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Recasting Objective Thought: The Venture of Expression in Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Philosophy.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4883-8262
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 [en]
Merleau-Ponty, Saussure, Butler, phenomenology, expression, language, perception, painting, Gestalt theory, linguistics, feminist phenomenology, dance
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Theoretical Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-113278ISBN: 978-91-7649-095-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-113278DiVA: diva2:783785
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
List of papers
1. Language and the Gendered Body: Butler's Early Reading of Merleau-Ponty
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Language and the Gendered Body: Butler's Early Reading of Merleau-Ponty
2013 (English)In: Hypatia, ISSN 0887-5367, E-ISSN 1527-2001, Vol. 28, no 4, 767-783 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Through a close reading of Judith Butler's 1989 essay on Merleau-Ponty's theory of sexuality as well as the texts her argument hinges on, this paper addresses the debate about the relation between language and the living, gendered body as it is understood by defenders of poststructural theory on the one hand, and different interpretations of Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology on the other. I claim that Butler, in her criticism of the French philosopher's analysis of the famous Schneider case, does not take its wider context into account: either the case study that Merleau-Ponty's discussion is based upon, or its role in his phenomenology of perception. Yet, although Butler does point out certain blind spots in his descriptions regarding the gendered body, it is in the light of her questioning that the true radicality of Merleau-Ponty's ideas can be revealed. A further task for feminist phenomenology should be a thorough assessment of his philosophy from this angle, once the most obvious misunderstandings have been put to the side.

National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Theoretical Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-99902 (URN)10.1111/hypa.12040 (DOI)000328451700006 ()
Note

AuthorCount:1;

Available from: 2014-01-23 Created: 2014-01-20 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
2. Merleau-Ponty's Encounter with Saussure's Linguistics: Misreading, Reinterpretation or Prolongation?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Merleau-Ponty's Encounter with Saussure's Linguistics: Misreading, Reinterpretation or Prolongation?
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.

Keyword
Merleau-Ponty, Saussure, phenomenology, linguistics, language, expression
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Theoretical Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-113191 (URN)10.5840/chiasmi20131514 (DOI)
Available from: 2015-01-26 Created: 2015-01-26 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
3. Towards a Phenomenological Account of the Dancing Body: Merleau-Ponty and the Corporeal Schema
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Towards a Phenomenological Account of the Dancing Body: Merleau-Ponty and the Corporeal Schema
2013 (English)In: Material of Movement and Thought: Reflections on the Dancer's Practice and Corporeality / [ed] Anna Petronella Foultier, Cecilia Roos, Stockholm: Dans och Cirkushögskolan , 2013Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The essay discusses the dancing body from a phenomenological perspective, against the background of the philosophical conception of the lived body in tradition. In the very young discipline of dance theory, there is a shortage of philosophical concepts and analyses that I believe phenomenology can partly remedy. Although Merleau-Ponty has not written on dance other than in passing, I argue that his thoughts on the body-proper are useful in order to elucidate bodily expression in general and the significations that the dancer’s body manifests in performing a choreographic work in particular. The dynamic notion of the corporeal schema that he appeals to can make us understand how significations are inscribed in the body, and thus how something such as an expression or a choreographic language can exist in dance. Further, the specific forms of spatiality that Merleau-Ponty considers are opened up by artworks, within and beyond the concrete space of the physical body, gives us a clue to the elaboration of a phenomenology of dance.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Dans och Cirkushögskolan, 2013
Keyword
Merleau-Ponty, phenomenology of dance, expression, living body, corporeal schema
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Theoretical Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-113192 (URN)9789187066424 (ISBN)
Projects
From movement out of reflection in becoming: The dancer and the creative process
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2015-01-26 Created: 2015-01-26 Last updated: 2015-01-27Bibliographically approved
4. The First Man Speaking: Merleau-Ponty on Expression as the Task of Phenomenology
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The First Man Speaking: Merleau-Ponty on Expression as the Task of Phenomenology
2015 (English)In: Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, ISSN 0007-1773, E-ISSN 2332-0486, Vol. 46, no 3, 195-212 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article aims to establish an understanding of Merleau-Ponty's view of creative expression, and of its phenomenological function, setting out from the intriguing statement in his essay Cezanne's Doubt that the painter (or writer or philosopher) finds himself in the situation of the first human being trying to express herself. Although the importance of primary or creative expression in Merleau-Ponty's philosophy is well known, there is no consensus among commentators with respect to how this notion is to be understood, and of its apparently paradoxical relation to experience in his philosophy. On the one hand, Merleau-Ponty seems to presuppose that there is an original meaning pre-given in experience; on the other hand, expression is described as a hazardous enterprise, because the meaning to be expressed does not exist before expression has succeeded. In order to resolve this tension, I explore the significance of the precariousness of creative expression, arguing that it must be related to its other side: the constituted, all too often petrified meaning that we must start out from.

National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Theoretical Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-118333 (URN)10.1080/00071773.2015.1021203 (DOI)000354773700002 ()
Available from: 2015-06-18 Created: 2015-06-15 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
5. Incarnated Meaning and the Notion of Gestalt in Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Incarnated Meaning and the Notion of Gestalt in Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology
2015 (English)In: Chiasmi International, ISSN 1637-6757, E-ISSN 2155-6415, Vol. 17, 53-75 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Although it is well known that Gestalt theory had an important impact on Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy throughout his career, there is still no detailed study either of its influence on his ideas or of his own understanding of the notoriously polysemic notion of Gestalt. Yet, this notion is a key to Merleau-Ponty’s fundamental project of overcoming “objective thought” and its inherent dichotomies. By indicating how signification or ideality can be immanent in, rather than opposed to, matter, it compels us to redefine both consciousness and the world it is bound up with. The aim of this article is to clarify Merleau-Ponty’s notion of Gestalt against the historical background that he refers to, including Kurt Goldstein’s theory of the organism that was crucial for his interpretation of it.

Keyword
Merleau-Ponty, phenomenology, Kurt Goldstein, Gestalt theory, ontology, corporeal schema
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Theoretical Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-113275 (URN)10.5840/chiasmi20151710 (DOI)
Available from: 2015-01-27 Created: 2015-01-27 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved

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