Volume 19, 1994
Merleau-Ponty’s Concept of Reason
In this paper I will provide a brief summary of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy as it is relevant to the concept of reason. Merleau-Ponty’s position comes between the two now dominant views of reason: the traditional view that relies on principles of rationality (identity and noncontradiction) that are supposedly preexistent, either in a realm of ideas or in nature in itself, and the postmodem/deconstructionist view that claims that language is a system of differences with no positive terms, that the concepts of identity and presence are simply a creation of a “deferring” language. For Merleau-Ponty the principle of identity (presence) is neither pregiven nor an arbitrary creation of language but has its roots in a bodily blending of lived perceptual perspectives, of the individual’s within his or her won body and of the individual’s with the perspectives of others. Merleau-Ponty’s thesis thus allows us to escape the traditional error of accepting principles of reason as absolute and pregiven, for the blending of perspectives always remains to be accomplished, and it allows us to avoid the postmodemist claim that the principles of rationality are simply a creation of language, for in Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, language is a sublimation of the body’s openness unto the world and others.