Volume 16, 2014
Between Yesterday and Tomorrow
The Role of the Earth in Merleau-Ponty’s Archaeological Phenomenology
This paper argues that the concept of the Earth plays a pivotal role in Merleau-Ponty’s thinking in two ways. First, the concept assumes a special importance in terms of Merleau-Ponty’s relation to Husserl via the fragment known as “The Earth Does Not Move.” Two, from this fragment, the Earth marks a key theme around which Merleau-Ponty’s late philosophy revolves. In particular, it is with the concept of the Earth that Merleau-Ponty will develop his archaeologically oriented phenomenology. To defend this claim, the paper unfolds in three stages. First, I provide a preliminary reading of Husserl’s fragment, focusing in particular on the co-constitution of body and Earth. Two, I turn to Merleau-Ponty’s interpretations of this fragment, especially in the lectures on nature and then in the later lectures on Husserl. From these varying interpretations, the germs of Merleau-Ponty’s archaeological phenomenology are conceived. Accordingly, in the final part of the paper, I claim that Merleau-Ponty’s account of the Earth is Husserlian insofar as it reinforces the primordial “ground (sol) of experience” but at the same time marks a departure from Husserl insofar as the Earth registers a brute or wild layer that resists phenomenology.