Merleau ponty sense and nonsense pdf
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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 s and s. 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.
Sense and Non-Sense
The constitution of meaning in human experience was his main interest and he wrote on perception , art , politics , religion , psychology , psychoanalysis , language , nature , and history. He was the lead editor of Les Temps modernes , the leftist magazine he established with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in At the core of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy is a sustained argument for the foundational role perception plays in understanding the world as well as engaging with the world.
Like the other major phenomenologists, Merleau-Ponty expressed his philosophical insights in writings on art , literature , linguistics , and politics. He was the only major phenomenologist of the first half of the twentieth century to engage extensively with the sciences and especially with Gestalt psychology. It is through this engagement that his writings became influential in the project of naturalizing phenomenology, in which phenomenologists use the results of psychology and cognitive science.
Merleau-Ponty emphasized the body as the primary site of knowing the world, a corrective to the long philosophical tradition of placing consciousness as the source of knowledge , and maintained that the body and that which it perceived could not be disentangled from each other. In his earlier work, Merleau-Ponty supported Soviet communism while remaining critical of Soviet policies and Marxism in general, adopting a skeptical stance which he termed Western Marxism.
His endorsement of the Soviet show trials and prison camps was published as Humanism and Terror in , though he would later denounce Soviet terror as being counter to the purportedly humanist aims of the revolution. His father died in when Merleau-Ponty was five years old. As Beauvoir recounts in her autobiography, she developed a close friendship with Merleau-Ponty and became smitten with him, but ultimately found him too well-adjusted to bourgeois life and values for her taste.
Merleau-Ponty was raised as a Catholic. He was friends with the Christian existentialist Gabriel Marcel , and he wrote articles for the Christian leftist journal Esprit , but he left the Church in because he felt his socialist politics were not compatible with the social and political teaching of the Catholic Church.
An article published in French newspaper Le Monde in October makes the case of recent discoveries about Merleau-Ponty's likely authorship of the novel Nord. Convergent sources from close friends Beauvoir, Elisabeth "Zaza" Lacoin seem to leave little doubt that Jacques Heller was a pseudonym of the year-old Merleau-Ponty. During this time, he attended Alexandre Kojeve 's influential seminars on Hegel and Aron Gurwitsch 's lectures on Gestalt psychology.
In the spring of , he was the first foreign visitor to the newly established Husserl Archives , where he consulted Husserl's unpublished manuscripts and met Eugen Fink and Father Hermann Van Breda. In the summer of , as France entered war against Germany, he served on the frontlines in the French army, where he was wounded in battle in June Upon returning to Paris in the fall of , he married Suzanne Jolibois, a Lacanian psychoanalyst, and founded an underground resistance group with Jean-Paul Sartre called "Under the Boot.
After teaching at the University of Lyon from to , Merleau-Ponty lectured on child psychology and education at the Sorbonne from to Besides his teaching, Merleau-Ponty was also political editor for the leftist Les Temps modernes from the founding of the journal in October until December In his youth he had read Karl Marx 's writings  and Sartre even claimed that Merleau-Ponty converted him to Marxism.
However, about three years later, he renounced his earlier support for political violence, and he rejected Marxism and advocated a liberal left position in Adventures of the Dialectic Merleau-Ponty was subsequently active in the French non-communist left and in particular in the Union of the Democratic Forces.
In his Phenomenology of Perception first published in French in , Merleau-Ponty develops the concept of the body-subject le corps propre as an alternative to the Cartesian " cogito. Consciousness , the world, and the human body as a perceiving thing are intricately intertwined and mutually "engaged. Taking up and "communing with" Merleau-Ponty's phrase the sensible qualities it encounters, the body as incarnated subjectivity intentionally elaborates things within an ever-present world frame, through use of its pre-conscious, pre-predicative understanding of the world's makeup.
The elaboration, however, is "inexhaustible" the hallmark of any perception according to Merleau-Ponty. Things are that upon which our body has a "grip" prise , while the grip itself is a function of our connaturality with the world's things.
The world and the sense of self are emergent phenomena in an ongoing "becoming. The essential partiality of our view of things, their being given only in a certain perspective and at a certain moment in time does not diminish their reality, but on the contrary establishes it, as there is no other way for things to be copresent with us and with other things than through such " Abschattungen " sketches, faint outlines, adumbrations.
The thing transcends our view, but is manifest precisely by presenting itself to a range of possible views. The object of perception is immanently tied to its background—to the nexus of meaningful relations among objects within the world.
Because the object is inextricably within the world of meaningful relations, each object reflects the other much in the style of Leibniz's monads.
Through involvement in the world — being-in-the-world — the perceiver tacitly experiences all the perspectives upon that object coming from all the surrounding things of its environment, as well as the potential perspectives that that object has upon the beings around it. Each object is a "mirror of all others. Only after we have been integrated within the environment so as to perceive objects as such can we turn our attention toward particular objects within the landscape so as to define them more clearly.
This attention, however, does not operate by clarifying what is already seen, but by constructing a new Gestalt oriented toward a particular object. Because our bodily involvement with things is always provisional and indeterminate, we encounter meaningful things in a unified though ever open-ended world. From the time of writing Structure of Behavior and Phenomenology of Perception , Merleau-Ponty wanted to show, in opposition to the idea that drove the tradition beginning with John Locke , that perception was not the causal product of atomic sensations.
This atomist-causal conception was being perpetuated in certain psychological currents of the time, particularly in behaviourism. According to Merleau-Ponty, perception has an active dimension, in that it is a primordial openness to the lifeworld the " Lebenswelt ".
This primordial openness is at the heart of his thesis of the primacy of perception. The slogan of Husserl's phenomenology is "all consciousness is consciousness of something", which implies a distinction between "acts of thought" the noesis and "intentional objects of thought" the noema. Thus, the correlation between noesis and noema becomes the first step in the constitution of analyses of consciousness.
However, in studying the posthumous manuscripts of Husserl, who remained one of his major influences, Merleau-Ponty remarked that, in their evolution, Husserl's work brings to light phenomena which are not assimilable to noesis—noema correlation. This is particularly the case when one attends to the phenomena of the body which is at once body-subject and body-object , subjective time the consciousness of time is neither an act of consciousness nor an object of thought and the other the first considerations of the other in Husserl led to solipsism.
The distinction between "acts of thought" noesis and " intentional objects of thought" noema does not seem, therefore, to constitute an irreducible ground. It appears rather at a higher level of analysis. Thus, Merleau-Ponty does not postulate that "all consciousness is consciousness of something", which supposes at the outset a noetic-noematic ground.
Instead, he develops the thesis according to which "all consciousness is perceptual consciousness". In doing so, he establishes a significant turn in the development of phenomenology, indicating that its conceptualisations should be re-examined in the light of the primacy of perception, in weighing up the philosophical consequences of this thesis. Taking the study of perception as his point of departure, Merleau-Ponty was led to recognize that one's own body le corps propre is not only a thing, a potential object of study for science, but is also a permanent condition of experience , a constituent of the perceptual openness to the world.
He therefore underlines the fact that there is an inherence of consciousness and of the body of which the analysis of perception should take account. The primacy of perception signifies a primacy of experience, so to speak, insofar as perception becomes an active and constitutive dimension. Merleau-Ponty demonstrates a corporeity of consciousness as much as an intentionality of the body, and so stands in contrast with the dualist ontology of mind and body in Descartes, a philosopher to whom Merleau-Ponty continually returned, despite the important differences that separate them.
The highlighting of the fact that corporeity intrinsically has a dimension of expressivity which proves to be fundamental to the constitution of the ego is one of the conclusions of The Structure of Behavior that is constantly reiterated in Merleau-Ponty's later works. Following this theme of expressivity, he goes on to examine how an incarnate subject is in a position to undertake actions that transcend the organic level of the body, such as in intellectual operations and the products of one's cultural life.
He carefully considers language , then, as the core of culture , by examining in particular the connections between the unfolding of thought and sense—enriching his perspective not only by an analysis of the acquisition of language and the expressivity of the body, but also by taking into account pathologies of language, painting, cinema, literature, poetry and song.
This work deals mainly with language, beginning with the reflection on artistic expression in The Structure of Behavior —which contains a passage on El Greco p. The work, undertaken while serving as the Chair of Child Psychology and Pedagogy at the University of the Sorbonne, is not a departure from his philosophical and phenomenological works, but rather an important continuation in the development of his thought.
As the course outlines of his Sorbonne lectures indicate, during this period he continues a dialogue between phenomenology and the diverse work carried out in psychology , all in order to return to the study of the acquisition of language in children, as well as to broadly take advantage of the contribution of Ferdinand de Saussure to linguistics , and to work on the notion of structure through a discussion of work in psychology, linguistics and social anthropology.
Merleau-Ponty distinguishes between primary and secondary modes of expression. This distinction appears in Phenomenology of Perception p. Speaking language le langage parlant , or primary expression, such as it is, is language in the production of a sense, language at the advent of a thought, at the moment where it makes itself an advent of sense. It is speaking language, that is to say, primary expression, that interests Merleau-Ponty and which keeps his attention through his treatment of the nature of production and the reception of expressions, a subject which also overlaps with an analysis of action, of intentionality, of perception, as well as the links between freedom and external conditions.
The notion of style occupies an important place in "Indirect Language and the Voices of Silence". Merleau-Ponty remarks that in this work "style" is sometimes used by Malraux in a highly subjective sense, understood as a projection of the artist's individuality. Finally, it sometimes is reduced to simply designating a categorization of an artistic school or movement.
However, this account of Malraux's notion of style—a key element in his thinking—is open to serious question. For Merleau-Ponty, it is these uses of the notion of style that lead Malraux to postulate a cleavage between the objectivity of Italian Renaissance painting and the subjectivity of painting in his own time, a conclusion that Merleau-Ponty disputes. According to Merleau-Ponty, it is important to consider the heart of this problematic, by recognizing that style is first of all a demand owed to the primacy of perception, which also implies taking into consideration the dimensions of historicity and intersubjectivity.
However, Merleau-Ponty's reading of Malraux has been questioned in a recent major study of Malraux's theory of art which argues that Merleau-Ponty seriously misunderstood Malraux. Rather than being exclusive to individual human consciousness, consciousness is born of the pre-conscious style of the world, of Nature. In Merleau-Ponty's account, whereas art is an attempt to capture an individual's perception, science is anti-individualistic.
In the preface to his Phenomenology of Perception , Merleau-Ponty presents a phenomenological objection to positivism : that it can tell us nothing about human subjectivity. All that a scientific text can explain is the particular individual experience of that scientist, which cannot be transcended.
For Merleau-Ponty, science neglects the depth and profundity of the phenomena that it endeavors to explain. Merleau-Ponty understood science to be an ex post facto abstraction. Causal and physiological accounts of perception, for example, explain perception in terms that are only arrived at after abstracting from the phenomenon itself. Merleau-Ponty chastised science for taking itself to be the area in which a complete account of nature may be given.
The subjective depth of phenomena cannot be given in science as it is. This characterizes Merleau-Ponty's attempt to ground science in phenomenological objectivity and, in essence, institute a "return to the phenomena. Merleau-Ponty's critical position with respect to science was stated in his Preface to the Phenomenology — he described scientific points of view as "always both naive and at the same time dishonest".
Despite, or perhaps because of, this view, his work influenced and anticipated the strands of modern psychology known as post-cognitivism. Hubert Dreyfus has been instrumental in emphasising the relevance of Merleau-Ponty's work to current post-cognitive research, and its criticism of the traditional view of cognitive science.
Dreyfus's seminal critique of cognitivism or the computational account of the mind , What Computers Can't Do , consciously replays Merleau-Ponty's critique of intellectualist psychology to argue for the irreducibility of corporeal know-how to discrete, syntactic processes. Through the influence of Dreyfus's critique and neurophysiological alternative, Merleau-Ponty became associated with neurophysiological, connectionist accounts of cognition. With the publication in of The Embodied Mind by Francisco Varela , Evan Thompson , and Eleanor Rosch , this association was extended, if only partially, to another strand of "anti-cognitivist" or post-representationalist cognitive science: embodied or enactive cognitive science, and later in the decade, to neurophenomenology.
In addition, Merleau-Ponty's work has also influenced researchers trying to integrate neuroscience with the principles of chaos theory. It was through this relationship with Merleau-Ponty's work that cognitive science's affair with phenomenology was born, which is represented by a growing number of works, including.
Diprose's recent work takes advantage of Merleau-Ponty's conception of an intercorporeity, or indistinction of perspectives, to critique individualistic identity politics from a feminist perspective and to ground the irreducibility of generosity as a virtue, where generosity has a dual sense of giving and being given. She has also challenged Dreyfus's reading of Merleau-Ponty as behaviorist [ citation needed ] , and as neglecting the importance of the phenomenological reduction to Merleau-Ponty's thought.
Young observes that while a man who throws a ball puts his whole body into the motion, a woman throwing a ball generally restricts her own movements as she makes them, and that, generally, in sports, women move in a more tentative, reactive way. Merleau-Ponty argues that we experience the world in terms of the "I can" — that is, oriented towards certain projects based on our capacity and habituality. Young's thesis is that in women, this intentionality is inhibited and ambivalent, rather than confident, experienced as an "I cannot.
This engagement is situated in a kind of middle ground of relationality, a space that is neither purely objective, because it is reciprocally constituted by a diversity of lived experiences motivating the movements of countless organisms, nor purely subjective, because it is nonetheless a field of material relationships between bodies.
It is governed exclusively neither by causality, nor by intentionality. In this space of in-betweenness phenomenology can overcome its inaugural opposition to naturalism.
Sense and Nonsense
The constitution of meaning in human experience was his main interest and he wrote on perception , art , politics , religion , psychology , psychoanalysis , language , nature , and history. He was the lead editor of Les Temps modernes , the leftist magazine he established with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in At the core of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy is a sustained argument for the foundational role perception plays in understanding the world as well as engaging with the world. Like the other major phenomenologists, Merleau-Ponty expressed his philosophical insights in writings on art , literature , linguistics , and politics. He was the only major phenomenologist of the first half of the twentieth century to engage extensively with the sciences and especially with Gestalt psychology. It is through this engagement that his writings became influential in the project of naturalizing phenomenology, in which phenomenologists use the results of psychology and cognitive science. Merleau-Ponty emphasized the body as the primary site of knowing the world, a corrective to the long philosophical tradition of placing consciousness as the source of knowledge , and maintained that the body and that which it perceived could not be disentangled from each other.
Sense and Nonsense by Maurice Merleau-Ponty pdf
Maurice Jean Jacques Merleau-Ponty — , French philosopher and public intellectual, was the leading academic proponent of existentialism and phenomenology in post-war France. Best known for his original and influential work on embodiment, perception, and ontology, he also made important contributions to the philosophy of art, history, language, nature, and politics. Associated in his early years with the existentialist movement through his friendship with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty played a central role in the dissemination of phenomenology, which he sought to integrate with Gestalt psychology, psychoanalysis, Marxism, and Saussurian linguistics. In turn, he influenced the post-structuralist generation of French thinkers who succeeded him, including Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Jacques Derrida, whose similarities with and debt to the later Merleau-Ponty have often been underestimated. For most of his career, Merleau-Ponty focused on the problems of perception and embodiment as a starting point for clarifying the relation between the mind and the body, the objective world and the experienced world, expression in language and art, history, politics, and nature.
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Sense and Non-Sense. Maurice Merleau-Ponty Author. Hubert Dreyfus Translator. Patricia Dreyfus Translator. Publication Date.
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