Do Adults Crush Children’s Natural Perception? Maurice Merleau-Ponty on Phenomenology of Perception

“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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9 thoughts on “Do Adults Crush Children’s Natural Perception? Maurice Merleau-Ponty on Phenomenology of Perception

  1. Quote: “And do you think adults crush children’s dreams and creativity?” And how! Sadly, they do it even when they think they are expanding your understanding. Anytime we try to shape a mind into something pre-existing and socially accepted, we are crushing that mind. All systemic education works backward, hence why “the world” keeps getting worse; why people never learn from their, or previous generations’ mistakes. Who is the culprit here? Civilization, pure and simple. If we want to truly evolve, the thing we must dare live without is civilization: it’s got to go. It is an obsolete and deadly totalitarian construct, totally corrupt and sustained only by force-feeding young minds into believing in tried and failed concepts which they then force upon their own progeny, ad nauseam.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You say it well👍👏 I agree, we must change with the times and not pass on previous mistakes to the next generation, it’s common sense yet not many do it and it really does start with the education system,it can and does mess some people up, and sets them up for failure, but it can be overcome if one has the will to not waste their life away. But if we didn’t have civilisation what is the alternative?


      1. The “big” picture: “Civilization” isn’t what people have been taught, and believe, it is. It isn’t something good, or great, nor is it evolution. It’s a “psy-op” of gigantic proportions that has swallowed up the entire human race – and those who did not want to participate (as slaves of course) were slaughtered in the name of said civilization and continue to be enslaved and to die to this very day. Anybody can check that out: it’s man’s sad history.

        How do I know for certain civilization isn’t a good thing? A good thing would not need to exploit, oppress and murder to establish and maintain itself. War is the disease, the terrible virus that tells any intelligent, thinking individual that civilization is anti-life. There are many kinds of wars being fought today, only a few with military forces and weaponry. The greater wars are fought against the natural environment; against the poor; against women and children. They are fought through injustice, displacement, famine, starvation wages, unemployment, and a relentless attack upon nature for the extraction of resources that only benefit the 1% rich class.

        So, do we continue until our civilization, our machine, destroys the natural environment completely, killing the remaining wildlife and eventually the so-called beneficiaries of civilization: Earthian humanity? Or, do we practice a bit of humility and honesty and declare, inwardly at first, that our great civilization is a total failure and our only remaining path is a deliberate and calculated return to nature, as nature intended? Either way, either choice, billions will die. But the second choice promises a new life whereas pushing our artificial city-based and material-based lifestyle, despite the mounting evidence that it can only continue to exacerbate resource depletion, climate change and ensuing wars for population control, amounts to a collective insanity and suicide.

        It’s not a choice I need to make being past the age of need to survive, but it is a choice younger people need to seriously contemplate as ALL of civilization’s promises of the better and better life erode and evaporate year by year.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow, you speak very eloquently of the truth, and I love it! You know it’s a funny world isn’t it? It hard to understand it, (well for me anyway) of how and why we came to be this way and how one should live , you know I think there’s far too much confusion yet is there a simple solution to it all? But without some form of system there will be ridiculous chaos everywhere and will be a new form of a war zone ,as no one will be use to such a freedom so to say, maybe in the end after the initial buzz , it will turn into another form of civilisation to try bring some harmony but just put a different name on it ,as we been so conditioned we don’t really know any other way ? It’s just like a cycle, but I do believe what’s been made for us was done with the best of intentions, but like most things, it needs revising more often than not.


      3. Would you like to continue this discussion with me, or just leave it at that? I don’t want to seem like I am “pushing” ideas on you, but I do have some answers and comments I could contribute. Typically though, it gets into deep and “way out of the box” thinking.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Feel free to speak your mind, this is what it’s all about, as best way to understand things is to listen to all views. Although I can’t say I’ll agree with everything, but it’s always good to see things from another point of view 😊


      5. OK, thanks. Not looking for agreement, just a sharing of possibilities, ideas, logic, common sense… whatever could have a chance to work. I’ll go back to your other comment as soon as I have time and insert some ideas. Thank you again.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. No worries and your most welcome 😊 it’s important and healthy to have the space to say what we feel, it helps us grow, how else will we expand our minds and learn,no point keeping it in, and like the wise man Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Speak what you think today in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today “. 💕


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