On the Flesh of Violence. The (Phenomenological) Dilemma in Researching Violence and its Transrational Transformation


This essay is the reflection of my thoughts and experience as a violence researcher. It is an attempt to describe an alternative approach on violence research by combining the phenomenological ontology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, particularly his notion of the term flesh with the transrational ontology elaborated by Wolfgang Dietrich (2015). Based on recent findings in cognitive science George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1999) show that “the mind is inherently embodied. Thought is mostly unconscious. Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical” (Lakoff/Johnson 1999, 3). These discoveries call the central ideas and anthropologies of the Western philosophical tradition as well as its conceptions of truth and reasonableness relating thereto, into question. Even a solely phenomenological way of researching on experience leads, as this paper will elaborate, into an impasse. On the one hand phenomenological research is able to generate a rich theory of the structure of experience, but on the other hand there is a lack of an empirical foundation of knowledge of the cognitive unconscious and thus of the majority of our thoughts (Lakoff/Johnson 1999, 5).

By sketching two main traditions in violence research, (1) the research into the causes of violence and (2) researching discursively-interpretatively, which both lead to an impasse, I (3) elucidate why we do need to follow a third one, a phenomenological approach on the one hand, but which also leading us into a dilemma on the other hand. But in contrast to the two first mentioned approaches, which cover the paradoxical Gestalt of violence, a phenomenological perspective reveals it, although it does not overcome it. With (4) the conception of the flesh of violence, I elaborate the paradoxical Gestalt of violence and conclude (5) with the attempt to transform this dilemma by applying Wolfgang Dietrich’s ideas on the Elicitive Conflict Mapping (2015).