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Toronto Semiotic Circle Lecture Series

TSC Maclaren Lecture: Sense, Synaesthesia, and Our Inherently Expressive Bodies

Dr. Kym Maclaren

Department of Philosophy, Ryerson University

A certain colour of pink can reduce violent behaviour in a jail cell. Redness can lead to greater imprecision in our movements. Blueness can encourage repose. Under the influence of mescaline, a dog’s bark attracts light and reverberates in a person’s foot, a flute’s sound gives rise to blue-green colour, and an iron bar tapped makes the trees greener. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, French phenomenologist, argues that dominant accounts of sensation cannot explain these findings adequately because they separate meaning from sensation. In contrast, and in order better to understand these phenomena, Merleau-Ponty makes a case for a pre-conceptual form of meaning present in sensation: sensible phenomena, he claims, offer a sensorimotor meaning or “living signification,” and our expressive bodies elaborate these meanings, bringing them to expression as, for instance, the unique yellowness, sourness, and texture of a lemon. As so elaborated or expressed, sensibles are symbols that open up a world—while also being symbols indebted to our bodies. In this talk, I will lay out Merleau-Ponty’s line of thought, showing how it proposes to explain strange phenomena of sensation, and emphasizing the notion of expressive embodiment which it entails. Ultimately, I will propose that interpersonal recognition and creative thought are based in the same expressive embodied process that characterizes sensation.

This lecture was hosted in partnership with the Department of Philosophy at Ryerson University and organized by the Meaning Lab in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

A Bit About Me

Date & Time

Wed, 15 November 2017

5:00 PM – 6:30 PM EST


Ryerson University

80 Gould St.

RCC 204 (Rogers Communications Centre)

Toronto, ON M5B 2M7

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