Volume 16, 2014
Between Yesterday and Tomorrow
Bringing Phenomenology Down to Earth: Passivity, Development, and Merleau-Ponty’s Transformation of Philosophy
I suggest how Merleau-Pontian sense hinges on an ontology in which passivity and what I call “development” are fundamental. This means, though, that the possibility of philosophy cannot be guaranteed in advance: philosophy is a joint operation of philosophers and being, and is radically contingent on a pre-philosophical field. Merleau-Ponty thus transforms philosophy, revealing a philosophy of tomorrow: a new way of doing philosophy that, because it is grounded in pre-reflective contingency, has to wait to describe its beginnings, and so has to keep studying its beginnings tomorrow. This does not destroy Husserl’s project of a transcendental philosophy, it just accepts that the transcendental conditions of philosophy cannot be constituted or even revealed via wholly active or autonomous reflection. Merleau-Ponty thus brings phenomenology down to earth by expanding it into a phenomenology of life and earth that describes the concrete beginnings of phenomena and phenomenology.