Philosophy of Merleau-Ponty

Philosophy of Merleau-Ponty

Eric Matthews
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 193
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  • Book Info
    Philosophy of Merleau-Ponty
    Book Description:

    In this clear and comprehensive account of Merleau-Ponty's thought Eric Matthews shows how Merleau-Ponty has contributed to current debates in philosophy, such as the nature of consciousness, the relation between biology and personality, the historical understanding of human thought and society, and many others. Surveying the whole range of Merleau-Ponty's thinking, Matthews examines his views about the nature of phenomenology and the primacy of perception; his account of human embodiment, being-in-the-world, and the understanding of human behaviour; his conception of the self and its relation to other selves; and his views on society, politics, and the arts. A final chapter considers his later thought, published posthumously. The ideas of Merleau-Ponty are of immensely important to the development of modern French philosophy. Matthews evaluates his distinctive contributions and relates his thought to that of his predecessors, contemporaries, and successors, both in France and elsewhere. This unrivalled introduction will be welcomed by analytic philosophers and cognitive scientists as well as all students taking courses in contemporary continental philosophy.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8323-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Merleau-Ponty in Context
    (pp. 1-22)

    Why should we still read Merleau-Ponty? He died, after all, in 1961, at a time when the social and cultural situation and the preoccupations of philosophers were very different from those of the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of a new millennium. Is he not simply a representative of a now outmoded “humanism”, a philosophy of the “subject” and of the phenomenology of consciousness? That he was a humanist in some sense of that rather vague word is undeniable; he was certainly concerned to affirm human values and believed that there are such values to affirm. But...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Phenomenology
    (pp. 23-44)

    Many philosophers influenced the direction of Merleau-Ponty's thinking, as was shown in Chapter 1, but the single most significant influence was that of Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) and the “phenomenological” school that he founded. If we are to understand Merleau-Ponty properly, we have to see him above all in relation to phenomenology. At least in his major works, he certainly saw himself as a phenomenologist, and even the other influences on his thought were filtered through his conception of phenomenology. And, clearly, if we are to understand Merleau-Ponty's relationship to Husserlian phenomenology, we must first say something about Husserl's own thought....

  6. CHAPTER THREE Being-in-the-world
    (pp. 45-66)

    Phenomenological philosophy, as Merleau-Ponty conceives it, “consists in re-learning to look at the world”.¹ We need to re-learn to look at the world because we are “held captive” (to use Wittgenstein's phrase) by a picture of the world derived from the impulses that give rise to science - anobjectivistpicture of the world (including even our own bodies) as existing entirely independent of ourselves and interacting with our experience in a merely causal fashion. There is nothing wrong with this picture in its own context; if we are to study the world scientifically, then we need to set aside...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Embodiment and Human Action
    (pp. 67-88)

    For the Cartesian dualist, our being is not strictlyinthe world at all; the subject of experience, “the mind by which I am what I am”, as Descartes puts it, is a conscious mind, which is independent of the world of matter, even of the body to which it is for the time being attached. The subject, being unextended, is not even in space; the world is a spatial system of objects that the subject contemplates from a “position” that is not part of that system. The main traditional alternative to Cartesianism has been a materialistic monism, which rejects...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Self and Others
    (pp. 89-110)

    By means of his method of doubt, Descartes arrived at a basis for certainty of knowledge in thecogito(“I think, therefore I am”); the very possibility of achieving certain knowledge depended on starting from one's own conscious thoughts, which were both transparent (immediately self-revealing) and private (accessible only to the individual whose thoughts they were). There is an element of truth, Merleau-Ponty thinks, in this Cartesian return to the self. It is clearly true, for instance, that we can only have experience of objects if we are ourselves conscious subjects of experience, and if we distinguish between ourselves as...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Politics in Theory and Practice
    (pp. 111-132)

    Even in his later years, when he had withdrawn from much of his former active involvement in political life, Merleau-Ponty continued to think about politics, in the sense both of general political theory and of the particular concrete problems of his day. Theory and practice were for him, as for many French intellectuals, ultimately inseparable: the position we take on particular practical problems (such as the relations of France and Europe as a whole with the USA) must be determined by a general theoretical view of the kind of society we want to create. In turn, his political theory can...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN The Arts
    (pp. 133-150)

    Phenomenological philosophy, in Merleau-Ponty's conception, consists as we have seen in “re-learning to look at the world”, attempting to get behind the theoretical constructions that we erect on the basis of our immediate experience of the world in order to describe that experience itself. In so doing, he says, we do not simply reflect a pre-existing truth: philosophy is, “like art, the act of bringing truth into being”.¹ The analogy between phenomenology and art, especially the visual arts, runs through Merleau-Ponty's writings, sometimes as asides to a general philosophical discussion, and sometimes in the form of extended essays on particular...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT The Later Thought
    (pp. 151-172)

    In 1952, Merleau-Ponty was appointed to a chair at the Collège de France in Paris, one of the pinnacles of academic life in France, and continued in that post until his death in 1961. His inaugural lecture, “In Praise of Philosophy”, in which he examines the function of philosophy, first through considering particular past philosophers (Lavelle, Bergson, Socrates) and then by discussing in more general terms the relation between philosophy's past and its present, was published in book form in 1953.¹ Summaries of his lecture courses at the Collège de France were published in book form after his death, in...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 173-180)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 181-182)
  14. Index
    (pp. 183-186)