Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception: A Basis for Sharing the Earth

Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception: A Basis for Sharing the Earth

Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception: A Basis for Sharing the Earth

Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception: A Basis for Sharing the Earth

Synopsis

The past four decades have seen an increasing number of discussions by philosophers, environmentalists, scientists, politicians, and lay persons on the environmental damage done to the earth by human beings. Many of these thinkers and activists have demanded that human beings decide to share the earth with other natural species and not destroy them. Some have discussed human responsibility for the world, environmental ethics, and human stewardship of the earth, but have not ontologically clarified what they mean by these things. This book, based on analysis of Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception is one of the first attempts to ontologically clarify the idea of sharing the earth with other species.

Excerpt

We have already indicated that Merleau-Ponty's critique of empiricism does not mean that he accepts the principles that are the basis of rationalism. Rather, he argues, both rationalism and empiricism cannot provide a factual basis for what happens in human perception. History discloses, however, that many rationalist philosophers, for instance Descartes, and many empiricist philosophers, such as Locke, described perception in their writings. Hence, Merleau-Ponty understands that he must explain how the descriptions of both the empiricist and the rationalist distort the facts of human perception.

Learning from Merleau-Ponty, in this chapter, we dedicate much space to a critique of rationalism and the implications of this critique for our relationship to nature and to other beings. Yet, we also discuss some of the distortions that are embraced by both the empiricist and the rationalist, distortions that complement those described in Chapter 1. Merleau-Ponty shows that the distortions of the rationalist and empiricist are not always contradictory. Consider the relation of the empiricist and the rationalist to the so-called objective world.

When discussing perception, both the empiricist and the rationalist begin by considering what they call the objective world. The objective world is frequently the object of their analysis. They are confident in relying on the objective world because it is the world addressed by the scientific endeavor. But, as any person who takes the time to examine the ontological status of the objective world will discover, the objective world is not primary in human perception. It appears later both in time and in

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