Merleau-Ponty in Retrospect

  • G. B. Madison
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 129)


For a number of years now Merleau-Ponty’s work has been relegated to obscurity. It has, to be sure, continued to be a subject of lively discussion (especially in North America), but only in relatively narrow circles. For the most part the attention of those interested in what in North America is now referred to as “Continental” philosophy has come to be focused mainly on various post-structuralist and post-Merleau-Pontian figures, figures such as Derrida and Deleuze, Lyotard and Foucault, as well as, to a somewhat lesser extent, Critical Theory, i.e., Habermas and his predecessors in the Frankfurt School. In a newspaper interview published (in English) a decade ago, Claude Lefort remarked on how, as he said: “There’s been an odd repression of [MerleauPonty’s] thought.” And he added: “I think that many of those who later took over the limelight owe him a good deal. But they’ve shirked the rigour of his questioning.”’ It is hard to disagree with Lefort on this point. And while one can obviously only speculate on such matters, Lefort is also perhaps right, at least in part, when he says: “[generally speaking, what we’ve seen flower has been a triumphantly destructive approach to philosophical tradition which would not have had the same repercussions had Merleau-Ponty been around.”


Critical Theory Philosophical Tradition Communicative Rationality Frankfurt School Communicative Ethic 
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  1. 1.
    “Philosoph’s [sic] Mainspring,” interview by Christian Delacampagne with Claude Lefort, The Manchester Guardian, June 28, 1981.Google Scholar
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    Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962), p. 346.Google Scholar
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    Phenomenology of Perception, p. 346.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Ibid., p. 362. In regard to the “horizonal” nature of human understanding (both perceptual and linguistic), see my “Merleau-Ponty and the Deconstruction of Logocentrism.”Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Ibid., p. 388.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
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    Ibid., p. 354.Google Scholar
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    As instanced by the following two recent publications: Seyla Benhabib and Fred Dallmayr, eds., The Communicative Ethics Controversy (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, Press, 1990); Michael Kelly, ed., Hermeneutics and Critical Theory in Ethics and Politics (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990).Google Scholar
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    See my “Merleau-Ponty et la contre-tradition,” Dialogue, 17, no. 3, 1978 (English translation reprinted in my The Phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty [Athens: Ohio University Press, 1981]) and my “Merleau-Ponty et la déconstruction du logocentrisme,” Laval théologique et philosophique, 46, no. 1, 1990 (expanded English version in M. C. Dillon, ed., Merleau-Ponty Vivant [Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991]).Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

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  • G. B. Madison

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