Saturday, October 23, 2010

Heinamaa, Sara. Review of Taylor Carman, MERLEAU-PONTY. NDPR (October 2010).

Carman, Taylor.  Merleau-Ponty.  London: Routledge, 2008.

Taylor Carman's book on Merleau-Ponty is ambitious. It aims at covering Merleau-Ponty's philosophical works, from the early study The Structure of Behavior (1942) to the latest unfinished manuscript The Visible and the Invisible (1964), and explicating the main arguments and results, from the analysis of perception to discussions on language, arts, and politics.

For some decades Merleau-Ponty was a marginal figure in Anglophone philosophy which was dominated by post-analytical, post-pragmatistic, and post-structuralistic currents of thought, but today his philosophy is embraced from all sides. Carman's work belongs to the Dreyfusian school which combines Heideggerian phenomenology with American pragmatism and 20th century analytical philosophy of mind. The book may serve as a useful introduction to students who want to get a grip of the main topics and sections of Merleau-Ponty's works, but it suffers from a tendentious reading of the sources and gives a superficial picture of Merleau-Ponty's innovative inquiries into experience. More thorough and careful argumentation for the interpretative choices and the systematic views would have added to the scholarly value of the presentation.

The main problem is that Carman not only diminishes and belittles Merleau-Ponty's continuous interchange with Husserlian sources, an interchange which began in Phenomenology and continued until The Visible, but that he also states that Merleau-Ponty's relation to Husserl's classical phenomenology is oppositional and "antithetical" (e.g., 35, 37, 42-43). This is not just a problem of exegesis but more fundamentally a problem in the understanding of philosophy, its tasks and the types of results that it can offer. . . .

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