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Merleau-Ponty's Encounter with Saussure's Linguistics: Misreading, Reinterpretation or Prolongation?
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Philosophy.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4883-8262
2013 (English)In: Chiasmi International, ISSN 1637-6757, E-ISSN 2155-6415, Vol. 15, 123-142 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The prevailing judgement of Merleau-Ponty’s encounter with Saussure’s linguistics is that, although important for the evolution of his philosophy of language, it was based on a mistaken or at least highly idiosyncratic interpretation of Saussure’s ideas. Significantly, the rendering of Saussure that has been common both in Merleau-Ponty scholarship and in linguistics has been based on the structuralist development of the Genevan linguist’s ideas. This article argues that a reading of Saussure in light of certain passages of the Course of General Linguistics forgotten by the structuralists, and of the manuscripts related to the published works, can show to the contrary that Merleau-Ponty’s account was sustainable. An understanding of Saussure’s ideas that does not flinch from their paradoxical features can throw light upon the French phenomenologist’s views on language and expression. Moreover, the “linguistic turn” in Merleau-Ponty’s philosophical development, identified by James Edie for example, does not seem to have been so clear-cut as have previously been believed; the influence of Saussure’s thought had certainly begun before he wrote the Phenomenology of Perception.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 15, 123-142 p.
Keyword [en]
Merleau-Ponty, Saussure, phenomenology, linguistics, language, expression
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Theoretical Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-113191DOI: 10.5840/chiasmi20131514OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-113191DiVA: diva2:783396
Available from: 2015-01-26 Created: 2015-01-26 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Recasting Objective Thought: The Venture of Expression in Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Recasting Objective Thought: The Venture of Expression in Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is about meaning, expression and language in Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, and their role in the phenomenological project as a whole. For Merleau-Ponty, expression is the taking up of a meaning given either in perception or in already acquired forms of expression, thereby repeating, transforming or congealing meaning into gestures, utterances, artworks, ideas or theories. Contrary to the predominant view in the literature, the relation of expression to meaning, and in particular the problem of expressing new meanings, was of fundamental importance to Merleau-Ponty from the very beginning, in that it was intrinsically related to the overcoming of what he termed “objective thought”. Admittedly, there is an evolution of his philosophy in this respect: from the early stance where the recasting of certain basic categories is taken as pivotal for the development of a new form of thinking, with arguments drawn also from various empirical and social sciences, to what appears to be an effort at an all-pervading reformulation of philosophical language during his last years. But the remoulding of categories was never for Merleau-Ponty a matter simply of finding a few, better adapted concepts, but from the outset an endeavour to think philosophical arguments through to a point where they reveal their inherent inconsistencies. Recasting philosophical expression is thus a risky enterprise, and this is a point I explore further in Essay 1, that focuses especially upon creative expression in painting and to some extent in literature. In Essay 2 I discuss the notion of Gestalt and how it serves this general project, whereas Essay 3 deals with verbal language, on the basis of Merleau-Ponty’s reading of Saussure’s linguistics. Essay 4 examines bodily expression from the point of view of feminist phenomenology and in particular Judith Butler’s early reading of Merleau-Ponty, and finally Essay 5 discusses expression in the art of dance.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Philosophy, Stockholm University, 2015. 211 p.
Keyword
Merleau-Ponty, Saussure, Butler, phenomenology, expression, language, perception, painting, Gestalt theory, linguistics, feminist phenomenology, dance
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Theoretical Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-113278 (URN)978-91-7649-095-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-02-28, D7, Universitetsvägen 10 D, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Accepted. Paper 5: Accepted.

Available from: 2015-02-05 Created: 2015-01-27 Last updated: 2016-04-22Bibliographically approved

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