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What is the secret of Phenomenology of Perception which attracts its reader despite the efforts it demands?


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A hint can be found in its preface, where Merleau-Ponty claims that even if it is possible to criticize phenomenology as a myth or a fad, it must be admitted that "phenomenology allows itself to be practiced and recognized as a manner or a style, or that it exists as a movement, prior to having reached a full philosophical consciousness" p. This phrase, I believe, characterizes first and foremost Phenomenology of Perception itself, which does much more than describe perception: it actually engages in the movement of perception itself and realizes it in a unique manner and style.

Moreover, the multiple movements of Phenomenology of Perception are stretched between various poles, aspects and attitudes; I will discuss four of these. A movement between the transcendental and the empirical. The transcendental is the formal level of purified subject and its correlate perception, whereas the empirical is the level employed on the one hand by science that describes the subject of perception, and on the other hand by the subject itself, when it spontaneously acts in the natural attitude.

Whereas Husserl had initially aimed at reaching the transcendental level through the famous procedure of the phenomenological reduction, and only later admitted the difficulty of doing so and the consequent need to develop other modes of reduction, Merleau-Ponty recognizes from the start the danger of pretending to immediately arrive at the transcendental level:. A philosophy becomes transcendental, that is, radical, not by taking up a position within absolute consciousness while failing to mention the steps that carried it there, but rather as considering itself as a problem; not by assuming the total making-explicit of knowledge, but rather by recognizing this presumption of reason as the fundamental philosophical problem p.

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This presumption of reason and philosophy occupies Merleau-Ponty throughout, but interestingly he finds the same presumption in perception itself, when it is effected by the natural or naturalistic attitude. The latter tends not to recognize its own impact on the objects of perception and consequently rigidifies these objects and also rigidifies itself.

Merleau-Ponty's solution to this presumption both on the level of philosophy and of perception is to preserve a movement between these two levels, so that the natural attitude is reminded of its own force and the transcendental attitude is reminded that it is not absolute and always depends on empirical perception. Indeed, Merleau-Ponty tries to find a mediator between these two poles, which he locates in the phenomenal level , but this remains rather obscure; the only way to attain it seems to be through the movement between the two extreme poles.

A movement between intellectualism and empiricism. Merleau-Ponty analyzes the intellectualist subjectivist-idealist and the empiricist objectivist-realist attitudes in practically every chapter of the book. He incessantly shows the impasses and the insufficiencies of both, thus preparing the ground for a third perspective, that is, the phenomenological one.

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However, this movement is often misunderstood, since Merleau-Ponty employs it in his unique style which consists of adopting the first-person perspective of each of these attitudes -- describing them from the eyes of their beholders. We are thus repeatedly confronted with two rather strange subjects: one who believes that everything he or she perceives is "inside" and the other who believes that it is rather "outside;" yet each eventually reaches a deadlock. Thus, the hasty reader may confuse these perspectives with those of Merleau-Ponty, but the attempt to avoid this may embed an even greater interpretative mistake, shared by many commentators.

Such a reading forgets that the "mistaken" attitudes nonetheless hold a core of truth and cannot be simply dismissed. It would thus be a complete misunderstanding to try to extract Merleau-Ponty's "real" ideas, filtering and putting aside the tedious descriptions of "mistaken" perceptions. There are two main systems for doing this:. The Oxford Referencing System relies on footnotes. The first time you reference a publication, you would give a footnote reference, for example:.

Footnote 3, in this example, would contain the complete bibliographic reference see above to the relevant publication.


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When you subsequently reference the same source, you should include a further footnote, but this time you need only include the author, date of publication, and page number if appropriate, for example:. The Harvard Referencing System does not use footnotes for references.

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Instead, the reference is always given in the main text as the author's name and date of publication, and where a direct quotation is used the page number should also be given. For example:.

In both the Oxford and Harvard systems, you must include a full bibliography at the end of the chapter, article, or book, containing all of the references in full bibliographic form, as shown on this page, in several widely-used styles. If there is no preference or requirement, you can use any style, but the guidelines below give the conventional use:. But, to understand this form of bodily.

Instead, we need to recognise that the body is a form of consciousness. It is essentially embedded within it. One takes the world to be constituted by the subject. Merleau-Ponty sees the transcendental idealism of Kant and the early Husserl as exemplifying this position. The other construes the world as existing independently of consciousness, which is just one of many things within it. This view is endorsed by the natural sciences.

Routledge Philosophy GuideBook to Merleau-Ponty and Phenomenology of Perception

Merleau-Ponty rejects both conceptions. Instead, he argues that the world and consciousness are mutually dependent parts of one whole. Neither can exist without standing in this relation to the other. In the course of his investigations, Merleau-Ponty covers a vast. His work examines perception, hallucination, action, the emotions, thought, language, the nature of dreaming and madness, space, time, natural objects, the cultural world, the nature of our relations with others, human freedom, painting, mathematics, truth and politics.

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His studies are informed not only by his knowledge of many philosophical thinkers, but also by his detailed understanding of the psychology literature. It would be impossible to do justice to such a rich text in just one volume.