L for language
McKeever / 29 Aprile 2022

«…language , in one who talks, does not translate a mature thought but rather accomplishes it». Maurice Merleau-Ponty             It is well known that for a good part of the 20th century language was a key theme in what is often called “analytical philosophy”, as perhaps best symbolized in the figure of Ludwig Wittgenstein. Less well known is the fact that language is often a key theme in what is known as “continental philosophy”, particularly in existentialism and phenomenology. This division has by now been somewhat overcome: a contemporary philosopher such as Claude Romano is extremely attentive to both these traditions (see particularly, Au cœur de la raison, la phénoménologie).             The purpose of this brief contribution is to comment on just one aspect of the theme of language in the thought of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The aspect in question concerns the relationship between thinking and talking/writing. In everyday spontaneous conversation and discussion we tend to speak of thinking and talking as two separate, consecutive activities. While preparing a lecture, for instance, I may understand myself as first walking around the garden thinking and then going to my office and writing down what I have been thinking. Merleau-Ponty strongly denounces this…

P for Phenomenology
McKeever / 18 Febbraio 2022

            The limited purpose of this brief blog is to explain a major ambiguity in common understandings of the term “phenomenology”. It is not uncommon to read such phrases as “A phenomenology of globalization” or “The phenomenon of racism” or again “A phenomenological approach to inflation”. In such phrases, phenomenology is taken to be almost a synonym of description and indeed the texts that follow are usually just that, a mere description of the specific reality under study. There is nothing in the grammar and semantics of the English language that prohibits such an understanding of “phenomenology” and its variants. Given, however, that “phenomenology” is the name of a still relatively new and very revolutionary branch of philosophy, the least that can be said is that to understand phenomenology as the mere description of realities, in the manner of an artist or a would-be “neutral observer”, risks creating confusion.             This ambiguity, and consequent confusion, is at least partly to be explained by the fact that phenomenology, as a branch of philosophy, does indeed involve description. The form of description practised in phenomenology is the description not of the given reality in itself but of the human experience of this…

I for intersubjectivity
McKeever / 14 Gennaio 2022

            At first sight it might seem strange to discuss I for intersubjectivity before discussing S for subject (which we will do in due course). The fact is that intersubjectivity arrives not just alphabetically before subjectivity but is also ontologically prior: no one ever became a subject on her own.             In order to understand why this is so we need to begin with the crucial phenomenological critique of the “subject-object” model of knowing. This model, which is at the basis of the empirical sciences and thus also of modernity in general, has been shown (by Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Levinas and many others) to be extremely reductive in nature. It greatly underestimates the complexity of what it means to be a subject, what it means to be an object and what it means for the two to be in relation to each other (in a world).             If all this is true of subjectivity, it is not difficult to imagine how much greater is the complexity when we think of intersubjectivity (not forgetting the chronological order mentioned above). These same thinkers were quite perplexed at the very possibility of intersubjectivity. They took “solipsism” and “ego-ology” very seriously. If I and…