MILK AND FLESH: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL REFLECTION ON INFANCY AND COEXISTENCE
Infants who suffer severe neglect fail to thrive emotionally as well as bodily. The absence of early coexistential structures that provide well-being leads to a narrowing of the child's perceptual and social developmental horizon. What is the nature of these early structures? In this essay, an ontology of well-being or housedness is elaborated through phenomenological reflections on breast-feeding and infant perception. Merleau-Ponty's ontology of the flesh makes a contribution to the ontology of well-being: it gives us a conceptual and evocative language to describe human existence in its pre-verbal, syncretic, and non-dualistic manifestations. It also allows for a re-evaluation and re-interpretation of the results of current research in infant perception. Through the structures of infant perception we perceive the coexistential fit between infants, other human beings, and the world of things. An infant's fundamental housedness in the flesh is taken up and cultivated or destroyed by the child's social and cultural environment.