chapter  14
11 Pages

Expression

ByHarry Adams

For Merleau-Ponty, expression is not the intentional activity of disembodied minds or consciousnesses; rather, the body (and, in his later work, “the flesh of the world”) becomes the medium of expression. “Our body is comparable to a work of art [and as such] is a nexus of living meanings”; it makes no more sense to talk of expression without bodies than it would to talk of poetry without words or paper, music without sounds or notes, or paintings without paint or brush or canvas (PP: 150-51). Certainly, without mouths, vocal cords, hands, limbs and brains, expression would be strangely mute if not impossible. But Merleau-Ponty is claiming more than this. He insists that bodies are not mere vessels of minds or vehicles of intellectual messages, but also actively evoke, interpret and transform meaning. Often with a flick of the wrist, a gesture, a nod, glance or stance, we spontaneously comport a meaning that is itself the message, a message that was not preconceived in our mind and then merely translated out – as if the body were always only the passive servant or mouthpiece of the mind.