Seeing Double, Together
I'm excited to be giving a talk for the British Society for Phenomenology.
Here is the abstract:
In Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty argues that binocular vision is accomplished neither through the impersonal accumulation of separate images nor through the transcendental inspection of the mind; rather, it is accomplished through the gearing together of the two eyes in a single gesture responding to the tensions that steal across the phenomenal field. The gesture that creatively takes up these tensions is solicited but not predetermined by them. The binocular image haunts the field protentionally; it is a certain absence remaining virtual and imminent, and only there for the person able to sense its call. It is no more contained in these tensions than a poem is prefigured in a language, and only the accomplishment of binocular vision will prove that there was something there to be seen in this way. And yet, how the tensions of the field solicit a creative gearing-into has not been fully appreciated, with much of our focus on the accomplished perception rather than the paradoxical structure of tension that solicits it. Moreover, completing this picture is particularly urgent insofar as this example shapes Merleau-Ponty’s account of the perception of others and collective action. Now, although Gilbert Simondon rarely acknowledged his philosophicaldebt to Merleau-Ponty, I argue that Simondon’s account of the metastable tensions that solicit oriented but unpredictable individuation completes and furthers Merleau-Ponty’s fascinating use of the figure-ground structure and the event of binocular vision. By mobilizing Elizabeth Grosz’s reading of Simondon’s powerful philosophy of individuation and my own account of the paradoxical solicitation of the virtual, this paper offers foundational insights into our perception of others, collective action, and our being-with-others as a creative resolution of the tension of seeing double, together.