Merleau-Ponty (book review) Ted Toadvine

Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers (Volume IV)


241013: this is Volume 4, finally finished, still the best collection of essays on merleau-ponty that i have found.


part 7, nature, is a fascinating selection interrogating exactly what is meant by this term in m-p's thought, the way it is a priori for all of the concepts that try to encompass this primordial real, this that is as he says, 'the perceived world is the always-presupposed foundation for all rationality, all value, and all existence'. this is so. and that we are of the flesh, of the style, in this world and it should not be reduced to simply an environment we are in, instead recognized that we are of...


part 8, psychology, is yet further exploration of how we are embodied, how we are psychological, bodily, before anything else- but here, recent readings on feminist philosophy makes me wonder if this signal m-p theme of embodied consciousness is given 'masculinist' emphasis. that the loneliness of the solus ipse we must recognize as wholly imaginary an abstraction no person truly labours under, is it not clearly and empirically voided by the experience of 'being two', that is being pregnant, of maternal reality, of being essentially in a way different than any man can experience. a woman is more than a walking womb, need never be pregnant, but a man will never enjoy the creation of another from his own flesh, his creative impulses will only ever be satisfied outside himself, of the world, through engineering or art or thought. is to be male to be less than human...


part 9, cognition, is an interesting corrective of naive conflation of calculating, representing, symbolically impoverished models of thought, of the mechanical elaborations of material schemes and programming of computers, and the true nature of human thought. the difference between psychological and ontological ideas of cognition, is here immediately relevant, and however detailed our psychological model of thought, it is still only a model, an idea, not the being of thought, not the experience. again, i wonder if the implicit human who thinks is again only a man, but there is some recognition that human thought includes often ignored emotional processes, and previously this had been denigrated as female inheritance, opposed to male rationality. great stuff. almost inspires me to be a cognitive scientist. empirical psychology has come to recognize the unquantifiable aspects of thought, even when seen that the brain, as generating of thought, as home for perceptions, remains beyond our most sophisticated simulations. cool. almost...


i have an urge to repeat m-p's difference from analytic philosophy, but from my only slightly educated perspective, there is only so much to say before halted by the poverty of my reading of that style of thought. i do not really want to argue, i am happily ambiguous, but it all seems to revolve around something of a Cartesian theatre/ Kantian judgement misunderstanding of thought. that is, the mistaken conception that consciousness is separate, isolate, above and watching the world / and that world, processed through various conceptual schemata, is something we think of, judge of, remain abstracted from...


i do not believe thought is ever best understood from so-called objective, third-person, perspective. i believe thought is best known as essence along husserl's phenomenological model. engagement in the world, in terms of 'maximal grip' and 'intentional arc' does not need abstraction of cognition, needs only living, only being 'of', in style, in being, rather than 'in' the world, as 'in a box', though this is often said of being as always 'being-in-the-world', not surveying it from 'high altitude' in thought rather than embodied consciousness. elsewhere have read this succinctly noted that it is not the Cartesian 'i think, therefore i am' but 'i can, therefore i am'...


so, this completes 4 volumes of this collection. what has been learned? well, that these subjects are all worth philosophical exploration, all by m-p, and even when they seem to reveal empirical errors of his thought, as in his knowledge of child psychology, of imitative, of transitive, ideas of how a child matures (basically a lot sooner than was once thought), even so, m-p is inspiring and useful and nowhere near dated or overcome... i need to read more m-p, i need to read more Bergson, i find all these ideas in the 4 so engaging, so true, it inflects all other readings and renders what little analytic thought i have read particularly naive, obviously hampered by an ontology that insists on putative objective view that is never more than a scientifically prevalent achievement of our first-person being, a model, no more. this series of essays is great...

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