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The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 7, 2007

Philosophy of Culture(s)

Anna Petronella Fredlund
Pages 93-97

Contemporary Politics and Orientalist Thinking in the Light of Merleau-Ponty's Philosophy

In this paper I examine the relevance of Maurice Merleau- Ponty's criticism of what he labels "objective thinking", in the light of contemporary political discussions. I compare his critique of the mutually exclusive categories of objective thinking, with Edward W. Said's analysis of Orientalism and its dichotomies between Orient and Occident as constitutive of highly material relationships of power. Especially after the 9.11 events, reasoning in terms of dichotomies between East and West, islam and civilization/freedom and so on has been prevalent in the discourse of politicians, journalists as well as intellectuals. Is there something that Merleau- Ponty's philosophy can teach us here? I claim that his view of the interdependency of language on the one hand, understanding and thinking on the other, is of highest importance here, since it shows that we have to undermine the established discourse from the inside, working out the complex differences of reality at the same time as forgin out new less rigid categories.