The Philosophy of Maurice Merleau-PontyJune 27, 2021
It is known that Merleau-Ponty developed his existential philosophy in a phenomenological direction. Merleau-Ponty starts from Edmund Husserl’s Phenomenology but evaluates it through various transformations. It can be said that the concept of “intentionality”, which is one of the initial concepts of Husserl’s phenomenological method, is particularly influential in Merleau-Ponty. Rather than seeking definitive information in Merleau-Ponty, he essentially seeks to reach a certain degree of self-evidence.
This self-evidence appears not in abstract formulations, but in our experiences, that is, in the experiences of the ‘thinking self’. In the History of Philosophy, the 20th century thought was a period in which concepts such as experience and sensation were excluded and trivialized by intense criticism, but Merleau-Ponty re-credits the concepts of experience and sensation in the opposite direction. For this reason, Merleau-Ponty speaks of an orientation just as Husserl speaks of intentionality to beings. For Merleau-Pont, human means “a being who sees the world with his own eyes”. A living being who sees and understands with his own eyes.
The philosophical problematic behind Merleau-Ponty’s use of this concept of intentionality, that is, in a sense, the main theme of his intellectual activity, is the subject-object duality, which is also seen in Sartre and other Existentialists, which are the natural elements of the Descartesian philosophy. At this point, the concept of Body, one of Merleau-Ponty’s basic concepts, comes into play. The body is no longer a purely biological issue and is placed at the center of philosophical discussion. The existence of the other is an element that makes thought possible but makes objective thinking difficult. Merleau-Ponty tries to overcome this difficulty by bringing concepts such as Body and Skin related to perception, sensation and experience to the philosophical field. Merleau-Ponty evaluates the body as a result of the primary role given to perception over everything else in philosophical thought; It re-evaluates the subject-object duality through the concept of body.
Bodies are both subjects and objects. Because the Other’s body is not just any object for me, but an object of culture. Just like my body is for someone else. We encounter others first and foremost as a body in this sense. In this sense, the body is like a book that needs to be read and interpreted. Accordingly, the Other is an I with another body. Merleau-Ponty and Sartre differ on this point philosophically, before political matters. In Sartre’s view, the self-other issue is generally viewed negatively. Sartre has an evaluation in the sense of “Hell is Others”, whereas Merleau-Ponty takes a positive position at this point, he thinks of another’s body as a subject-object like his own body. Someone else has the same body as me as another.
Each of us lives in a world of meaning, having bodies. However, the experience of each of us is particular and exclusive. Depending on this and the priority given to perception, Merleau-Ponty, on the one hand, tries to deduce the “Phenomenology of Perception”; On the other hand, as a result of the same approach, he tends to paint the body’s relations with the world with “Eye and Spirit”.