Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Merleau-Ponty takes the tradition of Western philosophy to its limits

Maurice Merleau-Ponty [1907-1961], the French phenomenologist, is known for formulating a fresh notion of perception anchored on our embodied existence. In a clear departure from Brentano, Husserl and Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty brings in the idea of gestalt and dares to interrogate the lived-body. Far from offering a conclusive philosophy, his explorations into the seamless mind-body whole remains a testimony to limits of intellectual autonomy, even as his books remain incomplete.
The question of man, the world and the Being engages him to the point of despair. In the manner of a physical scientist, he searches for the ultimate building-block and calls our constitutional element, the flesh. The earth, as a similar abstraction, is for him a holistic endeavour for harmonious living, the function of philosophy being tilted in favour of feeling and practice. It has been aptly commented that the questions emanating from this deep analysis have spiritual overtones. It can, therefore, be safely asserted that Merleau-Ponty takes the tradition of western philosophy to its limits beyond which it is the realm of intuition and mysticism.
It is interesting to recall that Heidegger, too, arrives in analogous environs, albeit through a separate route. At this point, it is important to bear in mind that it is not proper to club Merleau-Ponty along with the dominant tradition of biology, vitalism, feeling, will-to-live, Eros or libido. His scrutiny of the body-mind-continuum, in contrast, is an honest endeavour to undo the damages wrought by earlier one-sided over-emphasis.
It would be too far-fetched to find links in the work of this fellow French contemporary with the elaborate investigations on the body that The Mother was busy with. Nevertheless, there are commonalities of much significance and interesting possibilities. Posted by Tusar N Mohapatra at 10:52 PM , Friday, October 14, 2005

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