The reconversion of silence and speech

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The deepening of Merleau-Ponty's conception of philosophy parallels his investigations of three distinct modes of silence: the pre-reflective muteness of perception, the indirect language of creative expression, and the abyssal silence of Being. Conceived as "radical reflection" in Phenomenology of Perception, philosophy's task is to reflect on the unreflective in a manner that expresses what it means to say without thereby violating its opacity and withdrawal. But the account of the tacit or silent cogito in this work obscures the role that silence plays as the indirect or lateral relation animating expression from within. Proposing in his later work to understand philosophy as the reconversion of silence and speech, Merleau-Ponty recognizes a chiastic relation between the muteness of the sensible and the secrecy of sense. The first two modes of silence therefore converge in a third, the unspeakability of Being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-477
Number of pages21
JournalTijdschrift voor Filosofie
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


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