Plastic Bodies

mpontyIt’s good to see some good stuff up on sensation and Merleau-Ponty. I like this on plasticity, which I would much rather read through M-P than through Malabou’s Hegel.

The upshot of conceiving bodies as plastic is that it erases the immutable core of bodily identity. It opens the capacity of the body to unforeseen and unforeseeable connections and encounters, putting the body in touch with its corporeal milieu without predetermining the possibilities of its embeddedness. This is a better way–in part, because it’s nonreductive–of thinking about the body’s relation to the world than, for instance, Merleau-Ponty’s. Where for Merleau-Ponty there is a certain ‘reversibility’ which obtains between bodies, plasticity regards intercorporeity as a matter of commerce or exchange. Body one is put under pressure and formed by body two; body two is then acted upon, perhaps but not necessarily, and formed by body one. The exchange is not reciprocal, nor is is necessarily symmetrical. Indeed, if we are to believe Nietzsche when he says that every encounter between bodies involves one stronger and one weaker body (see Deleuze’s Nietzsche and Philosophy on this), then there is no such thing as a symmetrical (and therefore truly reversible) encounter. In short, plasticity allows us to heed James’s insight that every little experience undergone by the body alters the body irremediably, and thereby creates a new body with new abilities and new powers. No elasticity, no recuperation.

Of course, I would love to ask Plastic Bodies a plastic body question–namely, if he was said to look like Ed Norton, I’m hoping it was before the fights scenes in Fight Club, not after.