Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Preliminary-Hermeneutic Presentation on Merleau-Ponty (Existence and Sexuality)

This will be a preliminary-hermeneutic of page 169 of our translation of Phenomenology of Perception. Here, Merleau-Ponty explains that sexuality “can underlie and guide specified forms of” our experience, “without being the object of any intended act of consciousness.” This makes sexuality “co-extensive with life.” Meaning, it is so heavily and richly intertwined with human actions and lifestyles, that ambiguity is, in fact, “the essence of human existence,” granting the dynamically colourful nature of “everything we live or think,” hence our lives always having “several meanings.” It is for this reason that it is impossible to untie the two – existence and sexuality – in order to understand the preconscious sexual undertones of any given situation, making a purely Freudian attempt quite futile. All of our human motives and motility could be “perhaps a generalized expression of a certain state of sexuality,” which makes figuring out the precise source of “so many rationally based decisions” impossible for seeing where one begins and one ends, for the simple reason that it is not merely about one beginning and one ending. They are both concomitantly working together as sublimated sexuality by virtue of being in the world.

The framework of sexuality” and “the framework of existence,” due to being “so loaded with the passage of time,” have become completely inextricable. As Merleau-Ponty puts it, “There is an interfusion between sexuality and existence, which means that 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’.” Hence the hidden acts of sexuality when walking to our car, when riding a bicycle, when going grocery shopping, when buying a movie ticket, when catching a Frisbee and the possibility of having a preconscious orgasm when we finish washing the dishes. “The fact remains that this existence is the act of taking up and making explicit a sexual situation, and that in this way it has always at least a double sense.”

This could, in fact, make sense within a lock-and-key understanding of what Merleau-Ponty is trying to say. It makes sense within his philosophical framework of phenomenology that our sexuality be, in fact, located not only throughout our very limbs, but also in the things we encounter in our day-to-day lives. They are what bring out our “sexuality” in its generalized form. They unlock a specific amount and type of our sexuality in a given, particular scenario, in a way that no other particularity could at that moment or with another person. The experience becomes the key to unlocking a specific, transformed sexual movement. Hence why a given person’s sexual energy might be more vibrant when going to see a travel agent, than when going to a job interview for a job he or she has no desire of being employed in. The way we bend our arm to go for a glass of wine could be sexually charged quite differently than the way we bend it for a glass of grape juice. However, to say it again, we have no way of determining which act has more sexual content in it than another.

This sublimation of our sexuality by our very existence, Merleau-Ponty calls “transcendence,” and is a “tension which is essential to it” – existence, that is. An asexual drive, then, would be the essence of a very different type of existence than a sexually driven one. Our sexuality must, then, be one of the forming factors of our habits, and part of the fixation which expels itself through them with subtle variability in different moments throughout our lives. However, with or without habits, the sexual fixation is always there. Except, it is not that it is behind our thoughts, it is our thoughts, irrelevant that they may not be explicitly, or even implicitly, sexual in nature. And it cannot be determined how our sexuality will expel itself in our daily lives, based on how it might have in the past, due 1) to the fact that we do not know exactly how it has done so in the first place, as our sexuality has been so finely fused with us as a whole, and 2) to the indeterminacy of existence itself.

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