The Experimental Flesh: Incarnation in Terms of Quantum Measurement and Phenomenological Perception


  • Will Johncock



What is the relation of the human to the world and the things in it? Do the various forms of human interrogation of the world discover things, and with them, a world? That is, can we reduce Being to a separation of knower from what can be known, or of observer from what can be observed? This article interrogates the question of the human-world relation via an inter-disciplinary analysis. The “flesh of the world” phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty problematises the assumption that there is an inherent distinction between subject and object, by instead identifying the incarnation of both in the embodied act of perception. Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of a reality-as-flesh will be employed alongside, and inside, physicist Niels Bohr’s demand that the constituent elements of physical reality emerge via the concurrent incarnation of the measurer and the measured during experimental procedures. Bohrian quantum physics is shown (in a manner which does not require the reader to be experienced in quantum theories) to evoke the co-manifestation of subject and object for which Merleau-Ponty argues. In blurring notions of observer and observed, an ontologically productive, rather than epistemologically interrogative, operation is identified. This is used to investigate the human-world relation, and to argue against the notion that this relation, as a condition for there being phenomena, separates knower from what can be known, or observer from what can be observed.