Friday, November 12, 2010

Diprose, Rosalyn. Review of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, INSTITUTION AND PASSIVITY. NDPR (November 2010).

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice.  Institution and Passivity: Course Notes from the Collège de France (1954-1955).  Foreword by Claude Lefort.  Trans. Leonard Lawlor and Heath Massey.  Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 2010.

Institution and Passivity is Leonard Lawlor and Heath Massey's translation of Merleau-Ponty's course notes for the two lecture courses he taught contemporaneously at the Collège de France in 1954-55. Also included is Claude Lefort's lengthy and informative Foreword to the French edition. The volume is significant for several reasons. Appearing in French for the first time in 2003, it is only the second volume of detailed lecture notes from the twelve courses that Merleau-Ponty taught at the Collège de France to be published in any form. While Merleau-Ponty's summaries of these courses have been available in French since 1968 (Résumés) and in English since 1970 (Themes), the more detailed course notes have remained unpublished until recently. Those who have been tantalized by the summaries of three courses on the topic of "nature" have had access to the more detailed lecture notes (two courses documented by a student and one by Merleau-Ponty) since the publication of Nature in French in 1995 (and in English in 2003). Institution and Passivity, to my mind, is more rewarding and coherent than Nature for the reason that it consists entirely of Merleau-Ponty's own sequentially numbered notes, scrupulously compiled by Dominique Darmaillarcq, Lefort, and Stephanie Ménasé. The philosophical significance of the volume then is this: it makes available key aspects of the development of Merleau-Ponty's thought in the period just prior to the penning of The Visible and the Invisible. . . .

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