International Studies in Phenomenology and Philosophy

Journal | Volume | Article


Embodied symbolism and self-awareness in Merleau-Ponty's interpretation of the unconscious

Jan Puc

pp. 15-35


This essay suggests what M. Merleau-Ponty’s conceptions of primordial symbolism and embodied intersubjectivity imply for the problem of the existence and manifestation of dynamically unconscious experiences. First, the paper draws attention to two distinct approaches to the unconscious in the Phenomenology of Perception. One line of argumentation proceeds from the notion of bad faith, which plays a pivotal role in J.-P. Sartre’s critique of psychoanalysis; another line subsumes unconscious thoughts under the neurological notion of body schema. Later, in Lectures on Passivity, Merleau-Ponty combines this expanded notion of body schema with his conception of “promiscuity,” which he illustrates with Freud’s case study of Dora. The paper explains how this new approach to intersubjectivity provides a basis for the manifestation of experiences against which the subject adopts defensive reactions. Finally, it is argued that this position does not equal a straightforward rejection of the notion of pre-reflective cogito and the problem of awareness of unconscious experiences thus remains open.

Publication details

Published in:

Grohmann Till, Kristensen Stefan (2019). Self and singularity. Metodo 7 (1).

Pages: 15-35

DOI: 10.19079/metodo.7.1.15

Full citation:

Puc Jan (2019). Embodied symbolism and self-awareness in Merleau-Ponty's interpretation of the unconscious. Metodo 7 (1), pp. 15-35.