Who was Merleau-Ponty?

Merleau-Ponty“When asked whether he was contemplating retirement on account of illness and the ravages of advancing age, Pope John Paul II confirmed that he was, and bemoaned the fact that his body was no longer a docile instrument, but a cage. Although it is difficult to deny that a docile body that can be used instrumentally might be preferable to its decaying alternative–a body that prevents us acting as we might wish to–both positions are united by a very literal adherence to the mind-body duality, and the subordination of one term of that duality; the body. Of course, such a dualistic way of thinking, and the denunciation of the body that it usually entails, is certainly not restricted to religious traditions. This denigration of embodiment governs most metaphysical thought, and perhaps even most philosophical thought, until at least Nietzsche. Even Heidegger’s philosophy has been accused of deferring the question of the body, and a non-dualistic exploration of our embodied experience seems to be a project of some importance, and it is one that preoccupied Maurice Merleau-Ponty throughout his entire career.” – IEOP on Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Next week in our class the Philosophy of Art, we begin reading Merleau-Ponty’s published radio addresses The World of Perception.  They offer an accessible introduction that summarize many of his basic thoughts on phenomenology, perception, human embodiment and art.   The introduction in that book is somewhat helpful, but below are some resources for those looking to better understand this important thinker of 20th century Continental Philosophy

Encyclopedia Articles
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Videos of Merleau-Ponty
The World of Perception (Radio Lectures given in 1948)

Works by Merleau-Ponty
Phenomenology of Perception  – Merleau Ponty’s major phenomenological work.
“Cezanne’s Doubt” – Philosophical essay on on the French painter.
“The Visible and the Invisible” – Excerpt from a late-in-life essay on perception.
The World of Perception – Book edition of 1948 radio addresses.

A Merleau-Ponty Bibliography compiled by Ted Toadvine
BooksOS website with Merleau-Ponty online texts

Helpful Articles on Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of Art
Perception & Painting by Carolyn Quinn
How to see with your Whole Body by Joyce Brodsky
Phenomenology and Interpretation by Amanda Boetzkes

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