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221. Chiasmi International: Volume > 15
Don Beith Merleau-Ponty and the Institution of Animate Form: The Generative Origins of Animal Perception and Movement
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From his earliest work in The Structure of Behavior, Maurice Merleau-Ponty abrogates accounts of organic form that posit the organism as either passively ordered by the environment which precedes it, or as actively constituting its environment. I argue that Merleau-Ponty first develops what I term a genetic concept of form, in which the organism-environment relationship unfolds developmentally. This account of genetic form, however, requires a further concept of generative form to overcome the conceptual distinction between constituting activity and constituted passivity. I contend that rather than pre-existing its own development ideally, in a genetic or developmental blueprint, or environmentally, in given causes, that instead form emerges expressively and dynamically. To develop the concept of generative form I turn to Merleau-Ponty’s lecture courses Institution and Nature, while drawing from examples in animal motorperceptual development and inter-bodily communication. In doing so, I contend that this idea of generativity requires for us to think of organisms as passive, though not as passively constituted by a nature in-itself, but rather as passively instituted by a natural sense that orients the possibilities of organic development without itself existing asan already realized form of life. I argue that the notion of generative form offers an approach to thinking of species differences not as essential differences in kind, but as elaborations of a natural generativity that precedes and grounds individual animate forms.
222. Chiasmi International: Volume > 15
223. Chiasmi International: Volume > 15
Simone Gustafsson “The Animal is like a Quiet Force”: Emergence and Negativity in Agamben and Merleau-Ponty
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The concept of natural, common life is distinguished from life as political existence in the opening lines of Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer – a schism within ‘life’ that has profound consequences for Agamben’s political theory and ontology. Agamben claims that bare life now “dwells in the biological body of every living being” (HS 140). As such, it is necessary to ascertain what the ‘life’ of biopolitics is – the life capable of politicization. The notion of natural living being is central to Agamben’s account, and yet it remains an ambiguous and indeterminate concept. This conceptual ambiguity is informed by Agamben’s account of anthropogenesis and the relation between the ‘human’ and the realm of animality, to which the concept of negativity is pivotal. Negativity is also central to Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy. However, for Merleau-Ponty the ontology of Nature and man constitute “the leaves of one sole Being” (N 220). Animality and human being are emergent; Merleau-Ponty adamantly maintains, “there is no rupture” (N 272). This paper analyzes the notion of negativity in Agamben and Merleau-Ponty’s accounts of Being and life, and contends that Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy gives rise to an ontology that offers a more open and productive account of animality and nature. In Agamben’s account, negativity is constitutive of man, which gives rise to an irreducible disjuncture between Being and life. For Merleau-Ponty, negativity is ‘in’ Being. There is no tension between Being and ‘life’: Nature is “a leaf or layer of total Being,” and we must conceive of “the ontology of Nature as the way toward ontology” (N 204).
224. Chiasmi International: Volume > 15
Jakub Čapek, Ondřej Švec Introduction
225. Chiasmi International: Volume > 15
Anna Petronella Foultier Merleau-Ponty’s Encounter with Saussure’s Linguistics: Misreading, Reinterpretation or Prolongation?
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The prevailing judgement concerning Merleau-Ponty’s encounter with Saussure’s linguistics is that, although important for the evolution of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of language, it was based on a mistaken or at least highly idiosyncratic interpretation of Saussure’s ideas. Significantly, the rendering of Saussure that has been common both in Merleau-Ponty scholarship and in linguistics hinges on the structuralist development of the Genevan linguist’s ideas. This article argues that another reading of Saussure, in the light of certain passages of the Course of General Linguistics forgotten by the structuralists, and of the manuscripts related to the published works, shows to the contrary that Merleau-Ponty’s account was sustainable. An understanding of Saussure’s ideas that does not flinch from their paradoxical features can elucidate the French phenomenologist’s views on language and expression. Moreover, the “linguistic turn” in Merleau-Ponty’s philosophical development, identified by James Edie for example, does not seem to have been so clear-cut as has previously been believed; the influence of Saussure’s thought had certainly begun before Merleau-Ponty wrote Phenomenology of Perception.
226. Chiasmi International: Volume > 15
Beata Stawarska Uncanny Errors, Productive Contresens. Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenological Appropriation of Ferdinand de Saussure’s General Linguistics
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Stawarska considers the ambiguities surrounding the antagonism between the phenomenological and the structuralist traditions by pointing out that the supposed foundation of structuralism, the Course in General Linguistics, was ghostwritten posthumously by two editors who projected a dogmatic doctrine onto Saussure’s lectures, while the authentic materials related to Saussure’s linguistics are teeming with phenomenological references. She then narrows the focus to Merleau-Ponty’s engagement with Saussure’s linguistics and argues that it offers an unusual, if not an uncanny, reading of the Course, in that it identifies a phenomenological dimension within the text, against the grain of the dominant structuralist claim. This phenomenological dimension is corroborated by the authentic sources of Saussure’s linguistics, even though the latter were beyond the philosopher’s own power to know. Merleau-Ponty’s unorthodox reading of the Course as being broadly compatible with the tradition of Husserlian phenomenology has been dismissed as an error (Ricoeur, 1967) and a contresens (Mounin, 1968), but Stawarska proposes that such deviant appropriations of foundational texts are the ones to cherish the most, since they effectively dismantle the received dogmas and official doctrines stuffing the cabinets of canonical philosophy. She argues specifically that Merleau-Ponty’s contested distinction between “a synchronic linguistics of speech (parole)” and “a diachronic linguistics of language (langue)” (Signs, 1964, p. 86), which gives primacy to la parole over la langue, and raises the possibility of a systematic study of la parole, contains a more faithful response to Saussure’s own project than the received structuralist view that la langue alone constitutes the proper object of linguistic study.
227. Chiasmi International: Volume > 15
Ted Toadvine Introduction
228. Chiasmi International: Volume > 15
James Mensch The Intertwining as a Form of our Motion of Existence
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Patočka and Merleau-Ponty are both interested in appearing as such. Both attempt to understand this in terms of the body. Despite this agreement, there is a fundamental difference. For Merleau-Ponty, the body’s determination of appearing is ultimately a function of its intertwining with the world. Indeed, its very status as an animated body or “flesh” involves the fact that, located in the world, it also is able to internalize the world that encloses it. This intertwining or “chiasm” is its form as flesh. For Patočka, by contrast, what is crucial is the body’s motility, a motility whose sense embraces all of its actions. He claims that “movement … first makes this or that being apparent, causes it to manifest itself in its own original manner.” I bring these approaches into dialogue by seeing Merleau-Ponty’s chiasm, not just as the form of flesh, but also as the form of its movement.
229. Chiasmi International: Volume > 15
Emmanuel Alloa The Diacritical Nature of Meaning: Merleau-Ponty With Saussure
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“What we have learned from Saussure” affirms Merleau-Ponty “is that, taken singly, signs do not signify anything, and that each one of them does not so much express a meaning as mark a divergence of meaning between itself and other signs.” While it has often been stressed that Merleau-Ponty was arguably among the earliest philosophical readers of Saussure, the real impact of this reading on Merleau-Ponty’s thinking has rarely been assessed in detail. By focusing on the middle period – the years between the publication of the Phenomenology of Perception and the abandonment of the book project The Prose of the World – a special interest in language and its ideality becomes all the more evident. Now this period is crucial for understanding the turn of the later years: similarly to Saussure, who shifted the problem of meaning from a problem of referentiality to an issue of self-differentiation of the linguistic field, Merleau-Ponty shifts his account of perception from a relationship based on sensory subjects and perceived objects to an immanent differentiation of the sensible world. The genesis ofan articulated world can be conceptualized with the experience of children’s language acquisition and the phenomenon of “deflation.” At a certain point in her development, the child interrupts her incessant babbling and learns to shape pauses and silences, which are the precondition for meaningful sounds. Learning how to speak – as it were – would thus be learning how not to speak. The child may only enter a specific language by means of a phonematic restriction; to become a member of a language community is to lose the capacity to speak all languages.
230. Chiasmi International: Volume > 16
Laura McMahon The Phantom Organic: Merleau-Ponty and the “Psychoanalysis of Nature”
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In a working note to The Visible and the Invisible (1964), Maurice Merleau-Ponty makes an enigmatic call for “a psychoanalysis of Nature.” This paper argues that there are two interrelated ways in which this call might be taken up. First, it might be taken as the demand to give voice to the deep sense of a nature, conceived in terms of unconscious desire rather than scientific rationality, that precedes and exceeds human life. Second, we might do a psychoanalysis of our relationship to nature, of the ways in which modern thought tends to deny and repress the unconscious, organic desire at its heart. This paper addresses the psychoanalysis of nature in both these senses. The first part of this paper takes up Merleau-Ponty’s well-known discussion of the phantom limb in Phenomenology of Perception (1945) in order to give a critique the mind-body dualism implicit in traditional attempts to account for this and related phenomena, and in order to present Merleau-Ponty’s own account of the phantom limb in terms of being in the world. Second, I argue that being in the world requires that we repress not only aspects of our personal pasts, but also our organic nature itself. Third, I argue that much of modern scientific thinking tends to deny the bodily and unconscious dimensions of conscious life—it is this denial that calls for a psychoanalysis in the second sense of studying our troubled and repressive relationship to nature. This denial of our own naturalness is accompanied by a denial of the unconscious and irrational nature of nature itself; finally, I will speak to the ways in which psychoanalysis might go further back than we might expect—beyond our childhoods and to the organic heartbeat of life itself.
231. Chiasmi International: Volume > 16
Dylan Trigg The Role of the Earth in Merleau-Ponty’s Archaeological Phenomenology
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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.
232. Chiasmi International: Volume > 16
Luca Vanzago Raw Being and the Darkness of Nature. On Merleau-Ponty’s Appropriation of Schelling
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In this article, we will reflect on the theoretical strategy implemented by Merleau-Ponty in his reading of Schelling. The purpose is not to verify the philological accuracy of his reading, but rather to examine two different yet interconnected questions: on the one hand, to study the sense Schelling’s concept of Nature takes in Merleau-Ponty’s ontological project; on the other, to discuss the role that Schelling’s philosophy effectively plays in the way that Merleau-Ponty approaches the problem of Nature. These two questions should not be equated, since the first aspect concerns the evaluation of Merleau-Ponty’s project and thus of the specific function played by his reading of Schelling in the ontology of the flesh. The second, however, concerns the problems raised by this very project, which will appear more clearly if we consider Schelling’s philosophy in its general development, over and above what is said by Merleau-Ponty. In fact, he has a tendency to privilege the early Schelling, closer to Hegel and to speculative idealism, but he only makes a few allusions to the more mature ideas, which Schelling mainly explains in the unfinished treatise on the ages of the world, from which Merleau-Ponty draws, nevertheless, the theme of the barbarous principle. The task, consequently, is to understand the extent to which Merleau-Ponty was able to incorporate the “abyssal” value of this notion, developed by Schelling especially when he sought to distance himself from his own transcendental idealist philosophy.We will thus ask whether Merleau-Ponty’s reading is partial, and if we can find, nonetheless, certain indications that show at which point he was able to take up the direction in which Schelling addressed the theme of Nature as barbarous principle. At stake is the question of the negativity, the latency, the opacity of Nature. In the first part of the essay, we briefly explain Merleau-Ponty’s interpretation of Schelling in his course on Nature at the Collège de France in 1956-1957. In the second part, we present an interpretation of Schelling’s notion of the barbarous principle in light of the treatise on the ages of the world, and in particular the second draft, which is more speculative and audacious. In the third part, finally, we propose an interpretation of Merleau-Ponty’s position which can show us, at least indirectly, how the notion of flesh can recognize Schelling’s theoretical indications in their more pessimistic and radical valence, centered on the notion of de-cision (Ent-Scheidung) as ontological divide. While not clearly argued, in part due to the nature of the unfinished manuscript of The Visible and the Invisible, this notion is given an implicit treatment in this work that helps deepen the interpretation of the ontology of the flesh in the sense of a renewed mediation on negativity.
233. Chiasmi International: Volume > 16
Leonard Lawlor Nascency and Memory: Reflections on Véronique Fóti’s Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty
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This is a review essay on Véronique Fóti’s Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty. It attempts to display the pattern that constitutes “the in filigree tracings” of Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty. In other words, it reconstructs the conceptual features that go into the “unthought” of expression that Véronique Fóti has given us. The reconstruction takes place in two steps. The first reconstructs the concept of expression itself as Fóti sees it in Merleau-Ponty’s thought. Here, we follow Fóti’s analysis and resolution of what Merleau-Ponty himself called “the paradox of expression.” Fóti’s “resolution” of the paradox takes us then to a second step, in which we determine Fóti’s “radicalization” of the paradox. The radicalization of the paradox takes place through specific criticisms that Fóti levels against Merleau-Ponty’s writings on painting. These criticisms allow us to see that the unthought of expression lies in nascency. Fóti’s new concept of expression revolves around the idea of nascency. Nascency allows Fóti not only to envision a metaphysics of expression but also and especially an ethics. However, Fóti’s stress of nascency raises a difficult question that she does not pose. While the word “nascency” appears countless times in Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty, the word “death,” as far as I can tell, appears only twice in the entire book. I argue that the absence of death in Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty conjoined with the stress of nascency opens out onto the question of memory, hence the title of my presentation, “Nascency and Memory.” Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty exhibits a compelling combination of modesty and ambition. Undoubtedly, the modesty results from Fóti’s long-standing devotion to Merleau-Ponty’s thought. This devotion, however, did not stop her from recognizing the “failures” of Merleau-Ponty’s thinking. The ability to see beyond the thinking to which one is most devoted is truly one of the marks of a great philosopher.
234. Chiasmi International: Volume > 16
Frank Chouraqui On Rajiv Kaushik’s Art, Language and Figure in Merleau-Ponty: Excursions in Hyper-Dialectic
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Rajiv Kaushik’s Art, Language and Figure in Merleau-Ponty continues the work begun last year in Art and Institution by exploring the ontological grounds upon whichMerleau-Ponty locates the continuity of philosophy with the visual arts. The mission and the privilege of art are to allow the invisible to appear in its own terms. As such, artpossesses the potential of completing the endeavors of philosophy by bringing the world to expression without abusively bringing it to visibility. Kaushik’s analyses of Merleau-Ponty’s concept of “figural philosophy,” of the relevance of Merleau-Ponty’s reading of Saussure for his philosophy of art, and of the dynamic and ontological potential contained in the tracing of a line are profound and each makes decisive contributions to the study of Merleau-Ponty’s aesthetics. In addition to these, Kaushik’s analysis of artworks and artists such as Cy Twombly allow him to make this more than a book about Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy or a book about art; it is a book that enacts their continuity as it describes it, in true hyper-dialectical fashion.
235. Chiasmi International: Volume > 16
Kathleen Hulley, Donald A. Landes Phenomenology, Ontology, and the Arts: Reading Jessica Wiskus’s The Rhythm of Thought
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Jessica Wiskus’s book The Rhythm of Thought: Art, Literature, and Music (University of Chicago Press, 2013) is a fascinating study of Merleau-Ponty’s late philosophy inrelation to the artistic expression of Mallarmé, Cézanne, Proust, and Debussy. By invoking examples from across the arts and citations from across Merleau-Ponty’soeuvre, Wiskus provides us with a style for reading some of Merleau-Ponty’s difficult late concepts, including noncoincidence, institution, essence, and transcendence.In this review, we explore some of the key concepts and insights of Wiskus’s rich, interdisciplinary book and offer some places where the depth that it opens up perhapsinvites further exploration.
236. Chiasmi International: Volume > 16
237. Chiasmi International: Volume > 16
238. Chiasmi International: Volume > 16
Véronique M. Fóti Neither Pure Nascency nor Mortality: Crossing-Out Absolutes in the Event of Presencing
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Since both these readings of Tracing Expression converge on a number of focal issues, namely the diacriticity and creativity of expression, memory, temporality, and the trace, the relation of artistic creation to the proto-artistic creativity of nature, and the elemental or what Toadvine calls “the end of the world,” I enter into dialogue with both interlocutors on these issues.Given the differential character of expression and the silences that permeate the sedimentation that it draws upon, nothing is replicatively bodied forth by it, and itsspontaneity remains intact. While Lawlor suggests that a fundamental negation is at the core of of manifestation, I call attention to the need to guard against absolutizing the negative or giving it a “secondary positivity.”I do not think that there is any fundamental tension, for Merleau-Ponty, between nascency and memory, given that sedimentation, as “the trace of the forgotten” remains efficacious as the exigency of a future. The basic character of the trace is not that of a mere residue but is akin to the archē-trace; and the past that it refers to iis immemorial. It is important, in this context, to bear in mind the event- and the field-character of institution.I do not think that my emphasis on the autonomy of art breaks the contitnuity between art and the proto-artistic creativity of nature. Firstly, Merleau-Ponty’s ownunderstanding of painting as a “secret science” (which I am critical of) interrogatively addresses, not perceptual configurations, but “wild being” and thus presencing itself, whereas the autonomy I call attention to is not a pure transcendence. Indeed, Merleau-Ponty, in “Cézanne’s Doubt,” stresses that Cézanne’s approach to his work undercuts conceptual dichotomies (such as immanence and transcendence).As concerns an understanding of non-figurative painting as an initmation of “the end of the world,” understood as a return to the pure elements in a paroxysm of sheer materiality, I voice three reservations. These concern, firstly, any unitary understanding of “world,” secondly a reductive understanding of the primordial elements, and thirdly that there cannot be any genuine art in the absence of perceptual configuration, or in sheer formlessness. Notwithstanding these reservations, however, I am profoundly appreciative of Lawlor’s and Toadvine’s intellectually engaged and perceptive readings of Tracing Expression.
239. Chiasmi International: Volume > 16
Angelica Nuzzo Merleau-Ponty and Classical German Philosophy: Transcendental Philosophy after Kant
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This essay examines the presence of Kant, Fichte, Schelling and Hegel in Merleau-Ponty’s thought. The perspective adopted here is methodological. Central to this is the choice of “transcendental phenomenology,” understood as a rehabilitation of the idealism and subjectivism proper to the transcendentalism of Kant and Fichte—the choice by which Merleau-Ponty refuses to abandon transcendental philosophy, like Hegel on the contrary did with his dialectical-speculative philosophy, and follows instead the phenomenological perspective suggested for the first time by Schelling.
240. Chiasmi International: Volume > 16
Ted Toadvine Diacritics of the Inexpressible: Tracing Expression with Véronique Fóti
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Véronique Fóti’s Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty demonstrates how the problem of expression motivates and unifies Merleau-Ponty’s investigations of art, life, nature, and ontology, culminating in a timely conception of nature as a differential expressive matrix. The key to this expressive ontology is diacritical difference. We raise three questions for this diacritical ontology: how it embodies the memory of the world, how it is interrupted by transcendence, and how it dissolves into elementality. Our inquiry points towards a diacritics of the inexpressible.