Areas of research: Phenomenology (especially Merleau-Ponty, Husserl, Bergson, Heidegger), Philosophy of Perception, Moral Philosophy & Moral Psychology, Philosophy of Heroism, Philosophy of Love, Philosophy of Trauma.


I use a phenomenological approach in order to think about two main experiences: The experience of having pre-perceptual moral judgements and the experience of traumatizing morality.

For the former, I’m interested in understanding how is it that we can act intuitivelyspontaneously, in a moral or immoral way. I’m looking, for instance, at experiences of spontaneous heroism and other kinds of moral experiences in which people do not act based on deterministic properties (like psychological conditioning, cultural conditioning, evolutionary or biological psychological strategies etc.) or deliberative behavior (processes of judging or evaluating the situation prior to acting), but rather based on their perceptions that serve as motives or guidance to act morally. This is in the optics of addressing larger questions in ethics, especially the perceptual nature of morality as well as how morality can be subjective based on the experience of objective moral properties at the phenomenological level.

For the latter, I’m looking at how morality can be traumatizing in various ways in order to address larger questions regarding what constitutes moral experiences and what good and evil mean. Take for instance the trolley problem in which someone is required to kill. Most philosophical approaches to this problem look at it from a purely conceptual and procedural outlook (i.e.: the processes leading to the consequences as well as the best ways to evaluate which decision is the best). I want to argue that, in some cases, a moral experience is traumatizing in virtue of the kind of moral act that is required from the individual and that the trauma that’s being inflicted is indicative of deeper norms and structures necessary for experiencing morality. My goal, then, is to look at how trauma can result from certain experiences of moral action and find out what kind of philosophical output it provides about our relationship to morality and our capacity to be (im)moral. This angle of my research, again, is meant to help me address larger questions in moral philosophy, such as the origins of good and evil in human experience.

I try to address these topics and questions altogether or separately in my work because I believe that they are deeply intertwined, and I am also interested in understanding how this intertwinement takes place. A big part of these experiences is the concept of intersubjectivity. Intersubjectivity is the fundamental condition for there to experience morality, as you could not be moral or immoral if others didn’t exist — if there was not an other to judge your actions. But it has different shapes and colors, so to speak, depending on the experiences we have. My research interest is precisely to see how these (perceptual) variations in intersubjectivity operate specifically in extreme experiences of life, such as in extreme morality, in order to find out more about our experience of the world broadly speaking. What I mean by extreme morality are experiences of spontaneous heroism, spontaneous horrific or traumatic events like crimes of passion, self-defense murder, spontaneous violence, and so on.¹ I am interested in cases where morality is experiential, perceptual, 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 what they can tell us about the nature of morality as well as how they can lead to trauma and various disruptions within our sense of self and our sense of what is real.


Follow me on to keep track of my work. I really enjoy collaborating too, so you can send me an email to discuss about ways to work together.


Ph.D Research

My thesis aims to present Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s thought on ethics and morality in a coherent and systematic framework as an alternative to previous phenomenological and analytical interpretations of moral perception and moral experience more generally. Taking up from Hamrick’s interpretation of Merleau-Ponty’s claim that moral value (e.g.: right, wrong, bravery, cowardice, etc.) is a process of “making something out of contingency”, my working hypothesis is that moral values are in fact based on perceptual meanings generated out of a tension that exists between freedom and contingency on a perceptual level. To demonstrate this, my thesis will be structured by exploring four key ideas located in key passages throughout all of Merleau-Ponty’s published works, lecture notes, and drafts: 1) the pre-judicative nature of affective perceptions as described in the Phenomenology of Perception and his Psychology Lectures, 2) Merleau-Ponty’s interpretation of moral values as perceptual relationships of meanings between the subject and its being in the world (as shown especially in The Structure of Behavior and The Visible and The Invisible), 3) the body as embodying moral values caused by perceptual tensions between freedom and contingency (also illustrated in Sense and Non-Sense as well as Humanism and Terror), and 4) Merleau-Ponty’s discussion of contingency and freedom as calling for a continuous unfolding of proactive action on a perceptual level in the Phenomenology of Perception. Most phenomenologists in the late 19th to mid 20th century wanted to ground moral philosophy within either emotional experience (such as empathy) and reason (Meinong, Brentano, Scheler, Husserl, Stein, who, for the most, part wanted to develop a “logic of ethics” broadly speaking). Other phenomenologists based moral philosophy in social encounters (Levinas, Ricoeur, Sartre, De Beauvoir, Henry). In the analytical tradition, the debate about “moral perception” and the nature of moral experience is about either defining the (metaphysical) properties of this experience as opposed to, let’s say, properties for experiencing emotional behavior (Blum 1994, Audi 2013), or defining moral perception as intrinsically emotional (Tappolet 2000, Nussbaum). Ultimately, my thesis will contribute to the development of a small but growing scholarship on Merleau-Ponty’s ethics and provide a stark contrast between morality as originating from perceptual experience as opposed to originating from emotionality or reason.

More to come soon!

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 provide 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.



Cuisinier, E. “What Is Trauma? Sketch of a Phenomenological Description” Oxford Public Philosophy. Vol. 3. January 2023.

Edited Volumes:

Cuisinier, E., Fortin, S. E., eds. From Beginnings to Ends. Gnosis: Graduate Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 20. Fall 2022. Print.

Cuisinier, E., Faingold, L., and Wenzel, E., eds. Pensées Canadiennes. Vol 18. Montreal:McGill University. Fall 2021.

Opinion Articles:

Cuisinier, E. “Our Romantic Heart Needs To be Known.” The Concordian [Montreal, QC], 18 February 2020,

Cuisinier, E. “The right to learn comes before the right to free speech.” The Concordian. 29 August 2017, p. 15.


Cuisinier, E. “July in June.” The Initial Journal, Vol. 1, August 2020.

Nounours, E. “The Story of Cake” & “For My Editor”, Burning Magazine, Vol. 1. 2019

Nounours, E. “De la notion d’équilibre.” L’organe, Vol. 4, 2016.


MisirHiralall, Sabrina D. 2021. “APA Member Interview: Emmanuel Cuisinier.” Blog of the APA. September 24, 2021. .



  1. To give you a better idea of the kind of experiences I use in my work, you can look at the following articles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5