Volume 18, 2018
The Promise of Genetic Phenomenology
Language and Tradition in Merleau-Ponty’s Reading of Husserl and Saussure
In this paper, I examine how Merleau-Ponty develops Husserl’s genetic phenomenology through an elaboration of language, which is largely influenced by Saussure’s linguistics. Specifically, my focus will be on the unpublished notes to the course Sur le problème de la parole (On the Problem of Speech). I show how Merleau-Ponty recasts Husserl’s notion of the historicity of truth by means of an inquiry into the relation between truth and its linguistic expression. The account that Merleau-Ponty offers differs from Husserl’s in two important respects. Firstly, whereas Husserl describes a regressive inquiry of truth, Merleau-Ponty describes a regressive movement of truth, where every acquired truth seizes the tradition that precedes it. Secondly, this new notion of truth, and its dependency on its proper expression, opens up a new understanding of literature.