Conclusion: Between Phenomenology and Structuralism

  • James Schmidt
Part of the Theoretical Traditions in the Social Sciences book series (TTSS)


What, then, are we to make of Merleau-Ponty’s reflections on the relation between philosophy and the human sciences, the problem of our knowledge of others, and the implications of the phenomena of speech and expression for the philosophy of history? In wrestling with these and kindred problems, was he deepening Husserl’s analyses and applying an existential phenomenology to certain of crucial dimensions of social life? Or was he staking out a position beyond phenomenology, a position whose full implications would become clearer only in the decade after his death? We have seen how he became uncomfortable with such notions as ‘lived experience’, ‘constitution’, ‘intentionality’, and the ‘tacit cogito’ Yet we have also seen that his reading of Saussure, his use of Lacan, and his response to Lévi-Strauss betray a continued commitment to certain fundamental concerns of the phenomenological project. Where, then, are we to place this most elusive of thinkers?


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  1. 1.
    Drawing on Merleau-Ponty’s continued reliance on certain phrases and examples from Husserl’s writings, Jacques Taminiaux has argued that claims that he abandoned phenomenology towards the end of his life are overstated; see ‘Phenomenology in Merleau-Ponty’s Late Work’, in Embree (ed.), Life-World and Consciousness, pp. 307–22. Frederic L. Bender, ‘Merleau-Ponty and Method: Toward a Critique of Husserlian Phenomenology and Reflective Philosophy in General’, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 14:2 (May 1983) pp. 176–95, argues in contrast that the repudiation of the ‘philosophy of reflection’, The Visible and the Invisible must be read as a critique of Husserl as well.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    This point has been stressed in Culler, ‘Phenomenology and Structuralism’, and developed in his discussion of literary competence in Structuralist Poetics.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© James Schmidt 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Schmidt
    • 1
  1. 1.Boston UniversityUSA

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