Merleau-Ponty and Nishida

Artistic Expression as Motor-Perceptual Faith

By Adam Loughnane

Subjects: Comparative Philosophy, Phenomenology, Aesthetics, Japanese Studies
Hardcover : 9781438476117, 442 pages, December 2019
Paperback : 9781438476124, 442 pages, July 2020

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction Faith, Flesh, and Basho
Nishida between Religion and Philosophy
Merleau-Ponty between Philosophy and Religion
Artistic Expression East and West
Ambiguity, Negation, and Faith

1. Ontology, Ambiguity, and Negation
Motor-Perceptual Fabric: Faith and Transitivity
Nishida and Phenomenology
Substance and Relation: Separation and Non-Obstruction
Nishida's "Absolute Negation"
Negation: Chiasm, "Continuity of Discontinuity"
Merleau-Ponty Counter Sartre's Nullite Absolue
Nishida: "Absolute Negation" and the "I-Thou" Relation
Representation and Perceptual Negation: From Non-Subject to Non-Object

2. Perceptual Fabric: Space, Time, and Light
Vision and Multi-Perspectivalism: Seeing-Seen
Representation, Ocularcentrism, and Multi-Perspectivalism
Multi-Perspectival Perception
The Three Graces
Guo Xi: Angle of Totality
"Dragon Veins": The Visible and Invisible in Daoism
Merleau-Ponty: Multi-Perspectivalism and "Depth"
Time and Negation I: Ecstatic Temporality
Nishida: "Eternal Now" and "Internal-qua-External Perception"
Skin and Bones in Rodin and Taiga
Multi-perspectivalism Creation and Obstruction
The Expanded Body: Vision and Touch
Tool as Non-Objective Bodily Extension
Space: Distance and Proximity
"Distanceless Distance"
Light, Tools, and the Aesthetics of Transparent Mediality
Molyneux's Problem: Obstruction and Light
Nishida: Full Reversibility and Expression
Everything Touching or Nothing at All

3. Motor-Perceptual Fabric: Time and Motion
Sesshū Tōyō: Zen, Vision, and Motion
Cézanne's "Germinations" with the Landscape
Time: From Perception to Motor-Perception
Motion: Volitional Character of the World
Ontologies of Expression
Motor-Background: "Solicitations" and "Unity of Act and Act"
Body and Expression in Time
Nishida's "Historical Body" and "Historical World"
Time and Negation II: "Deep Present" and "Absolute Present"
From Multi-Perspectival to Multi-Volitional
"Optimal Grip" and the Force of Tradition
New Art: Creating the Visible
Copy and Original
"New Art": Objectivity and Faith
Tradition as Historical-Volitional Ecstasis
New Solicitations, New Continuity of Act, and Act
From Creating the Conditions of Visibility to Creating the Conditions of Motor-Visibility
Vision as Motion
Motion as Vision
Color(lessness) and Motion(lessness)
The Color of Negation

4. Expression as "Motor-Perceptual Faith"
"Seeing without a Seer" and Moving without a Mover
Motor-Perceptual "Blind Spot" as Dynamic Obstruction
Nishida: "Seeing Without a Seer"
Mirroring, Mapping, and Seeing
History of Motor-Visibility
Klee: "End-Forms" and "Formative Forces"
The Invisibility of the Self as "Style" and the Temporality of Risk
Coherent Deformation and the Force of Tradition
Overcoming Reflection, Embracing Risk
Holography, Infinity, and Risk
Reflection and Faith
Spontaneity and Non-Willing
The Materiality of Spontaneous Expression: Bernard Leach and Pottery as Throwing-Thrown
The Fallacy of Motor-Perceptual Neutrality and Uni-Directional Expression
Spontaneity and the Temporality of Risk
The Limits of Reflection and Doubt: The Pre-Reflective and the Necessity of Faith
Faith, Negation, and Volition in the Pre-Reflective
Conclusion: Motor-Perceptual Faith between Philosophy, Religion, and Art
Secularizing the Spiritual: Nishida's "Inverse Polarity" and "Interexpression"
Spiritualizing the Secular: Merleau-Ponty and "Anatheism"

Works Cited and Bibliography

Places the phenomenologies of Merleau-Ponty and Nishida in dialogue and uncovers a demand for a motor-perceptual form of faith in both philosophers’ meditations on artistic expression.


In Merleau-Ponty and Nishida, Adam Loughnane initiates a fascinating new dialogue between two of the twentieth century's most important phenomenologists of the Eastern and Western philosophical worlds. Throughout the book, the reader is guided among the intricacies and innovations of Merleau-Ponty's and Nishida's ontological approaches to artistic expression with a focused look at a rarely explored connection between faith and negation in their philosophies. Exploring the intertwining of these concepts in their broader ontologies invokes a reappraisal of the ambiguous status of religion and art in the writings of both thinkers. Measuring these ambiguities, the ontologies of Flesh and Basho are read in-depth alongside great artworks and the motor-perceptual practices of seminal landscape artists such as Cézanne, Sesshū, Taiga, and Hasegawa, as well as other major figures of European, Chinese, and Japanese art history. Loughnane studies these artists' bodily practices, focusing on the intimate relations realized with the landscapes they paint, and illuminating a valence of their expressive disciplines as a motor-perceptual form of faith. Merleau-Ponty and Nishida is an exciting intercultural reading, expanding two philosophers' projects toward new horizons of research, revealing incitements in their writings that challenge unambiguous distinctions between art, philosophy, faith, and ultimately philosophy East and West.

Adam Loughnane is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at University College Cork, Ireland.


"Loughnane illuminates the ambiguous, chiasmatic, and dynamic relationality between the body and the world, providing concrete examples from art history East and West. He not only skillfully explains Nishida's and Merleau-Ponty's ontological notions, but also puts their philosophy to the test of art works, proving that their thinking reveals an important truth of art. " — Takeshi Kimoto, Chukyo University