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The First Man Speaking: Merleau-Ponty on Expression as the Task of Phenomenology
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Philosophy.
Number of Authors: 1
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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 46, no 3, 195-212 p.
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Theoretical Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-118333DOI: 10.1080/00071773.2015.1021203ISI: 000354773700002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-118333DiVA: diva2:823547
Available from: 2015-06-18 Created: 2015-06-15 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically 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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