The Phenomenological Philosophy of Merleau-Ponty (book review) Remy C. Kwant

090719 review of reviews given five: i have not changed my rating, though of course by now i have more complex understanding of m-p. not less, different. i have through reading him discovered henri bergson and gilles deleuze, but the major influences have actually been reading advaita-vedanta, indic philosophy, and some kyoto school, japanese philosophy. sartre has perhaps more international profile but again m-p works better for me: buddhist ‘emptiness’ and advaita ‘non-duality’ seem very m-p style for me...


210517 much much much later addition (5 years): looking at my readings of m-p, some i own such as this, my reading of his ontology of perception has either greatly matured from so many other readings, other philosophers, or been cast into doubt, it is encouraging to find work that is so understood. this work talks about m-p in ways i can recall. i have now read some thinkers who follow his thoughts, some thinkers who object, and recognize that for me this is possibly the first time i sensed intuition that it can be 'style', that is 'perception', as foundational sense of being rather than material/ideal 'substance', that ontology may be matter of how any 'substance' is experienced/style rather than thought originary... i still really like this work...


250212 first review: kwant is an interesting take on merleau-ponty, as it is written only two years after his death. it does not have english translations of some of his work, nothing at all on 'the visible and the invisible', and has a lively discussion with sartre. the idea is the central insight or discovery of m-p is what kwant calls the body-subject, what others call embodied consciousness, and from this starting point all of his work blossoms...


kwant asserts that m-p is essentially not a systematic philosopher, that his original conflict with other philosophies has been the tendency to absolutism, to perhaps buried or unacknowledged metaphysics that try fitting reality on predetermined, universalist, categories, rather than the ambiguous subjectivity that underlies or precedes any objectivism. m-p is examined first by examples of his thought before engaging with his sort of phenomenology. he uses eight chapters, from body-subject, method and deliberate obscurity, body and language, subject and meaning, subject and history, rejection of absolutes, metaphysical consciousness, to atheism. and when he turns to phenomenology m-p brings a particular essential change in method by insisting on the primacy of the subjectivity of the world, of the eidetic and phenomenological reduction...


kwant then presents m-p and the sciences, as clear a description of scientism i have read, then authentic and inauthentic marxism, the first in process and the latter too rigid, absolute, then m-p and his situated freedom is contrasted with sartre's absolute freedom, which is seen as nonsensical, impossible, if not simply imaginary. there is offered certain clarity about divergences with sartre that are core to their philosophies, not accidental, not trivial. and of course m-p died young, while this book was written, so we can only imagine where his ideas were headed- however we decide to examine and extrapolate from visible and invisible...


kwant is probably one of the best i have read on m-p, but mostly because he is, like m-p, sort of unfinished and i have a lot of room to move around and view his work from this and that perspective. there are no faulty claims to completion, no absolutes, no convincing rejections, though there are some indications on how m-p perhaps betrays his own thought, and there are some valid claims that he just did not write on certain subjects. i would give this a five, probably more if he had written also about visible and invisible, but it also reminds me i read m-p as i read all philosophy- as fascinating fiction, as ideas of the way of the world, as ideas about ideas, though both character and plot are ideas more than characters and plot...


some philosophy makes me feel stupid, some makes me feel smart- like this one. perhaps m-p is easier to understand in early work, perhaps having read many m-p i think i know more than i do. whatever, however, this is a good, clear, accessible text...

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