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Expression and Silence: Music and Language in Merleau-Ponty’s Existential Phenomenology

Expression and Silence: Music and Language in Merleau-Ponty’s Existential Phenomenology

Rhonda Siu, “Expression and Silence: Music and Language in Merleau-Ponty’s Existential Phenomenology,” Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 74, no. 4 (2018): 1093–1116,

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Expression and Silence: Music and Language in Merleau-Ponty’s Existential Phenomenology

Type Journal Article
Author Rhonda Siu
Rights © 2018 Aletheia - Associação Científica e Cultural | © 2018 Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia
Volume 74
Issue 4
Pages 1093-1116
Publication Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia
ISSN 0870-5283
Date 2018
DOI 10.17990/RPF/2018_74_4_1093
Language English
Abstract Despite increasing application of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of the body in areas like music education, there remains little philosophical scholarship on music’s role in his philosophy. This is partly because Merleau-Ponty does not write about music in an explicit manner. However, he does open the possibility for such an account via his unconventional yet highly suggestive claim that language and music are both equally “creative” forms of expression. This paper draws out that link between musical and linguistic expression by expounding what Merleau-Ponty views as their shared basis – the corporeal, affective, and transformative dimension of all expression. It locates the core of this expressivity in his rich conception of “silence.” More generally, the analysis reveals how, despite the lack of explicit discussion of music in Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, when viewed in light of his insights into language and expression, music does feature implicitly in his early and more mature works, being intertwined with his notions of “style,” “gesture” and “flesh” as well as his general critiques of intellectualism and empiricism.
Date Added 23/01/2019, 18:45:15
Modified 23/01/2019, 19:31:08


  • language,
  • music
  • existential phenomenology,
  • expression,
  • Merleau-Ponty,


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