LX:21 | This Permanent Dissonance

There is no act, no particular experience which exactly fills my consciousness and imprisons my freedom, ‘there is no thought which abolishes the power to think and brings it to a conclusion— no definite position of the bolt that finally closes the lock. No, there is no thought which is a resolution born of its own very development and, as it were, the final chord of this permanent dissonance.’ No particular thought reaches through to the core of our thought in general, nor is any thought conceivable without another possible thought as a witness to it. And this is no imperfection from which we may imagine consciousness freed. If there must be consciousness, if something must appear to someone, it is necessary that behind all our particular thoughts there should lie a retreat of not-being, a Self. I must avoid equating myself with a series of ‘consciousnesses’, for each of these, with its load of sedimentary history and sensible implications, must present itself to a perpetual absentee. Our situation, then, is as follows: in order to know that we think, it is necessary in the first place that we actually should think. Yet this commitment does not dispel all doubts, for my thoughts do not deprive me of my power to question; a word or an idea, considered as events in my history, have meaning for me only if I take up this meaning from within. I know that I think through such and such particular thoughts that I have, and I know that I have these thoughts because I carry them forward, that is, because I know that I think in general. (465-6)


Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception.  Trans. Colin Smith.  Routledge 2005. 

See Also

Lexicon Entries

Act; The Lesson Reduction Teaches; La Mort; The Red Ink; A Fundamental Quality of an Act; Get Off the BusTraining of the Self By Oneself

Works and Days






Tags: Maurice Merleau-Ponty

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