Merleau-Ponty and Thinking from Within

  • Françoise Dastur
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 129)


As a preamble, this title requires several explanations. First, it brings to mind, by contrast, the title of a famous article by Michel Foucault which appeared in 1966 in an issue of Critique’ dedicated entirely to Maurice Blanchot. In this article, Michel Foucault pointed out that one could see in Blanchot an example par excellence of the kind of thinking that he contrasted with the Greek notion of truth as the one which forms the basis of modern fiction and to which he proposed giving the name of “thinking from the outside.” This type of thinking, whose origin Foucault searches for in Sade and Hölderlin, by contrasting it to a thinking from interiority in which he sees the fabric of Western culture and of traditional philosophy, characterizes for him the fundamental experience of our time, this age of the death of man, because it is the age “of an outside in which the subject who speaks disappears.”2 That article is itself an exemplary testimony of the style of thought which dominated the French philosophical scene during this era and upon which the structuralist wave broke after Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s death in 1961. The then accepted opinion was, as Foucault underscores it, definitely going in the direction of an “incompatibility perhaps without recourse between the appearance of language in its being and the consciousness of self in its identity,”3 in other words between structures and subjectivity. It is certainly not a question here of seeing a contrario in Merleau-Ponty an advocate of interiority and of subjectivity in the classic sense, but rather of demonstrating that his entire philosophical undertaking led him to promote a kind of thought which would no longer oppose interiority with exteriority, the subject with the world, structures with living experience.


Aerial View Fundamental Experience Cartesian Meditation Famous Article Visible Thing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    M. Foucault, “La pensée du dedans”, Critique no. 229, June 1966, pp. 523–546. This article reappeared in a volume published by Fata Morgana in 1986.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid., p. 525.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
  4. 4.
    Phénoménologie de la perception, Paris, Gallimard, 1945, p. V, cited as PP. English translation by Colin Smith: Phenomenology of Perception, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962, p. XI, cited as PhP.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Obviously I am thinking of Emmanuel Levinas and in particular of Totalité et infini (The Hague, Nijhoff, 1961/English translation by Alphonso Lingis: Totality and Infinity, Pittsburgh, Duquesne University Press, 1969) the subtitle of which is An Essay on Exteriority. In fact it is in the last pages of this book that being is defined as exteriority and that Levinas affirms that “no thought could better obey being than by letting itself be dominated by this exteriority” (p. 323/p. 290).Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    . Le Visible et l’invisible, Gallimard, 1964, p. 271, cited as VI. English translation by Alphonso Lingis: The Visible and the Invisible, Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern University Press, 1969, p. 208, cited as VI.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    V/, p. 307NI, p. 253.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    VI, p. 256NI, p. 203.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    VI, p. 255/VI, p. 202: “Hence this analysis by the reflective thought, this refinement of Being (the wax ”all naked of Descartes) by-passes the Being already there, pre-critical.“Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    VI, p. 183/VI, p. 139.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    VI, pp. 168–169/VI, p. 127.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    VI, p. 178NI, p. 135.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    VI, p. 48/VI, p. 27.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    VI, p. 177/VI, p. 134.Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    VI, p. 153Ní, p. 114.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    VI, p. 279NI, p. 226.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    VI, p. 240/VI, pp. 186–187.Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    VI, p. 290NI, p. 237.Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    VI, p. 280/VI, p. 227.Google Scholar
  20. 21.
    VI, p. 279NI, p. 226.Google Scholar
  21. 22.
    VI, p. 158NI, p. 118.Google Scholar
  22. 23.
    VI, p. 290/VI, p. 237.Google Scholar
  23. 24.
    VI, p. 268/VI, p. 215.Google Scholar
  24. 25.
    VI, p. 199NI, p. 152.Google Scholar
  25. 27.
    VI, p. 307/VI, p. 253.Google Scholar
  26. 28.
    VI, p. 311/VI, p. 258.Google Scholar
  27. 29.
    VI, p. 154/VI, p. 114.Google Scholar
  28. 30.
    L’Oeil et l’esprit, Paris, Gallimard, 1964, p. 65, cited 0E. English translation by Carleton Dallery: “Eye and Mind” in The Primacy of Perception and Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology, the Philosophy of Art, History, and Politics, Ed. J. M. Edie, Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern University Press, 1964, p. 180, cited as EM.Google Scholar
  29. 31.
    VI, p. 290NI, p. 237.Google Scholar
  30. 32.
    VI, pp. 164–166/VI, pp. 122–125.Google Scholar
  31. 33.
    VI, p. 257/VI, p. 204.Google Scholar
  32. 34.
    VI, p. 166/VI, p. 125.Google Scholar
  33. 35.
    VI, p. 195/VI, p. 149.Google Scholar
  34. 36.
    See Sein and Zeit, Niemeyer, Tubingen, 1963, § 12, p. 54f. (Being and Time, Harper, New York, 1962, § 12, p. 79f.), in which Heidegger points out that the “in” of “In-der-WeltSein” that French translators have persisted in translating as “être-au-monde” does not have the meaning of a spatial inherence but constitutes an existential. In this respect Heidegger reminds us that the German particle in is derived from the archaic verb innan which means to inhabit. The entire analysis of In-Sein,in the strict sense of “l’être dans” rather than “l’être-à” to which Merleau-Ponty explicitly refers, is therefore an analysis of an existential “inherence” which has nothing to do with simple spatial inclusion but which, on the contrary, presupposes this space for a possible meeting which is the world from which only something like contact can take place.Google Scholar
  35. 37.
    VI, p. 324Ní, p. 271.Google Scholar
  36. 38.
    VI, p. 144NI, p. 107.Google Scholar
  37. 39.
    0E, p. 81/EM, p. 186 (my emphasis).Google Scholar
  38. 40.
    0E, p. 19/EM, p. 163.Google Scholar
  39. 41.
    VI, p. 251/VI, p. 197.Google Scholar
  40. 42.
    VI, p. 170NI, p. 128.Google Scholar
  41. 43.
    VI, p. 173/VI, p. 131.Google Scholar
  42. 44.
    0E, p. 84/EM, p. 187.Google Scholar
  43. 45.
    0E, p. 84/EM, p. 187.Google Scholar
  44. 46.
    VI, p. 175/VI, p. 133.Google Scholar
  45. 47.
    VI, p. 173NI, pp. 130–131.Google Scholar
  46. 48.
    VI, p. 175/VI, p. 133.Google Scholar
  47. 49.
    VI, p. 176Ní, p. 133.Google Scholar
  48. 50.
    VI, p. 327NI, pp. 273–274.Google Scholar
  49. 51.
    Signes, Paris, Gallimard, 1960, p. 23, cited as S. English translation by Richard C. McCleary: Signs, Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern University Press, 1964, pp. 15–16, cited as S.Google Scholar
  50. 52.
    VI, p. 309Ní, p. 256.Google Scholar
  51. 53.
    VI, p. 194/VI, p. 147.Google Scholar
  52. 54.
    . VI, p. 211NI, p. 159.Google Scholar
  53. 55.
    VI, p. 212Ní, p. 160.Google Scholar
  54. 56.
    VI, p. 315/VI, p. 261.Google Scholar
  55. 57.
    VI, p. 308/VI, p. 255.Google Scholar
  56. 58.
    . VI, p. 305Ní, p. 251.Google Scholar
  57. 59.
    VI, p. 282Ní, p. 229.Google Scholar
  58. 60.
    VI, pp. 177–178/Ví, pp. 134–135.Google Scholar
  59. 61.
    VI, p. 183/VI, p. 138–139.Google Scholar
  60. 62.
    VI, p. 187Ní, p. 142.Google Scholar
  61. 63.
    VI, pp. 201–202/VI, p. 154.Google Scholar
  62. 64.
    VI, p. 192NI, p. 146.Google Scholar
  63. 65.
    VI, p. 193Ní, p. 147.Google Scholar
  64. 66.
    VI, p. 192Ní, p. 146.Google Scholar
  65. 67.
    VI, p. 325Ní, p. 271.Google Scholar
  66. 68.
    VI, p. 183NI, p. 139.Google Scholar
  67. 69.
    VI, p. 309NI, p. 255.Google Scholar
  68. 70.
    VI, p. 183/VI, p. 139.Google Scholar
  69. 71.
    VI, p. 184Ní, p. 139.Google Scholar
  70. 72.
    VI, p. 201NI, p. 153.Google Scholar
  71. 73.
    VI, p. 304/VI, p. 250.Google Scholar
  72. 74.
    VI, p. 304/VI, p. 250.Google Scholar
  73. 75.
    VI, p. 179Ní, p. 136 (my emphasis).Google Scholar
  74. 76.
    VI, p. 179/VI, pp. 135–136.Google Scholar
  75. 77.
    VI, pp. 181–182/VI, pp. 137–138.Google Scholar
  76. 78.
    VI, p. 140NI, p. 103.Google Scholar
  77. 79.
    VI, p. 325/Ví, pp. 271–272.Google Scholar
  78. 82.
    VI, p. 252/VI, p. 199.Google Scholar
  79. 83.
    PP, p. XVUPhP, p. XX (my emphasis).Google Scholar
  80. 84.
    PP, p. VI/PhP, p. XI.Google Scholar
  81. 85.
    VI, pp. 282–283/VI, p. 229.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Françoise Dastur

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations