03 December, 2008


. 03 December, 2008

I am currently reading Phenomenology of Perception, philosophical thought written by Merleau Ponti.Before going far through the readings, I usually read autobiography of the author just to get the idea about on what track the discussion will be. I have heard about Greece philosopher such as Plato, Socrates etc. as well as German philosophers since I was at High School when I learned physics and science. Most of them are positivists and rationalists. I have heard about Sartre and other French philosophers as well. This time I read a book of French phenomenologist, monsieur Maurice Merleau Ponti.

Merleau Ponti is a French philosopher who introduced phenomenological thought to France. He combined a new way of thinking about the basic structure of human life with reflections on art, literature and politics. Grew up as a French, he spent most of his childhood in Paris with his brothers, sisters, and his widowed mother. He devotes most of his writings to explorations of this perceived world, in order to enable reader to ‘rediscover’ it for him/herself. His background knowledge which was psychology influenced him in discovering this perceived world from the point of view of a psychologist. This can be seen from his dissertation “Structure of Behavior”, a critical survey of psychological theory with special emphasis on Gestalt theory, inspired him to work on phenomenology. He is one of a few modern phenomenologist in the world. His first thesis in philosophy is Phenomenology of Perception which was first published in 1945. His other famous published articles on philosophy are: ‘The World of Perception’ (1948), ‘Sense and Nonsense’ (1948), ‘An Adventure of Dialectic’ (1955) and ‘Signs’ (1960). ‘Visible and Invisible’ (1964)

Unlike logical positivist philosopher of the 1930’s who affirmed the ‘verification principle’ that the meaning of a proposition given by its method of verification, i.e. by a way in which its truth or falsity can be settled on the basis of observation, Merleau Ponti rejects the emphasis solely on ‘scientific’ observation as well as the forms of empiricism which aim to restrict or reduce the contents of thought to possible contents of experience. Attempted to overcome the problems of empiricism and rationalism in the Cartesian tradition of modern philosophy, he takes that the relationship between perception and all other modes of thought, including science as one of foundation which involves a kind of rootedness that does not restrict the capacity for more sophisticated articulations of experience in the light of deeper understanding of the world. During the German occupation of France, he joined Jean-Paul Sartre the writer of “Being and Nothingness” to constitute an intellectual resistant movement (Socialism and Freedom). The experience of the German occupation forced him to think much harder about politics than he had previously done.

After his death (1961), his former students somewhere else, especially in United States preserved his reputation and ensured the translation into English of all his major works. His discussion of the ‘intentionality’ of consciousness, especially the way in which things are presented in perception, and the role of the body in perception are recognized as important contributions to the understanding of the phenomenology of perception.


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