Merleau-Ponty – Phenomenology of Perception

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 1945 [EN 1962]

Page numbers and quotes are from the 2013 Donald Landes translation. 



Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Children’s Games, 1560. 



Phenomenology of Perception [PP] does a fair bit of work to ensure that the neophyte is left floundering for a chapter or two. One grasps at the flurry of probably important terms, and, if not already familiar, the work’s relationship to contemporary developments in phenomenology, psychology, empiricism and intellectualism. Hence, Donald Landes introduces his new translation by touching on Merleau-Ponty’s general aims for this project, and some of his key terms. We might well benefit from doing the same. PP, in one sense, may be understood as:

  • An analysis of the philosophical consequences of contemporary psychological findings (especially Gestalt) regarding perception and sense experience.
  • A demonstration of existentially oriented phenomenological philosophy.

Key terms include:

  • Sense [Sens] denotes meaning, sense, direction; meaning denotes the want-to-say.
  • Sensing [le sentir], previously called sense experience, involves ‘to sense’ / ‘to feel’.
  • My ‘own’ body [le corps propre] denotes my inhabitance but not my ‘possession’.
  • Body schema [le schema corporel] as not a representation or image
  • Motricity [motricité] as motor functions, activity, and the faculty of movement

PP handles a great deal of material. In these notes, each MAJOR SECTION will be bolded, underlined, and in caps. Then, a short summary of the key points will follow in italics. In this one, I have tried to stick close to the text; my own thoughts will often be marked in italics.



Phenomenology is a descriptive study of experience and the experiencing subject. Reduction can only ever be incomplete and a vehicle to the pre-reflective truth of experience.

Phenomenology is essence yet experience, transcendence yet pre-reflective presence, science yet lived. (lxx) To cut one path through it, MP identifies phenomenology as a pre-philosophical style and movement – though he then argues “phenomenology is only accessible through a phenomenological method.” (lxxi)

Phenomenology is a work of description first, not analysis. It describes the experiencing I at the source of all things – but not a transcendental subject. Since no logic could hope to capture this world entirely (a logic being a product of the experienced world itself), phenomenological description cannot be asked to achieve a systemic completion; it can only be verified by its consistency with experience. (lxxiv)

The époche is always incomplete, leaving a mystery of being. Despite the work reduction does, there is no transcendental cogito without a place in the world; it too has an In-der-Welt-sen. Fink’s (version of Husserl’s) reduction as a ‘wonder’ / defamiliarisation is true, but it is again by nature incomplete. (lxxvii) Phenomenology does not therefore ‘essentialise’ (as Husserl would like); rather, it uses essences as a vehicle to reach the pre-reflective. (lxxviii)

MP therefore argues against philosophy’s mistake of denying the evident truth of experience. Yet philosophy is not the only discipline to have insisted upon the falsity of experience. Indeed, every regime of truth denies this in order to install its own epistemic structure. That is not to say that “perception is presumed to be true, but rather that perception is defined as our access to the truth.” (lxxx) It provides no apodicity, no completeness; “I am open to the world […] but I do not possess it, it is inexhaustible.” (lxxx-lxxi) Operative intentionality is the persistent, perspectival connectivity of consciousness to the world. (lxxxii)



Classical empiricism’s ‘sensation’ and the ‘constancy hypothesis’ is rejected by Gestalt findings. Intellectualism’s psychologism also shows as reflective what is grounded. Gestalt theory, despite its naturalism, crucially shows how experience is motivated. The phenomenal field is therefore the background where we find intentional consciousness and the appearing of being to perceptual experience.

Sensation is said (by the empiricists) to be, at its core, a pure feeling, a ‘jolt’. But such purity is impossible; all sensation is relational, directed. Each pre-reflective perception is already charged with a sens that exceeds such purity. Hence every perception is already part of a phenomenal field. (3-4) To attribute it to consciousness or some pure sensation is a case of insufficient reduction. (5) Where psychology (and neuroscience) might focus on reliability of stimuli responses, MP focuses on exceptional cases like the Muller-Lyer illusion to show its variation. (6-8) Brain lesions, for example, do not destroy colours one by one, but alter the entire colour spectrum, showing their composite nature. (9) In short, where we say ‘sensation’ there is already an experienced whole. (10-1)

As a corollary, all experience is sensation, because every ‘figure’ that we perceive and ‘sense’ in that moment has a ‘background’ for it; every white is perceived against a not-white in the environment. (13) Our ability to associate sensations is a consequence of this perceiving-wholes. (17) Similarly, memory only aids perception insofar as the perceived material provokes its appearance, “offer[ing] me a scene in which I can recognise my previous experiences.” (20)

Attention is similarly poorly served by intellectualism’s focus on consciousness and mental construction. Attention is made a simple hinge with pure consciousness doing the work. Yet it is in fact attention that is a primary capacity for productive composition. (30-1) In colour perception, there is an initial indeterminacy of perceived qualities which later resolves into ‘green’ and ‘red’; this passage is the work of attention. (32-3)

This is not to be confused with intellectualist judgment where perception is again ‘pure sensation’ and is then constructed into sense via judgment. (35) Such overloading of judgment makes perception almost redundant (like attention above), and forgets that perception already includes judgment. Sensation is not pure but it is what is at the end of these processes. (39) Where empiricism had insisted on an objective world a priori, intellectualism bypasses the finitude and productivity of the lived world to assume an infinite subjectivity. (41) We never coincide exactly with a stimulus, idea, or even our own present – except perhaps in this pre-reflective perception. (42) Reflection does enable a cross-over from pre-reflective to conscious, but this is a retrospective operation. (45)

What does psychology teach us here? For instance, ‘knowledge’ such as distance vis-à-vis the object are not the product of post-facto reason. Gestalt psychology shows us that such understandings are ‘motivated’ immediately by the perception of the object. Yet Gestalt psych itself does not fulfil its phenomenological implications, and misses the pre-reflective realm. (50)

Perception is special here because it is the originary giving of intuitive ‘truth’, which moreover is coordinated across time and others. Science, in seeking to taxonomise, extends and continues the work done in perception. (54-5) Hence, the phenomenal field is not an ‘inner world’ of psychologism, but where consciousness is directed towards objects (intentionality). (58-9) To study phenomena is to study “appearance of being to consciousness”, and not any essence we take for granted a priori. (62) Psychology furnishes us with these principles, but we are not ‘psychologising’ philosophy; rather, we must use it to move past the problems of transcendental philosophy. (64)



The perception of my own body is the unique experience which prefigures our phenomenal field, and what makes our knowledge of perception possible. Motricity is the non-thetic ‘intentional arc’ where perception translates seamlessly yet contextually into the ‘I-can’. The ‘body schema’ is this phenomenal field of bodily do-ability. Speech also operates in this pre-reflective manner.

“Our perception ends in objects”, which collapse the virtuality and indeterminacy of perceptual activity into forms (though not Aristotelian), and in doing so, become means by which the phenomenal flow is textured and contoured (though not halted). (69) This operation is neither illusory nor fully given in physicality. We reach out to that which ‘hits’ us. Just as the figure stands out and demarcates itself in our perception, so does the background recede; just as we ‘remember’ something, the object provokes that reaching into memory. (70) To ‘see’ is not just from my present location but to reach into its manifold angles and relations; “the object is seen from all times just as it is seen from all places”. (71) Of course, the synthesis involved in perception is also a projective motion – a presumptive synthesis. Hence every act of seeing is predicated on a primordial mythology of ‘being’ that endures across space-time. (72-3)

My body may be an object in the world, but I normally enter into a non-bracketed condition where I treat my feelings and experiences as objective, and build upon it a reliable landscape of ideas. This ‘paradox’ of how “there is for-us an in-itself” is the object of phenomenology of perception. (74) E.g. modern physiology recognises that the nervous system is not made up of discrete, ready-made ‘sensibles’ in colour perception, but works through differential recognition and anticipation. (76-7) In phantom limb syndrome, it is clearly both physiological (severing of sensory conductors ends sensation) and psychological (the missing arm ‘felt’ as a ‘long and cold serpent’ and other denials). A joint ground must be found. Reflexes are not consciously deliberative, for example, but are attuned to a pre-reflective awareness of our milieu. (81) Thus, with phantom limbs, we have a pre-reflective awareness of the missing limb which allows the brain to skilfully avoid ‘noticing’ it. The same way in which we have a phantom limb is the way we live with our body, how we “remain open to all of the actions of which the arm alone is capable and to stay within the practical field that one had prior to the mutilation.” (84) To repress bodily experience, such as trauma, is a kind of depersonalisation from my being in the world. (85) We generally repress in order to maintain our being in the world throughout different environments – that is, habit’s stabilising dimension is a repressive dimension relative to the presentand that is what we have done with phantom limbs. (86-7) This process, being perceptual rather than ‘imaginary’, is dependent on physical resources. At the same time, the distancing work it performs is critical to opening up a space for man’s ability to reflect. (88-9) Hence reflection, repression, perception and feeling are joined together in a hybrid ground.

The body-schema therefore is not a discrete isolation of body units, but originates in psychological description of a ‘summary’ of bodily experience. For MP, it is a “global awareness of my posture in the inter-sensory world” (102); it is not internally systemic but built towards the world, and distinctly from Varelian autopoiesis, is open dynamically to external inputs. Hence in Brueghel’s painting (above), the children’s ability to handle the diverse physical games is a factor of their pre-reflective, proprioceptive engagement with the world – or rather, an engagement where my own body and my environment is experienced in ceaseless tandem. E.g. the Schneider case. For Schneider, only concrete, touching, intentional movement is possible; abstract ones are not (e.g. ‘touch nose’ vs. ‘point at nose’). The body is available for doing but not thinking; Schneider says “I experience movement as a result of the situation […] everything works by itself.” (107) “He is his body and his body is the power for a certain world.” (109) We normally do not have this problem because we consider our movement against our phenomenological background. Notably, patients show that this problem of abstract/concrete motricity corresponds to abstract/concrete linguistic taxonomisation. (114) Motricity, however, is not reducible to visuality; illness show a number of variations. More broadly, psychology cannot here provide a causal explanation, nor an essential symbolic ‘function’; there is conscious symbolic activity, but it is not transcendent of the pre-reflective bodily. (126) What Schneider lacks when he cannot recognise categorisations is not consciousness or body, but the perceptual basis for such identification. Our acquired habits, awareness and ideas all emerge from this ground of already-whole perception. (130-1) After all, when we perceive a painting or listen to a story, we ‘grasp’ its essence as a whole through the experience of reception – which Schneider cannot do, and thus he resorts to a machinic retelling of elements without being able to select and convey the point of the story. (134-5) After all, every “perceptual habit [is] an acquisition of a world.” (154)

Ultimately, what Schneider lacks is the intentional arc of perception – “the concrete freedom that consists in the general power of placing oneself in a situation” and gives it a coherent unity. (137) Consciousness therefore enacts itself only through motricity (= ‘original intentionality’) – the ‘touching off’ of concrete objects. (139) In driving or entering a doorway, we find a dynamic habit that is grounded in bodily motricity; but what about affective and conversational habits, where emotion runs through well-worn grooves and certain responses ‘beg us’ to be expressed? Is not our reasoning and speaking also part of ‘motricity’? (144) The presence of conscious intentionality-of-act does not extinguish the operative intentionality beneath, either. Habit resides “in the body as the mediator of a world.” (146)

Much of this also applies to speech. In empiricism, to ‘have’ (habes) language is to, via biological or psychic stimuli, obtain ‘verbal images’. Speech is thus learnt and produced in an extra-individual circuit, and meaning is simply ‘given’ with the stimuli. Now, in aphasia we find a disjuncture between word as a (re)action and word in a signification system, mirroring Schneider’s problem. In intellectualism, the problem remains in obverse: the word is now a simple vehicle for an inner, authentic speech. MP argues that “the word has a sense [sens]” (182); the word itself is the object with which we exercise directed intentionality. “The designation of objects never happens after recognition, it is recognition itself.” “Speech does not translate a ready-made thought; rather, speech accomplishes thought.” (183) Interpretation is not just decoding and not just solipsism; “we have the power to understand beyond what we could have spontaneously thought” by virtue of the conversational encounter. (184) This implies that ‘hermeneutic’ understanding is neither objectively absolute nor systematic, but the taking up of a common object (expressed language) by which we develop this perceptually driven knowledge. The sens is important for this reason; a nonlinguistic communication.

Equally, thought is not separable from speech neatly. “Thought does not explicitly posit objects or relations […] his speech is his thought.” We are ‘possessed’ by our speech as we speak; “the end of the speech or of the text will be the lifting of a spell.” (185) Again, we perceive the word relative to a field; “I relate to the word just as my hand reaches for the place on my body being stung. The word has a certain place in my linguistic world; it is a part of my equipment.” (186) I ‘remember’ and make use of words like I do other objects. Hence speaking is no more controlled or ‘expressive’ of inner self than bodily habits and actions. The question that remains is how ‘thoughts’ and intentions are themselves formed and perceived; are they entirely dependent on the motivations of the environment? Speech is not a sign but is entangled with thought and the world. There is no inner life of thought but thought as reverberation of language-in-the-world. Speech is a ‘body of gestures’: “Speech is a gesture, and its signification is a world.” (190)

Gestures are often ‘known’ to me only in unity with what they ‘represent’. I can ‘know’ a gesture when I can arraign it with an intention; hence a child walking in on parents during sex cannot establish communication proper with what he/she sees. “I understand the other person through my body” (191-2) – resembling Alfred Schutz’ phenomenological I-can. MP extends the materialisation of language to suggest that words came from a vocalisation of the ‘emotional essence’ of what they signify – which is why languages have similarities. Language appears relatively clear and systematic not because of natural truth but its conventional history. Language is thus a cultural concretisation of sens. Language combines its stable system with an extra-linguistic, ‘existential’ cache of senses – so whenever we speak we bring in more than what we say. In ‘existential’ aphasia, therefore, we see that thought and language are of a lateral rather than causal relation. They have lost the ability to grasp the existential sens of the word and position themselves in the world through it. Contra Cartesian dualism, the body exists not as ‘object’, and consciousness not as ‘thought’.




Paul Cézanne, Still Life With Apples, 1890-4



The object is defined in light of the affective responses it arouses; motivation is the inverse of affordance. Space is not objective, nor primarily object-in-space, but the I-in-space. Motivations furnish our pre-reflective intuition of ‘realness’ in our perception, which builds up into a sense of a ‘world’. The social is latent in this world. Recognition of other behaviours ‘like mine’ constitutes communication.

As argued in the introduction, every sensing is a co-existing with, and every sensed quality is behaviourally instantiated. E.g. perceived colours – even if ‘illusory’ as result of lighting – can provoke different modes of acting and feeling. Sensation is never fully determinate, however; it motivates, but does not cause. (221) Sensations are presented to us as anonymous only because we forget our own body. We sense virtuality as well, always; that which exceeds the presently given. The senses are personal fields. (224) Consciousness may be totally for-itself by definition, but my access to my consciousness (and the notion of consciousness) is again a partial and directed one. The world a priori is thus not a domain of absolute truth but experiential diversity. (228-9) When we ‘focus’ on something, we temporarily displace ourselves from our sensing – a folk version of the reduction. (235)

The senses are mixed; each sense – visual, tactile – has its own mode of relating to the world, and these combine to form an intersensory schema of the world, as implied above by the mixture of the senses. Synaesthesia exemplifies this fundamental mixture / synthesis of the senses. (238) MP further pursues the intersection of the senses, and indeed, the wholeness achieved by multiple instances of one sense (perception), in “Cézanne’s Doubt”. Cézanne’s apparently distorted elements, like the cup and plate above, is not a factor of ‘imagination’, but of his obsessive effort at identifying perception as lived and experienced. In double vision, we eliminate it by prospectively identifying it as ‘fake’ and then concretely employ our body towards resolving a single image. (241) Words often grasp the body first, e.g. sexual terms or profanity; hence there is a ‘symbolic’ communication between body and world. (244-5) This helps explain, without alienating the body, how symbolic and abstract constructs can be involved in phenomenology – and indeed, how Husserl’s dream of objectifying essences is partly (but only partly) achieved. As for the Husserlian nesting problem: reflection (say, C-of-C) is always retroactive and secondary; one never reaches ‘primordial’ C because C always has a slight ‘gap’ with experience and world, which is what allows it to escape its present, to construct language and ideas. (247)

One implication of motricity is that abstract space is tethered to bodily space. (254) “I am of space and of time; my body fits itself to them and embraces them.” (141) E.g. how do I have spatial orientations? How do objects appear ‘upside down’? Again, rather than objectively given or purely mental, it depends on the body’s intentional formulation of a ‘spatial level’ which furnishes our perceptual background. (260) Hence mirror tricks produce disjunctive perceptions until, after a while, we ‘settle’ into a correct vision; a face, beyond a certain zoom or angle, becomes defamilarised into a lump of flesh. Similarly, depth / ‘apparent size’ is object-oriented and not mathematically consistent with ‘real’ distances, and has to do with time and the I-can as well (e.g. with regards to a distant object). Movement is not a series of discrete images or static objects in motion (Zeno’s paradox), but neither is it pure motion; it is about the moving-object. It involves a movable-object which might have specific properties (e.g. diameter), but in motion, the moving-object is graspable only by certain styles (e.g. ‘circular’). (287)

To perceive objects as belonging to a given space, or to comprehend abstract spatial / geometric designations, is all to experience a lived correspondence of objects and space as a whole. (210) Certainly, there are physical laws governing perception, but this is different from explaining our experiential basis of perception, where non-thetic backgrounds motivate conscious experience. (269) As we saw more generally, the senses each contribute to an intersensory schema of space. Under mescaline influence, it is this lived space which falls to pieces because one has lost one’s own body as anchor; space becomes ‘empty’. (295) Much of the lessons of bodily, lived space extends to mythical space – which is again constituted perceptually and bodily. Even though it presents itself to me as abstract or discursive, it settles in me as a basic form of perceiving my environment and perceiving virtualities in my environment; a background. E.g. a schizo woman believes x and y with similar looking faces must know each other; an abnormal wiring of a normal and basic skill. (298-9) In myth or madness, what breaks is not ‘reason’ but this perceptual order. Not that it loses all contact with the ‘everyday’; myth could be argued as being just as tightly/loosely related to physically visible aspects as ordinary vision is. (304-5) Whether in myth of ‘reality’, we have no apodicity; our motivated intentionality instead commits us bodily to constantly ‘correcting’ what we see. (310-1)

How do we know/decide what object is ‘real’ that we may found our perception on it? This seems mostly to be pre-reflective. E.g. we are guided by the lighting into what we see because it ‘organises’ our field; a combinatorial distribution of perceptual elements. Tactile experiences are similarly guided by bodily movement. Inter-sensorial coordination is thus a product not of geometric / empirical properties but intentional directions that motivate each other. (332) (This refers back to how things communicate an excess; in Balzac’s Le lys dans la vallée Madame de Mortsauf can accept a bouquet without violating her vows because its clearly amorous communication belongs to that excess. Cézanne first sought to paint the expression first, and missed it; later, he learns the expression is a product of everything else he paints in. (336-7)) The perceived x in this process is not necessarily an object; e.g. when someone removes a shawl from a room and we notice ‘something’ missing, but we never noticed the shawl. Here, the real is simply that which convinces us – a non-metaphysical, experiential givenness. (337) The efficacy of this mechanism is evinced by the fact that we can sort the real from the illusory often enough. Hence the real is ‘our’ real, an acquired real; our collective phantasms, from eschatological fantasies of late 19th centuries to today’s phantom vibrations to football spectators perceiving goals, are such ‘real’s. As MP himself says, this faculty by which we sort ‘real’ from illusion is the same faculty by which we access beyond our immediate environment. (341) “Every experience will forever appear to me as a particularity that does not exhaust the generality of my being.” (377)

All this scales up to produce a world, a unified world, and ‘styles’ – “certain way[s] of handling situations that I identify or understand in an individual”. (342) Again, the world appears to us in perspective, but is not a product of active synthesis. It is not a full schema of determinations, but an architecture for our mysteries. (349) E.g. hallucination must involve some ability to perceive that I am perceiving something that is disconnected from the rest of the sensory environment – that it has a certain ‘poverty’ of the real. The real world is what we use at each moment to perceive in the first place, but at each moment we also experience the reality and worldliness of our perception (or its lack / distortion). The sense of the real is ‘originary opinion’ – or, sometimes, ‘faith’. (359) Science and reason, just like myth and dreaming, take us partly out of the immediate reality via its inherent fissures and multiplicity, and thereby enact another perception. Hence one key consequence of MP’s phenomenology is the philosophical and systematic alignment of reason and nonreason on an existential ground, where the pre-reflective real provides an alternative standard of analysis and sorting.

In this world, others become possible in a number of ways. First, the “cultural object [allows me to] experience the near presence of others under a veil of anonymity”; human action is sedimented in the world.(363) MP repeats Husserl’s answer: my consciousness is directed, so must others’, and thus I could not fully occupy that other consciousness or fully objectify it. But there is a solution: because of the doubling where I perceive through my body and yet can perceive my own body, I am also able to recognise other bodies and consciousnesses, if ‘indirectly’. I do not fully adhere to my own body, and so there is space in my perception for the other. (368) Hence when I perceive x as ‘behaviour’ I already discover a world decentred from my bodily perception. Conversation is a temporary experience where we feel like we really share the same ground. (370) “Coexistence must be in each case lived by each person.” (373) Solipsism is itself a symptom of our originary openness to others, by the same logic of illusion and false perception; we are able to recognise ourselves as ‘alone’ because there is a ground of perceiving that we are not (meant to be) alone. As soon as I act / perceive or am acted / perceived upon, I exist intersubjectively; the social world is always latent in my perception, so that when it is noticeable / focused on, it jumps out and imprints further its diffuse realness. (380)




Experience is pre-cogito. My tacit cogito exists as a primordial, virtual I grounding the ‘spoken’, second-hand cogito. We possess faculties of a restricted movement towards the world, the Other, and time, and are not completely ‘locked in’.

The Cartesian Cogito is by definition infinite, absolute, singular, non-transferable, and again commits the ‘God fallacy’, as MP calls it. In contrast, MP argues the thought of x and perceived x is ultimately inseparable, as is sensation and interpretation. And what of my own internal feelings – are they absolute? But if so, how would we recognise our own feelings as false, or sometimes knowingly place ourselves into a ‘false’ feeling – not mere pretention, but feeling sadness without being entirely caught up in it which gives it an entirely different tonality? A hysteric says, “we do indeed have the feeling itself, but ‘only in [an inauthentic]’ way; the feeling is like a ‘shadow’ of the [authentic] feeling.” (399) In perception as well as thought, this gap / otherness is because each perceptual / cognitive act is a movement of myself into something else. (401) Although MP denies the distinction, Sartre’s for-itself / in-itself describes a similar movement. MP ultimately distinguishes between the tacit cogito – a primordial, pre-reflective awareness – and spoken cogito, a secondary, reflective consciousness. The latter only establishes in us a sens because it articulates the former. (422-4) Reflective synthesis of a significative ‘thing’ does occur, but only on the basis of pre-reflective, excessive perception. This distinguishes the latter as operative intentionality á la Husserl. Heidegger’s ek-stase is therefore the subject’s operative intentionality towards a world in which he finds himself already present. (453-4) I experience a ‘world’ and exist as a subject both by a bodily immersion, and not a transcendental manoeuvre. (431)

Speech, in particular, externalises this movement as monument. Every act of speech retraces a past movement for the sake of a new one, but not according to an abstract system; speech acts evoke a kind of sense based on history of our perception and of parole. Analogous to painting, the work of perception again transcends the object (of speech) and also my intentions. I always get more than what I bargained for. Language does not denote or represent, but, again like painting, it creates another image of what it seeks to express. (408-9) Hence my own speech is immediately sensible to my self, yet were I to interrogate it as discrete units, I would find innumerable ambiguities that ultimately collapse the project. 

Time is neither linear nor absolute. The world without us would only be the present. Again, a ‘recollection’ presupposes an a priori motivation / recognition of the past in the present – and prospection has even less of a ‘psychological’ basis. Consciousness produces time as a modality by which it partly escapes the present. (437) We make past and future ‘visible’ via the intentional work of perception. Again, there is a schema of movement where each time is directed towards another. Here, it is my constant possession of a ‘present’ which enables the illusion of eternity. (447) Yet is not the present available to me only through a pre-reflective perception of, say, ancestrality as well? MP says we understand the world before man not as a past but as an object in front of us (456) – but Meillassoux would point out this, like Kantian correlationism, evades the question of objective reality.

What is the freedom to make decisions? A decision is already what I am before deliberation; “the deliberation follows the decision, for my secret decision is what makes motives appear”. (460) Leibniz shows this to be a fluid and contingent process, while Foucaultian technique seeks to modify this ‘secret decision’ through deliberative action. Pre-reflectivity is hence by no means set in stone; its highly personalised nature means it sensitively habituates new modifications, though one does not modify a habit in the same way that one forms a habit. These backgrounds of our freedom thus invoke our ‘field of possibilities’. (463) Hence everyday intentionality prefigures the field of my ‘free action’. (465) When we use statistical thought to say ‘x is likely’, again, this estimation arises out of my grounded perception: e.g. when I say it is ‘unlikely’ I acted out of jealousy or that he would do this to me… (467)

As described in Anti-Oedipus (Deleuze & Guattari), our recognition of ourselves in a ‘class’ or to act in ‘revolution’ is an organic product of the confrontation of different experiences in tandem with our reflective acts. We do not abstractly place ourselves in a class, but feel the class as lived. (470-1) To perceive myself as for-Other, I must always begin with a perception of myself that is not entirely personal but has some ‘peripheral’ and displaced quality. (474) Each perception is uniquely mine and almost pre-individual in its primal nature, but already evokes trans-individual generalities. (477) Freedom is the conflict of my pre-reflective historical being and my pre-reflective and reflective decisions in the present. (481)