Volume 22, 2020
Mirrors and Other Technologies
Merleau-Ponty’s “Cautious Anthropomorphism”
In this paper, I develop what I call, following Steven Shaviro, Merleau-Ponty’s “cautious anthropomorphism.” Rather than defending Merleau-Ponty against the accusation of anthropomorphism, I show the role this anthropomorphism plays in Merleau-Ponty’s critique of the Cartesian-Sartrian ontology of the object. If the thing is always “clothed with human characteristics,” as Merleau-Ponty says in the Causeries, it is not so that it can be reduced to a powerless object that can easily be assimilated but rather to ensure its own resistance or adversity – and even, paradoxically, its inhumanity. After developing Sartre’s and Merleau-Ponty’s views of things, focusing on their respective reading of Ponge in “Man and Things” and the Causeries, I put Merleau-Ponty in conversation with Jeffrey Cohen’s book Stone to push for a non-humanistic reading of Merleau-Ponty’s anthropomorphism.