Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Merleau-Ponty's way of engaging the reader to explore subtleties and obscure facets

Three New Books posted by Fido the Yak at 5:27 PM Saturday, March 03, 2007 I went to the bookstore this past week and picked up three titles:
  • Desire and Distance: Introduction to a Phenomenology of Perception, by Renaud Barbaras (translated by Paul B. Milan, Stanford University Press, 2007). I thought Merleau-Ponty had already written the book on the subject, but Barbaras impressed me at several points for his willingness to go through and beyond Merleau-Ponty. His first sentence reads: "The question of perception not only has a 'technical' or a 'regional' scope, as we often tend to think; it merges in reality with the ontological question in its simplest sense, namely as an inquiry into the meaning of the being of what is" (p. 1).
  • The Present Personal: Philosophy and the Hidden Face of Language, by Hagi Kenaan (Columbia University Press, 2005). Kenaan describes his book as "a philosophical attempt to think the depth of the possibility of listening to the other person" (p. ix). He asks, "How do you inhabit your language, or, in what way is it you that inhabits the language that you speak to me?" (p. 1). Neither Kenaan nor Cavarero appear to be aware of one another's work.
  • Consciousness and the Acquisition of Language, by Maurice Merleau-Ponty (translated by Hugh J. Silverman, Northwestern University Press, 1973). The book is comprised of lecture notes from a course taught by Merleau-Ponty at the Sorbonne. The notes were taken by students and approved for publication by Merleau-Ponty. The book is missing a lot of what I love about Merleau-Ponty–not simply his style, as if that could be reduced to a kind of belletristic display, but his way of engaging the reader to explore subtleties and obscure facets of a philosophical problem. I want to study the book, though, because the topic has arisen in my own thinking, and because Merleau-Ponty's approach to language is so startling even today that I want to fully appreciate where he was coming from and how his thinking developed.

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