Monday, June 14, 2010

Merleau-Ponty's methodological steps are unique

Gratton and Sparrow on Merleau-Ponty from Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek (Graham Harman)
A brief word about Merleau-Ponty. I know he’s made some contributions in various areas. He’s also a remarkable stylist, and for me that doesn’t just mean ornament pasted onto rigorous argument. (His style is strange, though, because he bursts out into beautifully weird metaphors in the midst of a relatively grim academic prose rhythm. In other words, he’s a great stylist on the level of individual sentences, but not on the level of chapters or whole essays.)
But the point is, his ontology is not as original as he is often credited with. When I was in graduate school, everyone seemed to have this sense that The Visible and the Invisible was a secret doorway onto some completely new future of philosophy, and I’m afraid that’s really not the case, nice though it would be.

on Time Bombs from Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek (Graham HarmanDuring my graduate school years, I would say that there were two Time Bombs:
1. The Visible and the Invisible, Merleau-Ponty. It was often implied that this was the very most avant garde piece of continental philosophy that we have, that if only Merleau-Ponty had lived a few years longer to complete the work, then everything would change, and so forth. Now don’t get me wrong: this book is an interesting read and contains some striking formulations. But it’s not the chilling avant garde landscape of unprecedented truths that it was often implied to be.

Right, he’s not an original ontologist. He’s basically a quasi-dualist in the Phenomenology and a monist in The Visible and the Invisible. Sure, these are interesting instantiations of monism and dualism, but not unprecedented. There’s something Cartesian about the early text; something Spinozan about the latter. Perhaps the methodological steps are unique, but the outcome is readily inscribable into the history of philosophy.Kkk

Even—especially?—in his late philosophy, the supposed innovation of the “flesh” remains confined by a dualism contained within a monism. True, there is a layer of Merleau-Ponty which privileges the pairing of the human body and world, but much of the “objet-orientated” critique of Merleau-Ponty either overlooks other aspects of his philosophy or simply caricatures it as a purporting to be a bit “avant garde piece of continental philosophy.” My sense is that presenting Merleau-Ponty as being a “time-bomb” that failed to explode, thus securing the thinker in the history of ideas, is a bit of conceit (Harman’s analogy is itself a bit dubious, given that it presents philosophers as commodities with expiration dates).

Important to note that even in the problematic work of the earlier Merleau-Ponty (i.e., The Phenomenology of Perception), phenomenology already faces its own anthropomorphic edge. Already in this early stage, Merleau-Ponty is aware of the tension between experience and transcendence: “The question is always how I can be open to phenomena which transcend me and which nevertheless exist only to the extent that I take them up and live them” (PP, 417). In turn, this tension is approached by Merleau-Ponty’s radicalising of phenomenology, a process from which space and time as being “for us” is no longer the case. The reason being: the human body does not assume to be the centre of the world, around which reality revolves. Instead, Merleau-Ponty will speak of a body that ceases to have personal attributes, a point I have laboured here and elsewhere. It is neither of the world nor of the body, and thus not “for us.”

The principle implication being that while human and world correlate with another in a pregiven and personal sense, this relationship is not ontologically absolute. There is, after all, a “non-human element” prior to “my” experience of the world, which is “hostile and alien, no longer an interlocutor, but a resolutely silent Other” (PP, 372). Against Harman’s characterisation of the flesh as the “world looks at me just as I look at it,” even in the early Merleau-Ponty the ontology of the world as alien, hostile, and non-human is prior to my correlation with it in the first place. There is no cosy alliance of world and body in Merleau-Ponty, despite the ecological approbation of Merleau-Ponty’s “flesh” as leading toward a crude form of animism (cf. David Abram). As Ted Toadvine writes in his excellent Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy of Nature
“[The] resistant and aloof aspect of the thing is precisely what gives it the status of an in-itself in our experience, what rejects the body’s advances even while remaining, in some sense, correlated with it” (58). The ambiguity between the perception of the world and the world’s resistance to perception undercuts human experience, and gives an autonomy to the realism of the world. Flesh is not dialogue, flesh is not a synthesising unity—flesh is prior to human affectivity: it is only through the experience of a personal world that terms such as “unity” and “dialogue” become affixed to philosophical structures. POSTED BY DYLAN TRIGG AT 12:48 PM SUNDAY, JUNE 13, 2010

 Gary Williams said...
Dylan, Awesome post. You said everything that was on my mind in reaction to reading some of these recent comments. It's a shame that MP often doesn't receive the credit he deserves in philosophical circles for having a realist yet phenomenological tempered ontology and psychology. Thanks for taking the time to find those quotes. 2:18 PM

a response on Merleau-Ponty from Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek (Graham Harman)
Merleau-Ponty may come back resurgent, just as Blanchot might. We can all make wagers on the future but we are all subject to surprise. My point was a purely cultural one about the continental philosophy of the early 1990′s. There was a general feeling that The Visible and the Invisible was one of those avant garde texts offering a password to the most innovative mysteries, and that no one had quite understood the book well enough yet to capitalize on it. And it is simply my view that the sought-after innovative mysteries cannot be found in that text. Dylan is free to disagree, naturally. 

(title unknown) from enowning In-der-Blog-sein
Archive Five says we underestimate Merleau-Ponty.
“Merleau-Ponty took Heidegger’s thought-opening philosophy and infused it with a post-Latin penchant for vivid description and fluid expressivity. I believe that Merleau-Ponty is still one of the most underestimated thinkers of the twentieth century.”

May I take this opportunity to ask, why Merleau Ponty continues to be ignored by him. [TNM]. larvalsubjects Says: February 7, 2009 at 5:14 am. Tusar,. I really have no excuse for the absence of Merleu-Ponty in my thought ... why merleau-ponty continues to be ignored 6 Feb 2009 
maurice merleau-ponty [1907-1961], the french phenomenologist, is known for formulating a fresh notion of perception anchored on our embodied existence. in a clear departure from brentano, husserl and heidegger, merleau-ponty brings in ...
merleau-ponty, the greatest ally 11 Nov 2007 by Tusar N Mohapatra
[i have already noted how both merleau-ponty and bourdieu understand habitual action to be the basis of our bodily orientation in the world and also, therefore, of our understanding of it. however, instead of continually referring to ...
finally, merleau-ponty spilled the beans that husserl's reduction is an impossibility. and then began the sequence of mutating phenomenology by levinas, schütz and others. integral yoga was formulated by sri aurobindo around the same ...

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