chapter  15
11 Pages

Affect and sensibility

BySuzanne L. Cataldi

It is curious that a thinker as interested in embodiment, psychology and sense-perception as Merleau-Ponty did not explicitly develop a philosophical account of the emotions or devote at least one of his several essays entirely to the subject. While keen observations concerning emotional phenomena appear throughout his writings, affectivity is typically taken up only in relation to one or another of his more explicit themes or interests – for example, art, childhood development, relations with others, erotic or expressive embodiment. Indeed, affectivity is so interfused with sense-perception in the living experience Merleau-Ponty tries philosophically to capture that it is somewhat difficult to imagine how he might have thought them apart. Perceived objects are simultaneously evocative. “The body which possesses senses is also a body which has desires” (EP: 197). Together they comprise our sensibility, our means or manner of opening on to a world we are already “in” or “of” (l’en-être).