Research (draft)

My work is deeply rooted within the phenomenological tradition, especially as it is exhibited in Merleau-Ponty and Husserl’s work. That is because I strongly believe that we need to take seriously the descriptions of first-person experiences in order to highlight what are the conditions necessary for these experiences and how these conditions can be indicative of human life. So I use a phenomenological approach in order to think about two main questions:

  1. What is intersubjectivity?
  2. What is it like to have extreme experiences of morality?

I try to address these questions altogether or separately in my work because I believe that they are deeply intertwined, and I am interested in understanding how this intertwinement takes place. Intersubjectivity is the fundamental condition for there to experience morality, as you could not be moral or immoral if others didn’t exist. But it has different shapes and colors depending on the experiences we have and my research interest is precisely to see how these variations in intersubjectivity operate specifically in extreme experiences of life, such as in extreme morality. What I mean by extreme morality are experiences of spontaneous heroism, spontaneous horrific or traumatic events like crimes of passion, self-defense murder, and so on. I am interested in cases where morality is experiential and appeals to extreme degrees of emotional affect in such a way that shatters or disturbs our sense of reality. My aim is to explore the phenomenological input of these experiences in order to understand how they can lead to trauma and various disruptions within our sense of self and our sense of what is real.

Master’s Research

My MRP (Major/Master’s Research Paper) is an exploration of the topic of heroism within Merleau-Ponty’s work. Merleay-Ponty makes a few ambiguous references to heroic behavior within his work, most notably at the end of the Phenomenology of Perception through a cryptic citation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. But his references to heroism have been totally underexplored in the scholarship on his work, and the few interpreters who paid attention to those have merely focused on the political undertone of these references. In this project, I provided a newer reading of these references by suggesting that they are exemplifying Merleau-Ponty’s ideas on perception and embodiment, and that heroism serves for him as the end-result of a contention between perception and freedom. This is also a further hint about his interest in accounting for a moral component of perception and phenomenology overall.

Throughout my interpretation of Merleau-Ponty on heroism I attempt to further inform modern testimonies about what I call spontaneous heroism, which are cases of civilians who spontaneously put their lives in danger in order to save others at risk of dying. My interpretation of Merleau-Ponty’s work on heroism helps explain that spontaneous heroism is not the result of psychological conditioning but rather the result of people acting on the basis of moral significations that they perceive in those situations of danger.

Abstract: This paper argues that there are cases of selfless sacrifice, which I call spontaneous heroism, during which the hero is primarily motivated by moral significations that are perceptually provided to them on a pre-judicative level through the event they are experiencing. Spontaneous heroism is not a result of psychological conditioning or rational deliberation but the hero’s pre-judicative and bodily relation to perceptual motives and significations that engender the course of action that leads them to save others in danger. My argument both draws and contributes to scholarship and interpretation of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s texts on heroism and freedom in relation to perception. Most scholars have interpreted his references to heroism in relation to his political thought, but in ways that neglect his interest in the primacy of perception, which informs and leads him to discuss heroic experiences. I push back against this neglect in the literature in order to investigate sacrifice and heroism on the level of perception. I explain that moral significations can arise pre-judicatively if we understand the perception as being affective, linked to Merleau-Ponty’s concept of the body-schema as intersubjective, and involved with his own understanding of pre-judicative experience which he calls the pre-personal. The way in which I expose these phenomenological concepts to describe modern cases of spontaneous heroism leads back to freedom as a central issue for heroism in Merleau-Ponty’s work. Overall, my work further supports other current research on the phenomenon of moral orientation.

You can read my paper here.

Ph.D Research

My research at the Ph.D level project is currently centered around a twofold project: 1) To retrace a historical connection between the concept of pre-judication in Husserl and the concept of pre-personal level of perception (also understood as anonymity) in Merleau-Ponty; 2) To understand further what these two concepts can entail regarding experiences of morality.


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