Chiasmi International

Volume 21, 2019

Merleau-Ponty, Literature, and Literary Language

Jay Worthy
Pages 321-334

On the Place of Resistance in Ontology
Rereading Merleau-Ponty after Fanon and the “Flaw that Outlaws any Ontological Explanation”

Beginning with Fanon’s challenge to the universality of the project of ontology, this paper considers whether and how Merleau-Ponty’s early and late thinking may yield a response. From the outset, Merleau-Ponty’s appeal to the materiality of the body is intended as a limit on the scope of ontology. As I argue, however, Merleau-Ponty’s early concept of ‘one’s own body’ (corps propre) suggests an “ontological equality” that would be shared among all embodied beings; implicitly, this early approach risks reinforcing Fanon’s concern that ontology is indifferent to embodied experiences of racial exclusion and oppression. Merleau-Ponty’s later ontology of the flesh, by contrast, entails a more radically differential structure of the body that troubles the notion of equality in principle, suggesting an ontology that could be more attentive to the fundamental grounds of systemic oppression.