“The perception of other people and the inter-subjective world is problematic only for adults. The child lives in a world which he unhesitatingly believes accessible to all around him.” Maurice Merleau-Ponty
My curious nature always wonders and ponders about the world, however no matter how much I see, read and experience etc, there is no one theory fits all situations, its more of a continuation of thoughts and theories that build up overtime, to try and make sense out of some sense! Due to our individual views of the world determined by our own unique experiences, we tend to construct instinctive assumptions, and thus perceive the world in a particular way.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty was interested in looking more closely at our experience of the world, and in questioning our everyday assumptions. In his book of the Phenomenology of Perception, he states that the most important thing about our experience, is not just made up of mental experience but also bodily experience , he rejects the dualists view that the world is separated into two entities; mind and matter. Merleau-Ponty believes we have to see thought and perception as entwined, and that the world consciousness and the body are all part of one system; thus are part of a whole and not separate entities.
Therefore, in order to reach this place of being able to see things in a much more unified way we basically have to unlearn what we think we know i.e. put our everyday assumptions to one side and relearn to look at our experiences of the world from various perspectives “We must therefore rediscover, after the natural world, the social world, not as an object or sum of objects, but as a permanent field or dimension of existence.” Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Merleau-Ponty challenged our concept of perception, for example he made a bold claim about what we believe to be natural like getting angry at something or falling in love, he states that in actual fact they are not natural;
“It is no more natural and no less conventional to shout in anger or to kiss in love than to call a table ‘a table’. Feelings and passional conduct are invented like words…. Everything is both manufactured and natural in man as it were in the sense that there is not a word, not a form of behaviour which does not owe something to purely biological being and which at the same time does not elude the simplicity of animal life and cause forms of vital behaviour to deviate from their pre-ordained direction through a sort of leakage and through a genius for ambiguity which might serve to define man.” Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Therefore, according to his theory our perceptions are built on both biological and manufactured senses, although it seems innate we are in actual fact confused, and states we must move away from the everyday assumptions in order to experience the world in a non presumptuous way.
Looking into Merleau-Ponty work brought up my curiosity of the disconnect of perception between when we are children to when we become adults. Children are more inquisitive, and adults are more presumptuous. We obviously change and grow from being a child to becoming an adult, but are we growing mentally in the right way? The obvious answer would be yes ofcourse, but what happened to the inquisitive mind and adventurous spirit one had as a child? It seems when adults are “adult-ting”, you’re seen as being mature and a fully functioning adult if you have a one track mind, and anything that interrupts that is instantly rejected without even giving it a chance. On the other hand children are most likely to wonder about the world and everything around them, and are able to see things from many points of view easily without any effort or persuasion. Most of the time as a child (from my experience at least) every time you asked a question and an adult didn’t know the answer, instead of admitting they didn’t know (and were embarrassed by that fact) and looking into it, they would immediately get mad at you or make fun of you, for asking such questions, dismissing them as silly. When in fact they are not silly at all, Merleau-Ponty explained that;
“The perception of other people and the inter-subjective world is problematic only for adults. The child lives in a world which he unhesitatingly believes accessible to all around him. He has no awares of himself or of others as private subjectives, nor does he suspect that all of us, himself included, are limited to one certain point of view of the world. That is why he subjects neither his thoughts, in which he believes as they present themselves, to any sort of criticism. He has no knowledge of points of view. For him men are empty heads turned towards one single, self-evident world where everything takes place, even dreams, which are, he thinks, in his room, and even thinking, since it is not distinct from words.” Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Also there is a knock on affect because after a while if a child is surrounded by this negative attitude they will eventually stop looking curiously at the world and grow up to do and think the same way their parents/adults around them did. However, I know some people that have been able to break that chain, and encourage and give their children the safe space to explore and question the world around them just as a child should, as when they grow up with this inquisitive mind, they will benefit greatly in both a personal and on a professional level.
On a separate note when I went out (window) shopping the other day I came across a t-shirt slogan that seems quite fitting with this article and it said “don’t grow up its a trap” , I thought it was quite hilarious! I just had to add it in.
Anyway do let me know your thoughts on Merleau-Ponty view! And do you think adults crush children’s dreams and creativity?
Sophia Alisa Ali©
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