The first account Merleau-Ponty deals with in the selections from Phenomenology of Perception as found in Vision and Mind is the notion that sense-perception is identified with the object perceived. He believes that because of its presented immediacy, we mistakenly believe the two are the same, and they are not. One does not have the immediate sense impressions that do not have some context of prior meaning and experience which are bound up in the present experience. Such being the case, it is not “redness” that presents itself to me. There is no “pure sense impression.” We are seeking, then, meaning or essence.
Merleau-Ponty deals with psychologists and empiricists and notes many of the classical criticisms that have been given of these views. There are numerous things necessary for interpreting sense impressions not immediately given, such as identity of objects or self over time, and therefore a strict empirical answer to this cannot be adequate. Merleau-Ponty believes as well that psychology and the naïve psychologistic approach to perception cannot do without physiology (as well as philosophy), inasmuch as the body itself, as well as its spatio-temporal locale, is a key factor in the perception process. Experience is not a frozen dot of time that we can abstract from all prior experience and analyze as uninterpreted brute factuality presenting itself to us. Indeed, the human subject, his past experiences, the intentional object, hic locale and context, and the essence of the thing in question all contribute and are sufficient to refute bare empiricism, reductionism and psychologism.