In the opening essay of The Muses, Nancy asks what force disperses Art into a plurality of arts, and what simultaneously holds them together in the unity of Art, through this very dispersal. The idea of Art, as a plurality of irreducible singularities that nevertheless commune, developed in the essay, is a precursor to the ontology of Being Singular Plural, widely considered one of his most important works. The claim in The Muses is not only that art itself has to be understood as a unity of a plurality of singularities, but that it is a privileged site for the revealing of the singular plural of being. The following essay explores Nancy’s ontology of art, which is simultaneously a way of understanding being in terms of art, by tracing it back to Merleau-Ponty. I argue that Merleau-Ponty’s understanding of the sense of being in terms of the “chiasm” (the touching-touched) in The Visible and the Invisible is a crucial source for Nancy’s pluralist ontology. The turn to Merleau-Ponty is framed as a way of emphasizing that Nancy remains committed to a philosophical or ontological idea of art (despite his own criticisms of the very idea) against those who would like to separate his pluralist idea of art from any reference to the question of the meaning of “being”. The argument is that radical pluralism requires, paradoxically, an ontology, just as the affirmation of the irreducible plurality of singular arts requires a notion of Art.

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