Phenomenology of the language of fine arts in aesthetics by Maurice Merleau-Ponty




language of fine arts, style, perceptual meaning, diacritical concept of meaning


In this article the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty is considered in the methodological aspect as an approach to the study of the problem of meaning in the visual arts. The author's hypothesis is that the ideas of Merleau-Ponty can serve as a philosophical justification for the aesthetic theory of tropos in the visual arts. The author of the article comes to the conclusion that the meta-aesthetic function of painting, grounded by the philosopher, was not a consequence of her representative nature, but a form of actualization of unrepresentative (stylistic) aspects of art in the artistic space of the twentieth century. A careful reading of the late works of Merleau-Ponty convinces us that his phenomenology of the artistic language allows us not to confine ourselves to semiotic models in the study of the problem of language in art, transforming it into a problem of the author's (individual) style, which is considered by philosopher on the basis of the diacritical concept of meaning as difference, formed in the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty under the influence of Saussure's theory. Unlike the semiotic approach to the communicative function of the work, which is secondary in art, the diacritical concept of meaning by Merleau-Ponty is oriented toward explication of the creative function of the work, which leads to semantic changes. The article focuses on the Merlot-Ponty's concept of perceptual meaning. Art as a privileged way of manifesting of perceptual meaning is based on the mechanism of the dual vision of "fact" and "essence", revealed by Merleau-Ponty, in which "fact" (visible, material) stands in the status of norm, and "essence" (invisible, semantic) is deviation from the norm, which leads to the formation of meaning. The author of the article traces the correlation of the positions of rhetorical theory, according to which the ratio of the norm and the deviation from it forms the structure of the rhetorical figure and the mechanism of the generation of the indirect meaning, and the diacritical concept of meaning as the difference proposed by Merleau-Ponty, which indicates the relevance of it as a theoretical tool for studying the phenomenon of tropos in art.

Author Biography

Оlena Vyacheslavova, Bogomolets National Medical University

Ph.D, Associate Professor of the Department of Philosophy and Sociology


Arslanov, V.G. (2003). History of Western art of the twentieth century: Uch.posobie for universities. Academic Project, Moscow, 768 p. (rus).

Bal, Mike (2012). Visual essentialism and the object of visual research. Logos. №1 (85). 212-249 (rus).

Basin, E.Ya. (2012). Semantic philosophy of art. Humanitarian, Moscow, 348 p. (rus).

Waldenfels, B. (2002). Entering the phenomenology [translat.] Alterpres, Kyiv, 176 p. (ukr).

Waldenfels, B. (2011). Order of the visible. Koinonia. Bulletin of the Kharkiv National University. VN Karazin. №950. 62-92 (rus).

Vdovina, I.S. (2009). Maurice Merlo-Ponty. In: Phenomenology in France (historical and philosophical essays). «Canon +», Rion «Rehabilitation», Moscow, p.15-106 (rus).

Vyacheslavova, O.A. (2016). Art and Being in the phenomenological aesthetics of Maurice Merlot-Ponti. Bulletin of the National Aviation University. Series: Philosophy. Culturology, 2 (24). 91-96 (ukr).

Dukhan, I.N. (2011). Merleau-Ponty and Cezanne: to becoming a phenomenologist of the visible. Historical and Philosophical Yearbook’2010 Institute of Philosophy RAS. Center for Humanitarian Initiatives, Moscow. 171-204 (rus).

Genet, Gerard (1998). Figures [translat.] Publishing House. Sabashnikovs, Moscow, 472 p. (rus).

Merleau-Ponty Maurice (1992). The Eye and the Spirit [translat.], Iskusstvo, Moscow, 63 p. (rus).

Merleau-Ponty Maurice (2001). Indirect language and voices of silence In: Signs [translat.] Iskusstvo, Moscow, pp. 44-94 (rus).

Merleau-Ponty Maurice (2006). Visible and invisible. In: Visible and invisible ; [translat.] I. Logvinov Publisher, Minsk, p.9-227 (rus).

Merleau-Ponty Maurice (2001). On the Phenomenology of Language In: Signs [translat.] Iskusstvo, Moscow, pp. 95-110 (rus).

Merleau-Ponty Maurice (2006). Work Records In: Visible and invisible ; [translat.] I. Logvinov Publisher, Minsk, p.241-360 (rus).

Merleau-Ponty Maurice (2001). Signs [translat.] Iskusstvo, Moscow, 429 p. (rus).

Petrova, O. (2015). Time interval, archetype and metaphor as radical attributes of art. In: Third Eye: Art studios: Monographic collection of articles; Institute of Problems contemporary. We Ukraine. Phoenix Publishing, Kyiv, 99-105 (ukr).

Popovych, M.V. & Krymsky, S.B. & Yolon, P.F. [etc.] (2012). Theory of meaning in humanities and intensional models in exact sciences. Naukova dumka, Kyiv, 456 p. (ukr).

Fedoruk, O. (2008). A grand sign of metaphor. In: Crossing of the sign: Selected art criticism articles. Vol.3. Intertekhnologiya Publishing, Kyiv, 25-53 (ukr).

Yampolsky, M. (2007). Weaver and visionary. Essays on the history of representation, or On the material and ideal in culture. New literary review, Moskow, 616 р. DOI: 10.21476/pp.2017.31109

Alloa, Emmanuel (2009). La chair comme diacritique incarne. Chiasmi International. Vol.11. 249-262. DOI:: 10.5840/chiasmi20091143

Alloa, Emmanuel (2013). The Diacritical Nature of Meaning: Merleau-Ponty with Saussure. Chiasmi International. Vol.15.. 167-181. DOI: 10.5840/chiasmi­20131516

Alloa, Emmanuel and Adnen, J. [eds.] (2012). Du sensible a l’oeuvre: Esthetiques de Merleau-Ponty Lettre vole, Bruxelles, 346 p. (fr).

Burke, P. and Van der Veken, J. [eds.] (1993). Merleau-Ponty in Contemporary Perspective Springer Netherlands; Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Boston. 206 p. ; DOI:10.1007/978-94-011-1751-7.

Carbone, Mauro (2001). La visibilite de l’invisible: Merleau-Ponty entre Cezanne et Proust. Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim-Zurich-New York. 194 p. (fr).

Carbone, Mauro (2010). An Unprecedented Deformation: Marsel Proust and the Sensible Ideas [translat.]. SUNY Press, NY, 128 p. (eng).

Carbone, Mauro (2015). The Flesh of Images: Merleau-Ponty Between Painting and Cinema [translat.]. SUNY Press, NY, 128 p. (eng).

Carbone, Mauro (2013). L’empreinte du visuel. Merleau-Ponty et les images aujourd’hui, Metis Presses, Geneva, 184 p. (fr).

Carbone, Mauro, Sparvoli, E. [eds.] (2008). Proust et la philosophie aujourd’hui, ETS Vrin-ETS Edizioni, Paris; Pisa, 352 p. (fr).

Carbone, M. and Dalmasso, A.C. and Franzini, E. (2013). Merleau-Ponty e l’estetica oggi. In: Merleau-Ponty et l’esthetique aujourd’hui Mimesis Edizioni, Milano-Udine, 320 p. (it).

Cohen, A. (2017). A “Paradox of Expression”: Merleau-Ponty and the Intertwining Nature of Brecht’s “not …but” Procedure. Performance Philosophy Journal. Vol.3(1). 199-215. DOI: 10.21476/pp.2017.31109

Crowther, Paul (1982). Merleau-Ponty: Perception into Art. The British Journal of Aesthetics. Vol. 22(2). 138-149. DOI: 10.1093/bjaesthetics/22.2.138

Crowther, Paul (2013). Vision in Being: Merleau-Ponty and the Depths of Painting. Phenomenologies of Art and Vision. A Post-Analytic Turn. Bloomsbury, NY, p.79-114 (eng).

Davis, D.H. and Hamrick, W.S. [eds.] (2016). Merleau-Ponty and the Art of Perception. SUNY Press, NY. 309 p. (eng).

Foultier, Anna Petrinella (2013). Merleau-Ponty’s Encounter with Saussure’s Linguistics: Misreading, Reinterpretation or Prolongation? Chiasmi International. Vol. 15. 129-150. DOI: 10.5840/chiasmi20131514

Frank, R. (2008). L’institution sensible de sens. Proust et Merleau-Ponty. In: Proust et la philosophie aujourd’hui. ETS Vrin-ETS Edizioni, Paris; Pisa. 165-182(fr).

Franzini, Elio (1999). Painting and Difference. Chiasmi International. Vol.1. 187-197. DOI: 10.5840/chiasmi1999143

Gill, J.H. (1990). Merleau-Ponty, Metaphor and Philosophy. Philosophy Today. Vol.34(1). 48-66. DOI: 10.5840/philtoday199034130

Gilmore, J. (2005). Between Philosophy and Art. The Cambridge Companion to Merleau-Ponty. Cambridge University Press, 291-317. DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521809894.012

Hacklin, Sara (2012). Divergencies of Perception: The Possibilities of Merleau-Pontyan Phenomenology in Analyses of Contemporary Art Nord Print, Helsinki. 306 p. Available at:­handle/­10138/29433/divergen.pdf;sequence=1

Hobbs, R. and Giannini Claudia [ed.] (2001). Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology and Installation Art. In: Installations Mattres Factory 1990-1999 University Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh. 8-23 (eng).

Iversen, M. (2002). Barthes on Art. In: A Companion to Art Theory Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford, 327-336. DOI: 10.1002/9780470998434.ch27

Johnson, G. A. [P. Burke, J. Van der Veken (eds.)]. (1993). Desire and Invisibility in “Eye and Mind”: Some Remarks on Merleau-Ponty’s Spirituality. In: Merleau-Ponty in Contemporary Perspective. SpringerNetherlands, Dordrecht. P. 85-96. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-011-1751-7_7.

Johnson, Galen A. (2009). The Retrieval of the Beautiful: Thinking Thought Merleau-Ponty’s Aesthetics Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 283 p. (eng).

Johnson, Galen A. (2013). On the Origin(s) of Truth in Art: Merleau-Ponty, Klee and Cezanne. Research in Phenomenology. Vol. 43 (3). 475-515. DOI:10.1163/15691640-12341271

Johnson, Galen A. (2017). The Flesh of Images, Images of Flesh: Merleau-Ponty Forwarded. Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology. Vol.48 (4). P. 360-367. DOI: 10.1080/00071773.2017.1286737

Meaning, Jones A. (2003). Identity, Embodiment: The Uses of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology in Art History. In: Art and Thought. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford. 72-90. DOI: 10.1002/9780470774199.ch4

Kaushik, R. (2011). Art and Institution: Aesthetics in the Late Works of Merleau-Ponty Continuum, NY, 163 p. DOI: 10.5040/9781472546111

Kaushik, R. (2013). Art, Language and Figure in Merleau-Ponty: Excursions in Hyper-Dialectic Continuum, NY. 156 p. DOI: 10.5040/9781472545473

Kaushik, R. (2016). The Shape of Things: Separations and Symbolics in Merleau-Ponty. Chiasmi International. Vol. 18. 313-331. DOI: 10.5840/chiasmi20161827

Keeping, J. (2014). Joyful Rhythm: Emotion, Expression and the Birth of Meaning in Merleau-Ponty Philosophy Today. Vol. 58 (2). 197-217. DOI: 10.5840/philtoday201421915.

Landes, Donald A. (2013). Merleau-Ponty and the Paradoxes of Expression. Bloomsbury Academic, NY, 224 p. DOI: 10.5040/9781472548061.

Mazic, Glen A. (2016). Merleau-Ponty and the Face of the World: Silence, Ethics, Imagination and the Poetic Ontology. SUNY Press, NY. 414 p. (eng).

Johnson, G.A. [ed.], & Smith, M.B. [translat.] (1993). The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Philosophy and Painting. Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois, 422 p. (eng).

Perniola, M. (2013). 20th Century Aesthetics. Towards A Theory of Feeling Bloomsbury Academic, London; NY. 224 p. (eng).

Perri, Trevor (2013). Image and Ontology in Merleau-Ponty. Continental Philosophy Review. Vol.46 (1). 75-97. DOI: 10.1007/s11007-013-9249-x.

Posteraro, Tano (2013). Painting as Stylized Vision: the Movement of Invisibility in “Eye and Mind” Chiasmi International. Vol.15. 343-359. DOI: 10.5840/chiasmi20131524

Schreyach, M. (2013). Pre-objective Depth in Merleau-Ponty and Jackson Pollok. Research in Phenomenology. Vol.43 (1). 49-70. DOI:10.1163/15691640-12341243

Sellheim, B. (2010). Metaphor and Flesh - Poetyc Necessity in Merleau-Ponty. Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology. Vol.41 (3). 261-273. DOI: 10.1080/00071773.2010.11006718

Semonovitch, K. and De Roo, N. [eds.] (2010). Merleau-Ponty at the Limits of Art, Religion and Perception. Continuum, NY. 224 p. (eng).

Singer, L. (1981). Merleau-Ponty on the Concept of Style. Man and World. Vol. 14(2). 153-163. DOI: 10.1007/BF01248467

Stawarska, B. (2013). Uncanny Errors, Productive Contresens. Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenological Appropriation of Ferdinand de Saussure’s General Linguistics. Chiasmi International. Vol. 15. 151-165. DOI: 10.5840/chiasmi20131515

Tavani, E. (2015). Giacometty’s ‘Point to the Eye’ and Merleau-Ponty’s Painter. Proceedings of the European Society of Aesthetics. Vol.7. 494-511. Available at: https://

Toadvine, Th. (1997). The Art of Doubting: Merleau-Ponty and Cezanne. Philosophy Todai. Vol.41 (4). 545-553 (eng).

Vallier, R. and Froman, W.J. and Flynn, B. (2009). Merleau-Ponty and the Possibilities of Philosophy: Transforming the Tradition. SUNY Press, NY. 310 p. (eng).

Voti, V.M. (2013). Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty: Aesthetics, Philosophy of Biology and Ontology. Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 184 p. (eng).

Wiesing, L. (2016). The Visibility of the Image. History and Perspectives of Formal Aesthetics. Bloomsbury Academic, London; NY. 257 p. (eng).

Wiskus, J. (2013). The Rhythm of Thought: Art, Literature and Music after Merleau-Ponty. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 184 p. DOI: 10.21476/pp.2017.31109.



How to Cite

Vyacheslavova О. (2018). Phenomenology of the language of fine arts in aesthetics by Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Skhid, (6(152), 72–83.