Reading Merleau-Ponty: On Phenomenology of Perception

Reading Merleau-Ponty: On Phenomenology of Perception

Reading Merleau-Ponty: On Phenomenology of Perception

Reading Merleau-Ponty: On Phenomenology of Perception


Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important contributions to philosophy of the twentieth century. In this volume, leading philosophers from Europe and North America examine the nature and extent of Merleau-Ponty's achievement and consider its importance to contemporary philosophy.

The chapters, most of which were specially commissioned for this volume, cover the central aspects of Merleau-Ponty's influential work. These include:

  • Merleau-Ponty's debt to Husserl
  • Merleau-Ponty's conception of philosophy
  • perception, action and the role of the body
  • consciousness and self-consciousness
  • naturalism and language
  • social rules and freedom.

Contributors: David Smith, Sean Kelly, Komarine Romdenh-Romluc, Hubert Dreyfus, Mark Wrathall, Thomas Baldwin, Simon Glendinning, Naomi Eilan, Eran Dorfman, Francoise Dastur


In 2003 Eran Dorfman and I met to talk about Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, and as we talked we sketched a plan for an Anglo-French colloquium in Paris, where Eran was then working, to be held in 2005 in order to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception in 1945. In order to convert this sketchy plan into a serious project we needed support from a French academic institution, and thanks to the support of Professor Ian Hacking we were exceptionally fortunate to receive this in generous measure from the Collège de France, where of course MerleauPonty was Professor of Philosophy from 1952 until his death in 1961. So it was that on 17–18 June 2005 the participants of the colloquium, British and French philosophers with a shared enthusiasm for Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, gathered at the Collège de France for two days of intensive discussion. We were much honoured that the proceedings were started off by Claude Lefort, Merleau-Ponty’s friend and editor, and that Madame Merleau-Ponty attended for much of the time. My anxiety that the audience might evaporate on the second day turned out to be quite unjustified: over a hundred people were there on a hot Saturday afternoon to listen to the papers and join in the discussion.

This volume includes most of the papers given at the colloquium. One of the main purposes of the colloquium was to demonstrate to French philosophers the high esteem in which Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy is held by a growing number of British philosophers. Equally it was our hope that the colloquium would provide a way of acquainting British philosophers with recent French work on his philosophy. In the event two rather different but complementary traditions were in play – the critical analytic approach to Merleau-Ponty of the British participants and the more faithful elucidations of his texts favoured by the French, though the papers in the collection show that these stereotypes should not be exaggerated.

We were fortunate that among those able to take part in the colloquium was Hubert Dreyfus, who has for many years played a prominent part in promoting the value of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy in the United States of America. When he agreed that his contribution to the colloquium should be included in this volume, he suggested that I should also include papers by two of his former . . .

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