Merleau-Ponty: Against Representation

For someone like Merleau-Ponty (and actually, also Heidegger), there is a resistance to a theory of knowledge as representational. It is precisely this that severs the body from the self. We do things (that is, we have intentionality), but that does not always require representation.


Think about how you drive. We are always told to "pay attention" when we drive. But in fact, it is almost impossible to pay complete attention to everything. You know how hard it was to learn to drive. But after awhile, your body just does the right thing, if you have experience and have been trained well.

Think about playing a musical instrument. Learning to play required a focussed mind. But playing as a competent musician means that you focus on different things than the learner.

Think about typing. You don't focus on where your fingers are on the keyboard, but you think about what you are writing.

In all these cases, we have competent knowledge. We can cope. And that means that our bodies know what to do, without our minds having to represent the world for us.