In The Birth of Sense, Don Beith proposes a new concept of generative passivity, the idea that our organic, psychological, and social activities take time to develop into sense. More than being a limit, passivity marks out the way in which organisms, persons, and interbodily systems take time in order to manifest a coherent sense. Beith situates his argument within contemporary debates about evolution, developmental biology, scientific causal explanations, psychology, postmodernism, social constructivism, and critical race theory. Drawing on empirical studies and phenomenological reflections, Beith argues that in nature, novel meaning emerges prior to any type of constituting activity or deterministic plan.
The Birth of Sense is an original phenomenological investigation in the style of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and it demonstrates that the French philosopher’s works cohere around the notion that life is radically expressive. While Merleau-Ponty’s early works are widely interpreted as arguing for the primacy of human consciousness, Beith argues that a pivotal redefinition of passivity is already under way here, and extends throughout Merleau-Ponty’s corpus. This work introduces new concepts in contemporary philosophy to interrogate how organic development involves spontaneous expression, how personhood emerges from this bodily growth, and how our interpersonal human life remains rooted in, and often thwarted by, domains of bodily expressivity.
While there have been many essays devoted to comparing the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty with that of Jacques Derrida, there has been no sustained book-length treatment of these two French philosophers. Additionally, many of the essays presuppose an oppositional relationship between them, and between phenomenology and deconstruction more generally.
Jack Reynolds systematically explores their relationship by analyzing each philosopher in terms of two important and related issues—embodiment and alterity. Focusing on areas with which they are not commonly associated (e.g., Derrida on the body and Merleau-Ponty on alterity) makes clear that their work cannot be adequately characterized in a strictly oppositional way. Merleau-Ponty and Derrida: Intertwining Embodiment and Alterity proposes the possibility of a Merleau-Ponty-inspired philosophy that does not so avowedly seek to extricate itself from phenomenology, but that also cannot easily be dismissed as simply another instantiation of the metaphysics of presence. Reynolds argues that there are salient ethico-political reasons for choosing an alternative that accords greater attention to our embodied situation.
As the first full-length monograph comparing the philosophers, Merleau-Ponty and Derrida will interest scholars and students in European philosophy and teachers of courses dealing with deconstruction.
Phenomenology has played a decisive role in the emergence of the discourse of place, now indispensable to many disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, and the contribution of Merleau-Ponty’s thought to architectural theory and practice is well established. Merleau-Ponty: Space, Place, Architecture is a vibrant collection of original essays by twelve eminent philosophers who mine Merleau-Ponty’s work to consider how we live and create as profoundly spatial beings. The resulting collection is essential to philosophers and creative artists as well as those concerned with the pressing ethical issues of our time.
Each contributor presents a different facet of space, place, or architecture. These essays carve paths from Merleau-Ponty to other thinkers such as Irigaray, Deleuze, Ettinger, and Piaget. As the first collection devoted specifically to developing Merleau-Ponty’s contribution to our understanding of place and architecture, this book will speak to philosophers interested in the problem of space, architectural theorists, and a wide range of others in the arts and design community.
Contributors: Nancy Barta-Smith, Edward S. Casey, Helen Fielding, Lisa Guenther, Galen A. Johnson, Randall Johnson, D. R. Koukal, Suzanne Cataldi Laba, Patricia M. Locke, Glen Mazis, Rachel McCann, David Morris, and Dorothea Olkowski.
In our time, Ted Toadvine observes, the philosophical question of nature is almost entirely forgotten—obscured in part by a myopic focus on solving "environmental problems" without asking how these problems are framed. But an "environmental crisis," existing as it does in the human world of value and significance, is at heart a philosophical crisis. In this book, Toadvine demonstrates how Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology has a special power to address such a crisis—a philosophical power far better suited to the questions than other modern approaches, with their over-reliance on assumptions drawn from the natural sciences.
The book examines key moments in the development of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of nature while roughly following the historical sequence of his major works. Toadvine begins by setting out an ontology of nature proposed in Merleau-Ponty’s first book, The Structure of Behavior. He takes up the theme of the expressive role of reflection in Phenomenology of Perception, as it negotiates the area between nature’s own "self-unfolding" and human subjectivity. Merleau-Ponty’s notion of "intertwining" and his account of space provide a transition to Toadvine’s study of the philosopher’s later work—in which the concept of "chiasm," the crossing or intertwining of sense and the sensible, forms the key to Merleau-Ponty’s mature ontology—and ultimately to the relationship between humans and nature.
Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological notion of motivation advances a compelling alternative to the empiricist and rationalist assumptions that underpin modern epistemology.
Arguing that knowledge is ultimately founded in perceptual experience, Peter Antich interprets and defends Merleau-Ponty’s thinking on motivation as the key to establishing a new form of epistemic grounding. Upending the classical dichotomy between reason and natural causality, justification and explanation, Antich shows how this epistemic ground enables Merleau-Ponty to offer a radically new account of knowledge and its relation to perception. In so doing, Antich demonstrates how and why Merleau-Ponty remains a vital resource for today’s epistemologists.
M. C. Dillon (1938–2005) was widely regarded as a world-leading Merleau-Ponty scholar. His book Merleau-Ponty’s Ontology (1988) is recognized as a classic text that revolutionized the philosophical conversation about the great French phenomenologist. Dillon followed that book with two others: Semiological Reductionism, a critique of early-1990s linguistic reductionism, and Beyond Romance, a richly developed theory of love. At the time of his death, Dillon had nearly completed two further books to which he was passionately committed. The first one offers a highly original interpretation of Nietzsche’s ontology of becoming. The second offers a detailed ethical theory based on Merleau-Ponty’s account of carnal intersubjectivity. The Ontology of Becoming and the Ethics of Particularity collects these two manuscripts written by a distinguished philosopher at the peak of his powers—manuscripts that, taken together, offer a distinctive and powerful view of human life and ethical relations.
The first study of its kind to appear in English, The Phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty is a sustained ontological reading of Merleau-Ponty which traces the evolution of his philosophy of being from his early work to his late, unfinished manuscripts and working notes. Merleau-Ponty, who contributed greatly to the theoretical foundations of hermeneutics, is here approached hermeneutically.
Most commentators are agreed that towards the end Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy underwent a strange and interesting mutation. The exact nature of this mutation or conceptual shift is what this study seeks to disclose. Thus, although Madison proceeds in a generally progressive, chronological fashion, examining Merleau-Ponty’s major works in the order of their composition, his reading is ultmately regressive in that Merleau-Ponty’s earlier works are viewed in the light of the new and enigmatic ontological orientation which makes its appearance in his later work. The merit of this approach is that, as Paul Ricoeur has remarked, it enables the author to expose the “anticipatory, hollowed-out presence” of Merleau-Ponty’s late philosophy “in the difficulties of his early phenomenology,” such that “the unifying intention between his first philosophy of meaning and the body and the late, more ontological philosophy is made manifest.”
This book begins with a detailed study of Merleau-Ponty’s two major early works, The Structure of BehaviorThe Phenomenology of Perception. In the following three chapters, Madison traces the development of Merleau-Ponty’s thought from the beginning to the end of his philosophical career in regard to three topics of special concern to the French phenomenologist: painting, language, philosophy. In the final chapter, he is concerned to articulate, as much as the unfinished state of Merleau-Ponty’s final work allows, the unspoken thought of this work and of The Visible and Invisible in particular. Merleau-Ponty’s notion of “wild being” and his attempt to work out an “indirect” or “negative” ontology are thoroughly analyzed.
In the end the reader will see that through his self-criticism and the development in his own phenomenology Merleau-Ponty has brought phenomenology itself to its limits and to the point where it must transcend itself as a philosophy of consciousness in the Husserlian sense if it is to remain faithful to Husserl’s own goal of bringing “experience to the full expression of its own meaning.” Because Madison submits Merleau-Ponty to the same kind of interpretive retrieval as the latter did with Husserl, Roger Cailloise has said of this “clear and very complete book” that it “goes will beyond a simple exposition and merits being read as an original work.”
In this elegant new study Galen Johnson retrieves the concept of the beautiful through the framework of Merleau-Ponty’s aesthetics. Although Merleau-Ponty seldom spoke directly of beauty, his philosophy is essentially about the beautiful.
In Johnson’s formulation, the ontology of Flesh as element and the ontology of the Beautiful as elemental are folded together, for Desire, Love, and Beauty are part of the fabric of the world’s element, Flesh itself, the term at which Merleau-Ponty arrived to replace Substance, Matter, or Life as the name of Being.
Merleau-Ponty’s Eye and Mind is at the core of the book, so Johnson engages, as Merleau-Ponty did, the writings and visual work of Paul Cézanne, Auguste Rodin, and Paul Klee, as well as Rilke’s commentary on Cézanne and Rodin. From these widely varying aesthetics emerge the fundamental themes of the retrieval of the beautiful: desire, repetition, difference, rhythm, and the sublime. The third part of Johnson’s book takes each of these up in turn, bringing Merleau-Ponty’s aesthetic thinking into dialogue with classical philosophy as well as Sartre, Heidegger, Nietzsche, and Deleuze. Johnson concludes his final chapter with a direct dialogue with Kant and Merleau-Ponty, and also Lyotard, on the subject of the beautiful and the sublime. As we experience with Rodin’s Balzac, beauty and the sublime blend into one another when the beautiful grows powerful, majestic, mysterious, and transcendent.
The Sensible World and the World of Expression was a course of lectures that Merleau-Ponty gave at the Collège de France after his election to the chair of philosophy in 1952. The publication and translation of Merleau-Ponty’s notes from this course provide an exceptional view into the evolution of his thought at an important point in his career.
In these notes, we see that Merleau-Ponty’s consideration of the problem of the perception of movement leads him to make a self-critical return to Phenomenology of Perception in order to rethink the perceptual encounter with the sensible world as essentially expressive, and hence to revise his understanding of the body schema accordingly in terms of praxical motor possibilities. Sketching out an embodied dialectic of expressive praxis that would link perception with art, language, and other cultural and intersubjective phenomena, up to and including truth, Merleau-Ponty’s notes for these lectures thus afford an exciting glimpse of how he aspired to overcome the impasse of ontological dualism.
Situated midway between Phenomenology of Perception and The Visible and the Invisible, these notes mark a juncture of crucial importance with regard to Merleau-Ponty’s later efforts to work out the ontological underpinnings of phenomenology in terms of a new dialectical conception of nature and history.
Thinking between Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty is the first book-length examination of the relation between these two major thinkers of the twentieth century. Questioning the dominant view that the two have little of substance in common, Judith Wambacq brings them into a compelling dialogue to reveal a shared, historically grounded concern with the transcendental conditions of thought. Both Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze propose an immanent ontology, differing more in style than in substance. Wambacq’s synthetic treatment is nevertheless critical; she identifies the limitations of each thinker’s approach to immanent transcendental philosophy and traces its implications—through their respective relationships with Bergson, Proust, Cézanne, and Saussure—for ontology, language, artistic expression, and the thinking of difference. Drawing on primary texts alongside current scholarship in both French and English, Thinking between Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty is comprehensive and rigorous while remaining clear, accessible, and lively. It is certain to become the standard text for future scholarly discussion of these two major influences on contemporary thought.
This collection is the first extended investigation of the relation between time and memory in Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s thought as a whole and the first to explore in depth the significance of his concept of institution. It brings the French phenomenologist’s views on the self and ontology into contemporary focus. Time, Memory, Institution argues that the self is not a self-contained or self-determining identity, as such; it is gathered out of a radical openness to what is not self, and that it gathers itself in a time that is not merely a given dimension, but folds back upon, gathers, and institutes itself.
Access to previously unavailable texts, in particular Merleau-Ponty’s lectures on institution and expression, has presented scholars with new resources for thinking about time, memory, and history. These essays represent the best of this new direction in scholarship; they deepen our understanding of self and world in relation to time and memory; and they give occasion to reexamine Merleau-Ponty’s contribution and relevance to contemporary Continental philosophy.
This volume is essential reading for scholars of phenomenology and French philosophy, as well as for the many readers across the arts, humanities, and social sciences who continue to draw insight and inspiration from Merleau-Ponty.
Contributors: Elizabeth Behnke, Edward Casey, Véronique Fóti, Donald Landes, Kirsten Jacobson, Galen Johnson, Michael Kelly, Scott Marratto, Glen Mazis, Caterina Rea, John Russon, Robert Vallier, and Bernhard Waldenfels
The French philosopher Renaud Barbaras remarked that late in Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s career, “The phenomenology of perception fulfills itself as a philosophy of expression.” In Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty: Aesthetics, Philosophy of Biology, and Ontology, Véronique M. Fótiaddresses the guiding yet neglected theme of expression in Merleau-Ponty’s thought. She traces Merleau-Ponty’s ideas about how individuals express creative or artistic impulses through his three essays on aesthetics, his engagement with animality and the “new biology” in the second of his lecture courses on nature of 1957–58, and in his late ontology, articulated in 1964 in the fragmentary text of Le visible et l’invisible (The Visible and the Invisible). With the exception of a discussion of Merleau-Ponty’s 1945 essay “Cezanne’s Doubt,” Fóti engages with Merleau-Ponty’s late and final thought, with close attention to both his scientific and philosophical interlocutors, especially the continental rationalists. Expression shows itself, in Merleau-Ponty’s thought, to be primordial, and this innate and fundamental nature of expression has implications for his understanding of artistic creation, science, and philosophy.
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