How should one read Merleau-Ponty if one is a physicalist? That is, how can one make his anti-empirical and yet anti-idealist theories of the embodied mind amenable, perhaps against the ramifications of these theories, to physicalism? To put it perhaps in the best way, how can Merleau-Ponty be introduced to a physicalist, without the physicalist having to totally transform her or his conceptions?
I don't have time now to consider this, but I'll name what I see as the big hurdle: What in the physicalist would be most challenged by Merleau-Ponty would be a simple notion of causality, the mainstay of both type and token physicalism, as well as the supervenience theory. Causality for Merleau-Ponty is interpreted through the concept of intentionality (interpreted as external to will or decision, suffusing the "objective" space of nature), which makes any physical state (of the brain, for example) a readiness to be-influenced by a cause: one would have to think the effect as a response that so closely resembles an anticipation of the cause that one could not distinguish between effect and merely an actualization of what was latent in the influenced object. Can one still use the vocabulary of physicalism to address even just the non-mental (the physical) that operated according to these terms? Physicalism to an extent already encounters these problems in the reflex. But could it address the physical if this reflex-like action were all that constituted the physical? I'll elaborate on this perhaps later. Posted by Mike at 10:51 AM What is written about: Merleau-Ponty