Continental Philosophy Review

, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 191–201 | Cite as

Sensibility and the otherness of the world: Levinas and Merleau-Ponty

  • Paula LorelleEmail author


Sensibility has traditionally been defined as a relation with the world’s exteriority. However, a certain post-husserlian phenomenology tends to reverse this definition and to redefine sensibility as an internal relation that takes place from within the world. This article focuses on this phenomenological concept of “sensibility” in Levinas and Merleau-Ponty and intends to show that this concept rests upon the presupposition of an alternative according to which we would have whether a sensible experience of identity, or an acosmic experience of otherness—whether a wordly experience of the same or a worldless experience of otherness. Yet, by reducing sensibility to the experience of the world’s interiority and rejecting otherness beyond any worldly experience, this conception fails to account for a significant dimension of sensibility—namely, sensibility as the experience of the world’s own otherness, foreignness or exteriority. It is our hope that, from the critical exposition of this alternative, will eventually appear in conclusion the significant part of this forgotten dimension of sensibility.


Maurice Merleau-Ponty Emmanuel Levinas World Flesh Jouissance Otherness 



Œuvres, Phénoménologie de la perception, Gallimard, 2010; Phenomenology of Perception, Translated by Colin Smith, Routledge Classics, 2002.

Œuvres, Le visible et l’invisible, Gallimard, 2010; The Visible and the Invisible, Translated by Alphonso Lingis, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 1968.

Oeuvres, “Le Philosophe et son ombre,” Gallimard, 2010; “The Philosopher and His Shadow,” Signs (Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy), Northwestern University Press, 1964.


Autrement qu’être ou au-delà de l’essence, Martinus Nijhoff, Kluwer Academic, 1974; Otherwise than Being and Beyond Essence, Translated by Alphonso Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1981.

Œuvres III, Eros, littérature et philosophie, dir. J-L. Nancy et D. Cohen-Levinas, Éditions Grasset et Fasquelle/IMEC, 2013.

Totalité et infini, Essai sur l’extériorité, Martinus Nijhoff, Kluwer Academic, 1971; Totality and Infinity, An Essay on Exteriority, Translated by Alphonso Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1969.



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BrusselsBelgium

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