Communicating Bodies. Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of intercorporeality

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paper


In his Phenomenology of Perception , Maurice Merleau-Ponty describes the lived body as our primary way of being-in-the-world. Just as nature would continue existing without mankind, bodies would continue without mind. The body symbolizes our existence, it realizes our existence and is its actualization. The body expresses existence, just as words express thoughts. Thus, we can understand why the body is a subject itself. It is a subject as a sense-giving existence.
When we start from embodiment as the axis of our being-in-the-world, the problem of solipsism is imminent again and again. A question, then, arises: how do we, starting from that point, understand the other? As we are in the world as embodied beings, we cannot leave our body, since it is the axis of our existence, it must be difficult to complete the encounter with others. Merleau-Ponty was very well aware of this problematic: “The other’s body is in front of me – but as far as it is concerned, it leads a singular existence, between I who think and that body, or rather near me, by my side. The other’s body is a kind of replica of myself, a wandering double which haunts my surroundings more than it appears in them. The other’s body is the unexpected response I get from elsewhere, as if by a miracle things began to tell my thoughts, or as though they would be thinking and speaking always for me, since they are things and I am myself. The other, in my eyes, is thus always on the margin of what I see and hear, his is this side of me, he is beside or behind me, but he is not in that place which my look flattens and empties of any ‘interior’. Every other is a self like myself.”
The solipsist element is clearly present here. But, it is not in spite of this solipsism that we may come to a relation with the other, but on the contrary thanks to it. Me and the other, we are almost concentric circles, differing only very slightly. The existing resemblance makes it possible to understand the relation with the other. Nevertheless, the problem remains that the other is never me. I shape her according to my own image, but how might there be an image of mine for her?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSociety for Phenomenology and Media.
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings annual conference.
EditorsMelinda Campbell
Place of PublicationSan Diego
PublisherSociety for Phenomenology and Media
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)97819866320030
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018
EventAnnual Conference of the Society for Phenomenology and Media - Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten, Brussels, Belgium
Duration: 10 Mar 201712 Mar 2017


ConferenceAnnual Conference of the Society for Phenomenology and Media
Internet address


  • Phenomenology


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