The Merleau-Ponty Reader (Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy)
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Arranged chronologically, the essays are grouped in three sections corresponding to the major periods of Merleau-Ponty’s work: First, the years prior to his appointment to the Sorbonne in 1949, the early, existentialist period during which he wrote important works on the phenomenology of perception and the primacy of perception; second, the years of his work as professor of child psychology and pedagogy at the Sorbonne, a period especially concerned with language; and finally, his years as chair of modern philosophy at the Collège de France, a time devoted to the articulation of a new ontology and philosophy of nature. The editors, who provide an interpretive introduction, also include previously unpublished working notes found in Merleau-Ponty’s papers after his death. Translations of all selections have been updated and several appear here in English for the first time.
By contextualizing Merleau-Ponty’s writings on the philosophy of art and politics within the overall development of his thought, this volume allows readers to see both the breadth of his contribution to twentieth-century philosophy and the convergence of the various strands of his reflection.
is organized of itself. A “cube” is not what I see of it, since I see only three sides at a time; but no more is it a judgment by which I link together the successive appearances. A judgment, that is, a coordination conscious of itself, would be necessary only if the isolated appearances were given beforehand, which is counter to the hypothesis of intellectualism. Something of the empiricism which it surmounts always remains in intellectualism—something like a repressed empiricism. Thus, to do
is to make the world and the self unintelligible; it is to decree chaos and above all to establish it in the self. But chaos is nothing. To be or not to be, the self and everything else, we must choose” (Treatise on the Existence of God). I find here, in an author who spent his whole life reflecting on Descartes, Spinoza, and Kant, the idea—sometimes considered barbarous—of a thought which remembers that it was born and then takes itself up sovereignly and in which fact, reason, and freedom
if it were absolutely necessary to offend or be offended.” It is in the same moment that I am about to be afraid that I make others afraid; it is the same aggression that I repel and send back upon others; it is the same terror which threatens me that I spread abroad—I live my fear in the fear I inspire. But by a counter-shock, the suffering that I cause rends me along with my victim; and so cruelty is no solution but must always be begun again. There is a circuit between the self and others, a
and portents never lack. “Must heaven speak? It has already manifested its will by striking signs. 130 THE MERLEAU-PONTY READER Men have seen the sea half open up its depths, a cloud mark out the path to follow, water spring forth from the rock, and manna fall from heaven. It is up to us to do the rest; since God, by doing everything without us, would strip us of the action of our free will, and at the same time of that portion of choice reserved for us.”32 What humanism is more radical than
the dogs displays reactions of fear and avoidance; when he sees his image in the mirror he turns and runs. The other dog, caressed by his master while looking at his image in the mirror, calmly stands still and at the same time turns his head toward his master, who caresses him. The image he sees in the mirror is not, for him, another dog, but neither is it his own visual image. The visual image is a kind of complement for him, and as soon as his master’s caress recalls him to his body as given