We should be sensitive to the thread of silence from which the tissue of speech is woven.

— Maurice Merleau-Ponty

The most jittery Maurice Merleau-Ponty quotes that are life-changing and eye-opening

We must therefore rediscover, after the natural world, the social world, not as an object or sum of objects, but as a permanent field or dimension of existence.


Because we are in the world, we are condemned to meaning, and we cannot do or say anything without its acquiring a name in history.


The body is our general medium for having a world.


The photograph keeps open the instants which the onrush of time closes up forthwith; it destroys the overtaking, the overlapping, the metamorphosis of time.


Visible and mobile, my body is a thing among things;

it's caught in the fabric of the world, and its cohesion is that of a thing. But, because it moves itself and sees, it holds things in a circle around itself.


I live in the facial expressions of the other, as I feel him living in mine.


I am not in front of my body, I am in it or rather I am it.

.. If we can still speak of interpretation in relation to the perception of one's own body, we shall have to say that it interprets itself.


Like the weaver, the writer works on the wrong side of his material.

He has only to do with the language, and it is thus that he suddenly finds himself surrounded by sense.


Our view of man will remain superficial so long as we fail to go back to that origin [of silence], so long as we fail to find, beneath the chatter of words, the primordial silence, and as long as we do not describe the action which breaks this silence. the spoken word is a gesture, and its meaning, a world.


The phenomenological world is not the bringing to explicit expression of a pre-existing being, but the laying down of being. Philosophy is not the reflection of a pre-existing truth, but, like art, the act of bringing truth into being.


The world is... the natural setting of, and field for, all my thoughts and all my explicit perceptions. Truth does not inhabit only the inner man, or more accurately, there is no inner man, man is in the world, and only in the world does he know himself.


The child lives in a world which he unhesitatingly believes accessible to all around him.


About Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Quotes 50 sayings
Profession Philosopher
Birthday March 14, 1908

The full meaning of a language is never translatable into another.

We may speak several languages but one of them always remains the one in which we live. In order completely to assimilate a language it would be necessary to make the world which it expresses one's own and one never does belong to two worlds at once.


The philosopher will ask himself ... if the criticism we are now suggesting is not the philosophy which presses to the limit that criticism of false gods which Christianity has introduced into our history.


Language transcends us and yet we speak.


Speech is not a means in the service of an external end.

It contains its own rule of usage, ethics, and view of the world, as a gesture sometimes bears the whole truth about a man.


As a matter of principle, humanity is precarious: each person can only believe what he recognizes to be true internally and, at the same time, nobody thinks or makes up his mind without already being caught up in certain relationships with others, which leads him to opt for a particular set of opinions.


To ask for an explanation is to explain the obscure by the more obscure.


The perceived world is the always-presupposed foundation of all rationality, all value, and all existence.


The world is... the natural setting of, and field for, all my thoughts and all my explicit perceptions.


I discover vision, not as a 'thinking about seeing,' to use Descartes expression, but as a gaze at grips with a visible world, and that is why for me there can be another's gaze.


It is a great good fortune, as Stendhal said, for one "to have his passion as a profession.


Thinking which displaces, or otherwise defines, the sacred has been called atheistic, and that philosophy which does not place it here or there, like a thing, but at the joining of things and words, will always be exposed to this reproach without ever being touched by it.


It is the mission of the twentieth century to elucidate the irrational.


It is the essence of certainty to be established only with reservations.


The number and richness of man's signifiers always surpasses the set of defined objects that could be termed signifieds. The symbolic function must always precede its object and does not encounter reality except when it precedes it into the imaginary.


My hold on the past and the future is precarious and my possession of my own time is always postponed until a stage when I may fully understand it, yet this stage can never be reached, since it would be one more moment bounded by the horizon of its future, and requiring in its turn, further developments in order to be understood.


All thought of something is at the same time self-consciousness [.

..] At the root of all our experiences and all our reflections, we find [...] a being which immediately recognises itself, [...] and which knows its own existence, not by observation and as a given fact, nor by inference from any idea of itself, but through direct contact with that existence. Self-consciousness is the very being of mind in action.


Socrates reminds us that it is not the same thing, but almost the opposite, to understand religion and to accept it.


Theology recognizes the contingency of human existence only to derive it from a necessary being, that is, to remove it. Theology makes use of philosophical wonder only for the purpose of motivating an affirmation which ends it. Philosophy, on the other hand, arouses us to what is problematic in our own existence and in that of the world, to such a point that we shall never be cured of searching for a solution.


Our own body is in the world as the heart is in the organism: it keeps the visible spectacle constantly alive, it breathes life into it and sustains it inwardly, and with it forms a system.


I will never know how you see red and you will never know how I see it.

But this separation of consciousness is recognized only after a failure of communication, and our first movement is to believe in an undivided being between us.


Existence permeates sexuality and vice versa, so that it is impossible to determine, in a given decision or action, the proportion of sexual to other motivations, impossible to label a decision or act ‘sexual’ or ‘non-sexual’ . There is no outstripping of sexuality any more than there is sexuality enclosed within itself. No one is saved and no one is totally lost.


To understand is to experience harmony between what we aim at and what is given, between the intention and the performance - and the body is our anchorage in the world.


Lichtenberg ... held something of the following kind: one should neither affirm the existence of God nor deny it. ... It is not that he wished to leave certain perspectives open, nor to please everyone. It is rather that he was identifying himself, for his part, with a consciousness of self, of the world, and of others that was "strange" (the word is his) in a sense which is equally well destroyed by the rival explanations.


The flesh is at the heart of the world.


I may speak many languages, but there remains one in which I live.


We know not through our intellect but through our experience.


[The sensate body possesses] an art of interrogating the sensible according to its own wishes, an inspired exegesis.


Machiavelli is the complete contrary of a machiavellian, since he describes the tricks of power and gives the whole show away. The seducer and the politician, who live in the dialectic and have a feeling and instinct for it, try their best to keep it hidden.


The body is to be compared, not to a physical object, but rather to a work of art.


Everyone is alone and yet nobody can do without other people, not just because they are useful... but also when it comes to happiness.


Thought without language, says Lavelle, would not be a purer thought;

it would be no more than the intention to think. And his last book offers a theory of expressiveness which makes of expression not "a faithful image of an already realized interior being, but the very means by which it is realized.


Our body is not in space like things;

it inhabits or haunts space. It applies itself to space like a hand to an instrument. And when we wish to move about, we do not move the body as we move an object.


My own words take me by surprise and teach me what to think.


Nothing determines me from outside, not because nothing acts upon me, but, on the contrary, because I am from the start outside myself and open to the world.


True reflection presents me to myself not as idle and inaccessible subjectivity, but as identical with my presence in the world and to others, as I am now realizing it: I am all that I see, I am an intersubjective field, not despite my body and historical situation, but, on the contrary, by being this body and this situation, and through them, all the rest.


The world is nothing but 'world-as-meaning.


Montaigne [puts] not self-satisfied understanding but a consciousness astonished at itself at the core of human existence.

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