“Solar love”: Nietzsche, Merleau-Ponty and the fortunes of perception1

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Both Nietzsche and Merleau-Ponty repudiate the “mirror” view of perception and embrace what Nietzsche refers to as “solar love” or creative perception. I argue that Merleau-Ponty thinks of this type of perception primarily in terms of “convergence,” and Nietzsche in terms of “divergence.” I then show how, contrary to their own emphases, Merleau-Ponty's notion of “flesh” and Nietzsche's idea of “chaos” suggest that convergence and divergence are abstractions from an ontologically prior realm of “hybrid perceptions.” In this realm, each perception is shot through with the others, simultaneously inside and outside one another. The creative tension among these perceptions continually produces new perspectives or voices, that is, a realm whose very being is metamorphosis. Moreover, this realm of hybrid perceptions suggests a political principle that might prove attractive for communities in an age of diversity and cultural hybridity.

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