Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Lifeworldly Naturalism

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Merleau-Ponty’s account of our inherence in nature, inspired by Husserl’s Ideen II, breaks with naturalism by taking seriously the problem of thinking nature from within. Whereas the naturalistic definition of nature fails to encompass we who are reflecting on it, Merleau-Ponty’s “lifeworldly naturalism” treats philosophical reflection as emergent from the nature on which it reflects, as an intensification or redoubling, an iterative fold, of nature’s own sense-making. In The Structure of Behavior, this iterative fold of nature is presented as the “structure of structures,” an all-encompassing gestalt by which human subjectivity escapes the interest-bound environments of other organisms. In Phenomenology of Perception, nature’s intensification takes the form of a “reflection on the unreflective,” a radical or second-order reflection that takes into account its relation, as reflection, with the situation that precedes and conditions it. And in his final working notes, Merleau-Ponty characterizes philosophy as a “chiasm of chiasms,” a doubled reversal by which the self-interrogation of Being, as the encroachment of the sensible and the intelligible, becomes explicit as a question. At stake in this series of recursive figures is the effort to think philosophy immanently. Yet insofar as philosophy is incapable of thematizing its own emergence, since it remains conditioned by a nature that escapes its reflective recuperation, its recursive twisting forms around a remainder that it cannot elucidate. This remainder, the immemorial silence of nature, is both the condition for philosophical reflection and the resistance that marks its limits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationContributions To Phenomenology
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2013

Publication series

NameContributions To Phenomenology
ISSN (Print)0923-9545
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1915

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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