Volume 47, Issue 1/2, Spring/Summer-Fall/Winter 2018
Merleau-Ponty’s Reading of Whitehead
A Romantic and Invisible Influence
What bearing did the works of Whitehead have on the late Merleau-Ponty and his emerging ontology of flesh? When gauged by analysis of citations alone, Whitehead’s influence on Merleau-Ponty appears to be a brief and minor encounter. However, despite the paucity of explicit reference to Whitehead, there is an argument to be made that Whitehead’s philosophy played a pivotal role in the development of Merleau-Ponty’s late thought. This can be understood in relation to Whitehead’s theory of education, which consists of three stages: romance, precision, and generalization. It will also be shown how Whitehead’s theory of education corresponds to Merleau-Ponty’s incomplete phenomenological reduction. From this, we are provided with access to a metaphenomenological reading of Merleau-Ponty’s oeuvre, which can be understood as an ongoing movement between phenomenology and ontology, a movement in which Whitehead’s thought played a significant—if largely “invisible”—role.