Merleau-Ponty's Last Vision: A Proposal for the Completion of the Visible and the Invisible

Merleau-Ponty's Last Vision: A Proposal for the Completion of the Visible and the Invisible

Merleau-Ponty's Last Vision: A Proposal for the Completion of the Visible and the Invisible

Merleau-Ponty's Last Vision: A Proposal for the Completion of the Visible and the Invisible

Synopsis

Few writers' unfinished works are considered among their most important, but such is the case with Merleau-Ponty's The Visible and the Invisible. What exists of it is a mere beginning, yet it bridged modernism and postmodernism in philosophy. Low uses material from some of Merleau-Ponty's later works as the basis for completion. Working from this material and the philosopher's own outline, Low presents how this important work would have looked had Merleau-Ponty lived to complete it.

Excerpt

The main goal of Merleau-Ponty's Last Vision is the attempted completion of the author's incomplete The Visible and the Invisible (Le Visible et l'invisible, 1964). This is done by filling in Merleau-Ponty's 1960 outline for the text with his late essays (those that appear from 1952 onward) and his published lecture summaries from the Collège de France (which date from 1952 to 1960).

There are a number of reasons why I am undertaking this “dangerous” task of attempting to complete another author's work. First, the stature of the author and the importance of his ideas certainly warrant such an attempt. Second, Merleau-Ponty's works offer a valuable alternative to both modernism and postmodernism by coming between these positions and avoiding their untenable extremes. And third, the attempt should help determine more clearly the nature of Merleau-Ponty's later philosophy—which he was in the process of unfolding when he died in 1961. It is now well known that Merleau-Ponty's later works (1952–61) focus great attention on language, so much so that some have been led to claim that Merleau-Ponty abandons phenomenology and perception for a more postmodernist philosophy of language. While I do not believe that Merleau-Ponty abandons phenomenology, he certainly does make greater room for language in his later philosophy of perception. My purpose here is not to enter into a detailed polemic with differing interpretations of Merleau-Ponty's later works. I have made some attempt to do this elsewhere. Throughout this text, however, I do interpret MerleauPonty's later works as coming between modernism and postmodernism. Since The Visible and the Invisible is in such rough and incomplete form, and since there is such controversy about how this and other late texts of Merleau-Ponty's are to be interpreted, I will often quote these texts at length. I do this to allow the texts to speak for themselves as much as possible. Now, I am fully aware that every exposition is an interpretation, and I believe that Merleau-Ponty was surely aware of this as well. And yet, just as surely he would have agreed that some interpretations are better than others. Some readings interpret more accurately and some are closer to the text as a whole. While I do not claim to here offer the . . .

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