In his essay on Cezanne, Merleau-Ponty makes reference to “the inhuman character of his paintings…his devotion to the visible world: all of these would then only represent a flight from the human world, the alienation of his humanity” (p. 61).Later still, we read about the strangeness of “Cezanne’s people…as if viewed by a creature of another species….It is an unfamiliar world in which one is uncomfortable and which forbids all human effusiveness” (p. 66). Inhumanity, alienation, strangeness, unfamiliarity, discomfort: Merleau-Ponty’s remarks bring to light the incisiveness of phenomenology as a whole: namely, its propensity toward both the otherness and interstitiality of appearances.
We find this already established in Husserl’s critique of Kant in the Crisis, then rendered explicit in his account of the unfolding lifeworld. The title of this section is “The Way into Phenomenological Transcendental Philosophy by Inquiring back from the Pregiven Life-World.” The twofold motion between coming-into and inquiring-back-to is central to Husserl’s methodology. For Husserl, this motion did not go far enough. Kant’s transcendental deduction promises to account for the a priori conditions of experience. Yet there is an omission, whereby Kant “[breaks] off again almost at once without arriving at the genuine problem of foundation…” (p. 104). Kant’s presupposition of “the everyday surrounding world of life” is problematic for Husserl (Ibid.). Husserl goes on to state the eidetic features of the life-world: namely, the body and its kinaesthetic apprehension of the world, which then allows the ego to “hold sway” within the world. Within the world also means within the world of other egos, “pregiven in this [world] ‘together’” (p. 109).
Ego, kinaesthesis, holding-sway, and inter-subjectivity all enter into Husserl’s pregiven, taken-for-granted apprehension of the world, of which “an infinite realm” of validates is open to question. This is Husserl’s point of departure, then: the motion between coming-into and inquiring-back-to is also from concealment to disclosure. Concerning Husserl’s famous adage, to the things themselves, the instruction is to re-turn to those things, as though to see them again. To see again: what can this mean? Would we not have to consider disorientating the pregiven world in order to dislodge precisely what was so far familiar about it? But even then, in encountering the world-as-seen-again, unfamiliar and other, would there not be an assimilation into the previous mode? For phenomenology to succeed, the moment of catching sight of the world as an appearance needs to be sustained. How is this possible?
I have jumped ahead: there is yet the task of rescuing the “hidden truth” from Kant. Turning to section 32 of the Crisis, Husserl points out that the truth of Kant is only such that it depends on “the living spirit that had to remain hidden, because of very natural inhibitions, from humanity and even from the scientists of the ages” (p. 118). The hidden spirit of Kantian thought testifies to the distance between thinking and experience. We are faced with a “plane” of thought, immanent (for Husserl “latent”) but wholly concealed. The immanence of the living spirit spooks (to use Stirner’s wonderful term) the plane of thought from below. And indeed, the placement of the spirit below thought corroborates the view of Kant’s transcendental attack as encircling the truth from above. Kant breaks off while the twofold motion between coming-into and inquiring-back-to gains a vertical dimension. But there is more: faced with the cultural and historic prejudices which constitute a worldview, Husserl maps out a resistance in thought: “Nowhere else is it so frequent that the explorer is met by logical ghosts emerging out of the dark, formed in the old familiar and effective conceptual patterns, as paradoxical antinomies, logical absurdities” (p. 120). We are reunited with Merleau-Ponty’s image of “an unfamiliar world.” Only here, with Husserl – the ghosts are not those of the unconcealed and uncharted plane, but the sedimented shadows of the past.