do objects assail or beckon us?

I can’t recall right now (and I don’t feeling like looking it up) where Merleau-Ponty says that objects, or their sense, meet our gaze with a ‘vague beckoning’? He also uses the term ‘solicitation’ at places to denote how object attract us and draw us into a ‘communion’ with them. At a couple points in the Phenomenology he speaks about sense experience as an assault or assailing of the body, which is language he adopts directly from Erwin Straus’s The Primary World of Senses.

Realism hinges on the question of whether or not objects assail us. If we think they merely beckon us, then the idea that subject and object reciprocally determine each other’s form seems plausible. That is, a certain postdualist idealism/irrealism may be right.  But if objects assail us with their qualities or with sensations, then there is something to be said about their autonomy from our perceptual or cognitive machinery.


About plasticbodies

Contemporary philosopher.
This entry was posted in Object-Oriented Philosophy, Sensation and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to do objects assail or beckon us?

  1. michael- says:

    “Realism hinges on the question of whether or not objects assail us.”

    Exactly. For realism to be tenable it must be the case that objects and entities impinge on us enough that their inherent ‘qualities’ can be known. In my opinion, any ontology that fails to demonstrate how entitles encounter each other more or less directly is not a realist theory.

    What you want to call a thing’s “qualities” I call its immanent properties. I prefer to use the term ‘properties’ because the word ‘quality’ carries with it the connotation of ‘being perceived’ by the subject. In fact, I argue that entities are temporal assemblages of immanent properties – and thus vulnerable to a myriad of affects (assailing and being assailed) on multiple scales, and from various angles, depending on the circumstances obtaining within the wider ecology of forces, flows and things.

    I have a detailed reaction to your previous comments posted (here) if you are interested.

    My own position, I believe, is very close to your conception of an object as “a collection of properties whose singularity is defined by its disposition”. But I would be open to more clarification on what you ultimately think objects are.

    One other thought, however, is that I’m not sure I can follow you on the notion that rocks and sandpaper have “sensations”. Maybe we need a different, more elemental term here, because for me we will still need to differentiate between entities with sensorial capacities (e.g., nervous systems) and those that don’t. The specificity I think is important. I would have the same issue with getting rid of the distinction between sentience and insentience. Not that there is a difference in ontic-kind, but that the difference in degree of complexity and plasticity should be respected.

    Anyway, I look forward to learning more about your project…

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