account for perspectival painting. I try to show that this distinction is not so easily collapsed by arguing that Larsen has misconstrued Merleau-Ponty’s account of painting as a phenomenological theory of painting and misinterpreted Merleau-Ponty’s concept of painterly style, and that therefore the conclusion that perception must be malleable is not warranted. What is at stake in this debate is whether Merleau-Ponty’s own account of painting threatens the basis for his phenomenological project as well as his attempt to accord substantial philosophical significance to painting.
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