Maurice Merleau-Ponty Criticism - Essay

John F. Bannan (essay date September 1966)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bannan, John. F. “Merleau-Ponty on God.” International Philosophical Quarterly 6, no. 3 (September 1966): 341-65.

[In the following essay, Bannan discusses Merleau-Ponty's attempts to reconcile religion with philosophy.]

“It is characteristic of man to think God, but this does not mean that God exists.”1 Like Descartes, Merleau-Ponty finds himself with the idea of God. He finds it when he takes an inventory of consciousness, where it stems in some way from the latter's objectivist behavior, always a central philosophical concern for him. He also finds it when he takes an inventory of his time, where it is part of the historical reality of...

(The entire section is 10357 words.)

Edward W. Said (essay date January 1967)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Said, Edward W. “Labyrinth of Incarnations: The Essays of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.” Kenyon Review 29, no. 1 (January 1967): 54-68.

[In the following essay, Said explores Merleau-Ponty's place in post-1930s French philosophy.]

According to Emile Brehier, the distinguished philosopher and historian of philosophy, the major task faced by French thinkers of the early twentieth century was to re-situate man in what he aptly describes as “the circuit of reality.” The theories of which Bergson and Durkheim, for example, were heirs had isolated man in a limbo, in order that “reality,” or whatever was left when man was lifted aside, could be studied....

(The entire section is 5149 words.)

Albert Rabil, Jr. (essay date 1967)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rabil, Albert, Jr. “Merleau-Ponty and Sartrian Existentialism—Political and Philosophical.” In Merleau-Ponty: Existentialist of the Social World, pp. 116-40. New York: Columbia University Press, 1967.

[In the following essay, Rabil examines Merleau-Ponty's response to French existentialism.]

We are condemned to freedom.

—Jean-Paul Sartre

Hell is other people.

—Jean-Paul Sartre

We are condemned to meaning.



(The entire section is 9969 words.)

Richard L. Lanigan (essay date winter 1969)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Lanigan, Richard L. “Rhetorical Criticism: An Interpretation of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 2, no. 1 (winter 1969): 61-71.

[In the following essay, Lanigan discusses Merleau-Ponty's influence on the study of rhetorical inquiry.]

Traditional methods of rhetorical criticism are being echoed in the contemporary analytic and descriptive techniques of critics who focus upon the structural and stylistic elements of discourse1 or upon the “rhetorical situation.”2 In either case, the causal paradigm for investigation and prediction is an account of “audience” attitude and demography. Thus, the functional critic...

(The entire section is 3961 words.)

James H. Charlesworth (essay date June 1970)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Charlesworth, James H. “Reflections on Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenological Description of ‘Word.’” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 30, no. 4 (June 1970): 609-13.

[In the following essay, Charlesworth examines Merleau-Ponty's concept of words and their meanings.]

What is a word? What is the relation of word to thought? Where do words come from? What is the place of words in our lives? These are some of the questions which will be confronted in the following pages. There are two interrelated sections of this essay: the first is a dialogue with Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological observations, and the second contains a few of my own...

(The entire section is 2153 words.)

Don Ihde (essay date 1973)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ihde, Don. “Singing the World: Language and Perception.” In The Horizons of the Flesh: Critical Perspectives on the Thought of Merleau-Ponty, edited by Garth Gillian, pp. 61-77. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973.

[In the following essay, Ihde discusses Merleau-Ponty's theories of phenomenology.]

Phenomenology is a revolution in man's understanding of himself and his world. But the newness and radicality of this revolution is faced with a problem, the same problem which arises in the epiphany of any new phenomenon. What phenomenology has to say must be made understandable—but what it has to say is such that it cannot be said easily in a...

(The entire section is 6280 words.)

K. M. Dolgov (essay date winter 1975)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Dolgov, K. M. “The Philosophy and Aesthetics of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.” Soviet Studies in Philosophy 14, no. 3 (winter 1975): 67-92.

[In the following essay, Dolgov presents an overview of Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological and aesthetic system of thought.]

Maurice Merleau-Ponty enjoys a special place among contemporary French bourgeois philosophers and aestheticians. Statements by Sartre, Camus, Hyppolite, Dufrenne, Ricoeur, Geroux, Lévi-Strauss, and others show that they experienced (and some continue to this day to experience) in one way or another the influence of this philosopher. For example, all French phenomenologists and existentialists recognize...

(The entire section is 8244 words.)

James M. Edie (essay date July 1975)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Edie, James M. “The Significance of Merleau-Ponty's Philosophy of Language.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 13, no. 3 (July 1975): 385-98.

[In the following essay, Edie examines the continuing significance of Merleau-Ponty's unfinished philosophical system.]

It is now more than fourteen years since we first heard of the untimely death of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. To me, and I am sure to many others, it seems much longer. Merleau-Ponty has already entered the history of philosophy. Though his Nachlass is still being published, and not all of his writings have yet appeared in English translation, philosophers of our generation had already enshrined...

(The entire section is 8121 words.)

Hugh J. Silverman (essay date fall 1976)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Silverman, Hugh J. “Re-Reading Merleau-Ponty.”1Telos, no. 29 (fall 1976): 106-29.

[In the following essay, Silverman argues that Merleau-Ponty's last publication, Philosophy and Non-Philosophy since Hegel, serves as a criticism of his earlier thought and a bridge from modernism to postmodernism.]

In Philosophy and Non-Philosophy since Hegel, Merleau-Ponty reassesses the European philosophical tradition which highlights the names of Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Husserl, Heidegger, and Sartre. His problematic is the status of philosophy in relation to its non-philosophical sources and goals. I shall propose that Philosophy...

(The entire section is 11722 words.)

Margaret Urban Coyne (essay date September 1980)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Coyne, Margaret Urban. “Merleau-Ponty on Language: An Interrupted Journey toward a Phenomenology of Speaking.” International Philosophical Quarterly 20, no. 3 (September 1980): 307-26.

[In the following essay, Coyne discusses Merleau-Ponty's attempts to create a “gestural” theory of linguistics.]

At Merleau-Ponty's untimely death in 1961, his published works reflected a growing preoccupation with language and meaning as a central problem of philosophy. Indeed, his ambitious attempt to recapture the peculiar significance of the act of speech and the status of language as a unique cultural instrument seems to become the main focus of his larger project,...

(The entire section is 9843 words.)

Bernard P. Dauenhauer (essay date December 1980)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Dauenhauer, Bernard P. “One Central Link between Merleau-Ponty's Philosophy of Language and His Political Thought.” Tulane Studies in Philosophy 29 (December 1980): 57-80.

[In the following essay, Dauenhauer examines the place of silence in both Merleau-Ponty's linguistic theories and his thoughts on political action.]

Through much of his career, Merleau-Ponty was concerned both with the topic of language and with the topic of politics. But he himself never explicitly connected these two strands of thought. Nonetheless, at least one central link binds these strands together and, in so doing, strengthens each of them. This link is provided by his recognition...

(The entire section is 6935 words.)

John D. Glenn, Jr. (essay date December 1980)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Glenn, John D., Jr. “Merleau-Ponty's Existential Dialectic.” Tulane Studies in Philosophy 29 (December 1980): 81-93.

[In the following essay, Glenn discusses Merleau-Ponty's existential dialectic in terms of “mind and body, of temporality, and of human freedom.”]

There are many respects in which the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty can be described as dialectical.1 His first two major works, The Structure of Behavior and Phenomenology of Perception, often proceed dialectically, posing and then undercutting traditional views on the nature of and relation between man and world. More significant, of course, is the positive philosophical...

(The entire section is 3937 words.)

David Michael Levin (essay date winter 1982)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Levin, David Michael. “Sanity and Myth in Affective Space: A Discussion of Merleau-Ponty.” Philosophical Forum 14, no. 2 (winter 1982): 157-89.

[In the following essay, Levin questions the notions of objective space and metaphysical reality in Merleau-Ponty's theories.]

[E]very culture which has lost myth has lost, by the same token, its natural healthy creativity. Only a horizon ringed about with myths can unify a culture.

—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, Section XXIII

The mythos is that appeal of foremost and radical concern to all human beings...

(The entire section is 14355 words.)

Paul Crowther (essay date spring 1982)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Crowther, Paul. “Merleau-Ponty: Perception into Art.” British Journal of Aesthetics 22, no. 2 (spring 1982): 138-49.

[In the following essay, Crowther explores the significance of Merleau-Ponty's theories of phenomenology to the creation and study of art.]

Since Heidegger's Being and Time, the fundamental intent of phenomenology has been to burrow beneath the edifices of abstract knowledge (such as science or traditional philosophy) with a view to expressing a more primordial contact with the world—a contact which is presupposed but ill understood by abstract reflection. In a sense, Merleau-Ponty gives us a paradigm for the application of such...

(The entire section is 5707 words.)

Robert D. Walsh (essay date fall 1983)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Walsh, Robert D. “An Organism of Words: Ruminations on the Philosophical-Poetics of Merleau-Ponty.” Kinesis 14, no. 1 (fall 1984): 13-41.

[In the following essay, originally presented to the Eastern Pennsylvania Philosophical Association in 1983, Walsh emphasizes the role of the Nietzschian idea of rumination in Merleau-Ponty's theory of phenomenology.]


The title of this paper is a phrase found in Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception.1 It is used there to indicate the originary element of authentic language. It also suggests, however, a way of entering...

(The entire section is 9020 words.)

Bernard Charles Flynn (essay date May 1984)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Flynn, Bernard Charles. “Textuality and the Flesh: Derrida and Merleau-Ponty.” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 15, no. 2 (May 1984): 164-79.

[In the following essay, Flynn suggests what he terms “correspondences” between Merleau-Ponty's late writings and certain features of the work of French deconstructionist Jacques Derrida.]

The title of this essay obviously suggests a comparison, a comparison which at first glance seems highly unlikely. Merleau-Ponty is the author of an essay entitled “The Primacy of Perception,”1 and Derrida is the author of the statement, “I don't know what perception is and I don't believe that...

(The entire section is 7770 words.)

John D. Glenn, Jr. (essay date 1985)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Glenn, John D., Jr. “The Behaviorism of a Phenomenologist—The Structure of Behavior and The Concept of Mind.Philosophical Topics 13, no. 2 (spring 1985): 247-56.

[In the following essay, Glenn argues in favor of the primacy of Merleau-Ponty's critique of scientific behaviorism in the study of his later development of phenomenology.]

For some years, studies of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy tended to concentrate on his second book Phenomenology of Perception. Recently, interest has shifted more toward his later work—particularly the posthumously-published The Visible and the Invisible. In any event, less attention has been given...

(The entire section is 3815 words.)

Hugh J. Silverman (essay date 1992)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Silverman, Hugh J. “Between Merleau-Ponty and Postmodernism.” In Merleau-Ponty, Hermeneutics, and Postmodernism, edited by Thomas W. Busch and Shaun Gallagher, pp. 139-47. Albany: State University of New York Press.

[In the following essay, Silverman examines Merleau-Ponty's role in postmodernist theory.]

In Merleau-Ponty's day, there would not have been a discourse about the question of Postmodernism.1 In Merleau-Ponty's day, there would not have been an issue about his relation to Deconstruction. In Merleau-Ponty's day, the issue of a post-hermeneutics or even a post-structuralism would not have occupied any attention at all. When Merleau-Ponty...

(The entire section is 3542 words.)

Joseph Margolis (essay date 1992)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Margolis, Joseph. “Merleau-Ponty and Postmodernism.” In Merleau-Ponty, Hermeneutics, and Postmodernism, edited by Thomas W. Busch and Shaun Gallagher, pp. 241-56. Albany: State University of New York Press.

[In the following essay, Margolis discusses Merleau-Ponty's legacy to postmodernism.]

One cannot report the relationship between postmodernism and the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty: there is none, certainly there is none in the ordinary sense in which Jean-François Lyotard embraces postmodernism and Jürgen Habermas rejects it.1 Furthermore, even under the constraint of philosophical relevance, postmodernism is as much a puzzle as a would-be...

(The entire section is 6408 words.)

Michael Gardiner (essay date 1998)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘The Incomparable Monster of Solipsism’: Bakhtin and Merleau-Ponty.” In Bakhtin and the Human Sciences: No Last Words, edited by Michael Mayerfeld Bell and Michael Gardiner, pp. 128-44. London: SAGE Publications, 1998.

[In the following essay, Gardiner explores affinities between the work of Merleau-Ponty and that of Mikhail Bakhtin.]

Not only do we have a right to assert that others exist, but I should be inclined to contend that existence can be attributed only to others, and in virtue of their otherness, and that I cannot think of myself as existing except in so far as I conceive of myself as not being the others: and so as other...

(The entire section is 7899 words.)

Lawrence Hass (essay date 1999)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hass, Lawrence. “Sense and Alterity: Rereading Merleau-Ponty's Reversibility Thesis.” In Merleau-Ponty, Interiority and Exteriority, Psychic Life and the World, edited by Dorothea Olkowski and James Morley, pp. 91-105. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999.

[In the following essay, Hass argues that a thorough understanding of Merleau-Ponty's reversibility thesis is fundamental to grasping his overall theories of phenomenology.]

When I find again the actual world such as it is, under my hands, under my eyes, up against my body, I find much more than an object: [I find] a Being of which my vision is a part, a visibility older...

(The entire section is 6348 words.)