Merleau-Ponty and melancholia : the practical application of Merleau Ponty's 'body-subject' in establishing a description of the temporal aspect of melancholic suffering
In this phenomenological study I concentrate primarily on three component features of melancholia, namely: temporality, suffering and how both these features as a result of our condition as embodied subject’s as already engaged in the world. In undertaking this I will use the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty as developed in his book the ‘Phenomenology of Perception’ (1962). The conceptual framework used in this study is developed upon the premise that the correct subject of psychopathology is the ‘person’ characterised as an active agent within a world-context. By adopting the perspective of an embodied subject (body-subject) in the world, derived from Merleau-Ponty’s concept of the embodied subject, one can eliminate some of the intellectual confusion relating to certain philosophical distinctions, generally, and, of more relevance for this study, to psychiatric diagnostic categories specifically. The argument is that the body, in terms of anatomy and physiology, is always intertwined with both the subject’s intentionality, that same subject’s bodily intentionality and the world. The physical structure of the embodied subject lays the foundation for our way of being-in-the-world. Being-in-the-world is characterised as relational and dialectic in that one’s relationship with the world changes both the world and the embodied subject in ways which either promote or hinder health, illness and/or suffering. An important part of my argument is that human suffering occurs as a result of agency and/or illness and that suffering is inseparable from one’s personal perspective and the world-context that influences one’s personal perspective. The concept of suffering, developed in this study, challenges an ideological tenet of the traditional medical model: namely, that there is objective knowledge, knowable apart from subjective experience. The concept of suffering, developed herein, places tension on this tenet, and if this tenet is preserved as inviolable then it follows that the prevailing reductionist medical model has little to say about suffering.