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Merleau-Ponty Is A Forgotten Man

Original Source Of The Shakespeare-X Message.


Wikipedia - Maurice Merleau-Ponty


Merleau-Ponty is an important thinker of the 20th century who isn't well enough known in the English speaking world.

So now he has a page on this web site.



Who is Merleau-Ponty?


Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908—1961)

Internet Enclyclopedia of Philosophy

by Jack Reynolds


Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s work is commonly associated with the philosophical movement called existentialism and its intention to begin with an analysis of the concrete experiences, perceptions, and difficulties, of human existence.

However, he never propounded quite the same extreme accounts of radical freedom, being-towards-death, anguished responsibility, and conflicting relations with others, for which existentialism became both famous and notorious in the 1940s and 1950s. Perhaps because of this, he did not initially receive the same amount of attention as his French contemporaries and friends, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.

These days though, his phenomenological analyses are arguably being given more attention than either, in both France and in the Anglo-American context, because they retain an ongoing relevance in fields as diverse as cognitive science, medical ethics, ecology, sociology and psychology.

Although it is difficult to summarize Merleau-Ponty’s work into neat propositions, we can say that he sought to develop a radical re-description of embodied experience (with a primacy given to studies of perception), and argued that these phenomena could not be suitably understood by the philosophical tradition because of its tendency to drift between two flawed and equally unsatisfactory alternatives: empiricism and, what he called, intellectualism.

This article will seek to explain his understanding of perception, bodily movement, habit, ambiguity, and relations with others, as they were expressed in his key early work, Phenomenology of Perception, before exploring the enigmatic ontology of the chiasm and the flesh that is so evocatively described in his unfinished book, The Visible and the Invisible.





"All consciousness is perceptual...The perceived world is the always presupposed foundation of all rationality, all value and all existence." Merleau-Ponty.


by Brent Dean Robbins

Paul Ricoeur has called Merleau-Ponty "the greatest of the French phenomenologists." Along with , Merleau-Ponty introduced phenomenological thought to France. Drawing upon the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl and the existentialist orientation of Heidegger and Marcel, Merleau-Ponty can be credited with introducing the conception of the "lived body" to existential-phenomenological thought (already latently present, for example, in Heidegger's distinction between the "ready-to-hand" and the "present-to-hand" in Being & Time). Merleau-Ponty held the chair of child psychology and pedagogy at the Sorbonne, which was later held by Jean Piaget. He then became professor of philosophy at the College de France. He died young and suddenly in 1961 while working on his uncompleted manuscript, The Visible and the Invisible.

Merleau-Ponty's masterpiece, Phenomenology of Perception, was a bold, internally coherent attempt to overcome the problems of empiricism and rationalism in the Cartesian tradition of modern philosophy. As Dillon has shown in his Merleau-Ponty's Ontology, it is pedagogically instructive to introduce Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology as an attempt to resolve Meno's paradox. Meno's paradox, of course, is from the dialogue between Meno and Plato in Plato's Meno. Meno poses a dilemma to Plato: "But how will you look for something when you don't in the least know what it is? How on earth are you going to set up something you don't know as the object of your search? To put it another way, even if you come right up against it, how will you know that what you found is the thing you didn't know?"

Merleau-Ponty's existential-phenomenological epistemology and ontology can be seen as resolving the problem of Meno's paradox, and it does so by relentlessly demonstrating how both empiricism and rationalism fail to do so. Merleau-Ponty writes: "Empiricism cannot see that we need to know what we are looking for, otherwise we would not be looking for it, and intellectualism (rationalism) fails to see that we need to be ignorant of what we are looking for, or equally again we should not be searching." (Phenomenology of Perception)

All of philosophy is at stake with Meno's paradox, and, with it, the individual sciences, too, are at stake. To see how Merleau-Ponty resolves the problems of empiricism and rationalism, it is necessary to understand how each are problematic on their own terms. More



A Clear Explanation Of The Problem Explored by Merleau-Ponty.


Merleau-Pontyís Phenomenology of Perception


by Alex Scott

In his investigation of the Phenomenology of Perception (1945), Maurice Merleau-Ponty defines phenomenology as the study of essences, including the essence of perception and of consciousness. He also says, however, that phenomenology is a method of describing the nature of our perceptual contact with the world. Phenomenology is concerned with providing a direct description of human experience.

Perception is the background of experience which guides every conscious action. The world is a field for perception, and human consciousness assigns meaning to the world. We cannot separate ourselves from our perceptions of the world.

Merleau-Ponty argues that both traditional Empiricism and Rationalism are inadequate to describe the phenomenology of perception.

Empiricism maintains that experience is the primary source of knowledge, and that knowledge is derived from sensory perceptions. Rationalism maintains that reason is the primary source of knowledge, and that knowledge does not depend on sensory perceptions. Merleau-Ponty says that traditional Empiricism does not explain how the nature of consciousness determines our perceptions, while Rationalism does not explain how the nature of our perceptions determines consciousness.

Perception may be structured by associative forces, and may be focused by attention. Attention itself does not create any perceptions, but may be directed toward any aspect of a perceptual field. Attention can enable conscious perceptions to be structured by reflecting upon them.

Merleau-Ponty explains that a judgment may be defined as a perception of a relationship between any objects of perception. A judgment may be a logical interpretation of the signs presented by sensory perceptions. But judgment is neither a purely logical activity, nor a purely sensory activity. Judgments may transcend both reason and experience. Perception is not purely sensation, nor is it purely interpretation. Consciousness is a process that includes sensing as well as reasoning. Experience may be reflective or unreflective. Unreflective experience may be known by subsequent reflection. Reflection may be aware of itself as an experience. Reflection may also be a way to understand and to structure experience. Reflection may be focused successively on different parts of a perceptual field.

According to Merleau-Ponty, perceptual objects have an inner horizon in consciousness and an outer horizon in the external world. The object-horizon structure enables the individual to distinguish perceptual objects from each other. All objects reflect each other in time and space. Psychological and physiological aspects of perception may overlap and influence each other. The spatiality of the human body, or the 'body image,' is an example of how both psychological and physiological factors may influence perception. Perception is a system of meanings by which a phenomenal object is recognized. The intentions of the person who is perceiving an object are reflected in the field to which the phenomenal object belongs. Merleau-Ponty argues that consciousness is not merely a representative function or a power of signification. Consciousness is a projective activity, which develops sensory data beyond their own specific significance and uses them for the expression of spontaneous action.

According to Merleau-Ponty, the human body is an expressive space which contributes to the significance of personal actions. The body is also the origin of expressive movement, and is a medium for perception of the world. Bodily experience gives perception a meaning beyond that established simply by thought. Thus, Descartesí cogito ("I think, therefore I am") does not account for how consciousness is influenced by the spatiality of a personís own body. Merleau-Ponty also argues that existence and substance presuppose each other. Substance expresses existence, and existence realizes itself through substance. However, substance is not merely a form of signification or expression of existence, and existence is not merely what is expressed as substance. Existence and substance explain each other. More



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