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The eye and the gaze: phenomenology and psychoanalysis in the works of Merleau-Ponty and Jacques Lacan

Grant number: 16/06590-2
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): September 01, 2017
Effective date (End): October 31, 2020
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Philosophy - Epistemology
Principal researcher:Vladimir Pinheiro Safatle
Grantee:Paula Cristina Galhardo Cepil
Home Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated scholarship(s):18/05582-1 - Lacan and phenomenology: between rupture and revival, BE.EP.PD


This project aims at investigating the problem of the gaze in the works of two major French authors from the post-war period, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jacques Lacan. According to our hypothesis, the phenomenon of the gaze puts into question a traditional conception of visual perception, to which the phenomenological project is closely linked. As it is well known, the act of seeing plays a major role in phenomenology since its foundation by Husserl (for whom, phenomenology can be defined as a "vision of essences"). For phenomenology, visual perception is considered to be the act of a subject who is situated outside the world and who gains access to an optical plan from which he is excluded. The phenomenon of the gaze entails a crucial rupture with this conception of visual perception for it represents a reversal of the classical standpoint: the gaze is not an object that the subject sees with his eyes, but the experience of being seen. Feeling visible is then being looked at, which means that the intentional correlate of this form of experience cannot be an object. Although it was Sartre who firstly introduced the phenomenological problem of the gaze, it is Merleau-Ponty and Lacan who radicalized the following idea: before being "seeing subjects", we are "seen subjects". Relying on the hypothesis according to which Merleau-Ponty and Lacan conceive the gaze in such a manner that it implies a radical rupture with classical phenomenology (because the gaze cannot be objectified), we will aim to flesh out the dialogue between those two authors on the issue and propose an innovative reading of the relations between phenomenology and psychoanalysis. (AU)

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