For Marcel, if we “deny the absolute priority of the body” it means that consciousness has direct experience of any object without the body’s mediation. Since this is impossible, the body’s priority must be recognized. It is Marcel’s hypothesis that our body disappears as a thing in the act of mediation.

Whenever the body attends to a thing, even itself, a mysterious agent enters the process; the body becomes “withdrawn from the world of objects” and becomes “unknowable” even to itself. This mysterious agency he suggests is also the body (1952: 244), or more accurately the subjective “my body” the “me” of being, and the I of the I-thou relationship (ibid: 315-316). In this manner, being replaces having, the body as object disappears. In general then, for Marcel we are a “sensuous presence” that is “not a certitude” (Busch 1997:431).

Marcel’s concern with how the body relates to itself or mediates itself,  posits an ambiguous field in a more explicit way than Nietzsche. In an early article, written in 1936  Merleau-Ponty, reviewing Marcel’s book, Being and Having, says, quoting  Marcel, “If my body is indeed more than an object I own, it is equally true that it is not me; it is ‘at the border of what I am and what I have’, at the line of demarcation between being and having” (Merleau-Ponty, 1992:103). Both Marcel and Merleau-Ponty are struggling with our human tendency to turn our bodies into objects.

Here Merleau-Ponty  stresses the tenuousness of this boundary that points to the body’s disappearance as an object and his own philosophy of a more open interaction with the world.

Merleau-Ponty says that Marcel’s ontology describes two regions of being, existence and objectivity, which does not pose an either/or situation, but an intentional field, where the subject is “a tension or intention toward an end point”.  In the Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty refers to the dichotomy Marcel has posited (my body as being and body as object); referring to them as a phenomenal body and an objective body, respectively (1962:106n).

For Merleau-Ponty, this opens up a new field of research, “embracing all the ‘involvements’ of the soul” an analyses of  “the person engaged in perceiving, thinking, wanting, hoping and praying, as well as other beings” involved in these same acts “as they are intended or at least sensed in these acts themselves” (author’s italics, 1992/1936:103).

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