I had the incredible opportunity to present a paper I’m currently working on at the APA Pacific 2023 which took place April 4-8 in San Francisco, California.

In this paper, I argue that most theories within philosophy of love fail to account for experiences of love by people who live with psychological and/or neurological disorders. As a result of this, I argue that romantic love needs to be addressed on the level of perception because it is through perception that we can understand how meaning, signification, and affect take place within interpersonal relationships. I base my argument on Merleau-Ponty’s work on perception and at the same time I present phenomenology as a better suited approach to understanding romantic love in a more inclusive way.

Here is the abstract to my paper:

“Using French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s work, I argue in this paper that romantic love must be addressed on the level of affective perception when it is experienced within a context of mental health. An extremely large portion of the literature on philosophy of romantic love focuses on its epistemological and metaphysical standing in such a way that is non-inclusive for people diagnosed with certain (neuro)psychopathologies (e.g.: Gabriele Taylor’s definition of romantic love (1975), which uses beneficence as a major condition, hardly applies to somebody diagnosed with Asperger’s who does not experience social concepts like beneficence on the same level as a neurotypical person but nevertheless still loves someone for different reasons). I suggest that this rupture created by the wrongful expectations of these theories for people to fit certain normative standards of epistemological and/or cognitive constitutions can be resolved by returning to a more perceptual understanding of this experience, which is especially mindful of experiences of romantic love within a context of mental health. I begin my argument by presenting how some of the major (materialist and non-materialist) definitions and theories of romantic love have grievously ignored neurodivergent people and their ability to experience romantic love in ways that do not fit these theories. The second part of my paper examines how a phenomenology of perception can solve this issue by highlighting the affective dimension of perception. To do so, I revisit Merleau-Ponty’s exposition of a woman’s experience with aphasia that was caused by her socially imposed inability to maintain a romantic relationship with her partner (Phenomenology of Perception p.193). By explaining how Merleau-Ponty’s understanding of the body as an ensemble of habitual and open-ended meanings, and as especially affectively dependent on perception to make sense of its experiences, I demonstrate that his phenomenological framework provides a better terrain for understanding romantic experiences lived by people with psychopathologies and neurological disorders. Overall, my paper attempts to support the works of critical phenomenologists such as Sara Heinamaä and Lisa Guenther on the inclusivity and diversity of modern understandings of love and sexuality.”

It was my first time attending the APA meeting and it was wonderful. I’m very thankful to my peers from the Society For Philosophy of Sex and Love for the feedback they provided me.

But it wasn’t just the conference that was wonderful. My experience of San Francisco was unbelievable and I’m planning on writing a few more blog posts about how my visit to the Golden Gate city has been philosophically fruitful in itself…

What Is Trauma?

Sketch of a phenomenological description (and the philosophy that comes with it)

Published in Oxford Public Philosophy’s Turn ThreeRead it here.


This is what Trauma feels like: entering the now as if it were hell, wishing for the world to be real again (1). What is this hell? It is ‘living-missingly’ or ‘being livingly-troubled.’      This experience is about not being tuned correctly – harmoniously – with the real as much as with ourselves, and thinking (believing? No–     knowing)  what is going on is not right. Everything  changed. It has all changed somehow. The frames are not right, chairs are more crooked than before, floors seem to be leaning–     all of this despite all the science and rationality available (2). The now is not experienced as it had to be (3). Everything is unforgiving: our mind, other people, time, and the rawness of life’s appearance in general. What is      more unforgiving is forgiveness itself: it has lost its initial meaning, which is an ability to turn back on events  and cancel their non-factual consequences. Forgiving oneself for what happened does not reset every clock in the world no matter what. It happened: The bomb detonated     –     she died     –     he was in the crowd when bodies fell on the ground (4). Trauma is permanent and the only thing for which empathy from others becomes a Sisyphus who sightlessly generates a movement of social back-and-forth. It is a mental tattoo. No amount of emotional distance will make us go back in time and prevent the unforgiving. Though we may find comfort over time and attempt to re-serialize our memories (5) to tune ourselves harmoniously back with time and space – this now, this space, of the right now, – the off-putting feeling evinced by what is real remains continuously. The French have the word “fatalité” to beautifully describe the unforgiving characteristic of time, but Trauma knows no language. Trauma is  mental assault. It knows nothing but to assault our intellectual and physical capabilities     –     the tandem juxtaposition of the experience and the phenomenon that precedes Trauma goes above and beyond the agency of our self-consciousness (6). Oftentimes it shatters this agency by subduing it with a cognitive experience that our self-consciousness would never experience on its own, as well as by making it seem as though these experiences were the product of consciousness itself. Keep reading »

Spontaneous Heroism and the Intersubjective Nature of Sacrificial Selflessness in Merleau-Ponty

Emmanuel Cuisinier

Supervisor: David Morris

ABSTRACT: This paper argues that there are cases of selfless sacrifice, which I call spontaneous heroism, during which the hero is entirely motivated by moral significations that are perceptually provided to them on a pre-judicative level by 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 be obtained 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 research that has been going on to explain the phenomenon of moral orientation in recent years.