Merleau-Ponty on Conversation

In the experience of dialogue, there is constituted between the other person and myself a common ground; my thought and his are inter-woven into a single fabric, my words and those of my interlocutor are called forth by the state of the discussion, and they are inserted into a shared operation of which neither of us is the creator. We have here a dual being, where the other is for me no longer a mere bit of behaviour in my transcendental field, nor I in his; we are collaborators for each other in consummate reciprocity. Our perspectives merge into each other, and we co-exist through a common world. In the present dialogue I am freed from myself, for the other person’s thoughts are certainly his; they are not of my making, though I do grasp them the moment they come into being, or even anticipate them. And indeed, the objection which my interlocutor raises to what I say draws from me thoughts which I had no idea I possessed, so that at the same time that I lend him thoughts, he reciprocates by making me think too.

– M. Merleau Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans, Kegan Paul. New York: Routledge, 2002, p. 413.

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One comment on “Merleau-Ponty on Conversation

  1. […] posts. But when I try to translate these conversations they tend to fall flat. As Merleau-Ponty observes good conversation creates a shared space between the participants, such that things spoken that […]

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