The time and place of the organism: Merleau-ponty's philosophy in embryo

Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy attempts to locate meaning-sense-within being. Space and time are thus ingredient in sense. This is apparent in his earlier studies of structure, fields, expression and the body schema, and the linkage of space, time and sense becomes thematic in Merleau-Ponty’s later thinking about institution, chiasm and reversibility. But the space-time-sense linkage is also apparent in his studies of embryogenesis. The paper shows this by reconstructing Merleau-Ponty’s critical analysis of Driesch’s embryology (in the nature lectures) to demonstrate how, for Merleau-Ponty, embryogenesis entails a principle of sense-generation that is irreducible to the plenitude of space or spatial distributions of material, yet is inseparable from being and spatial facts. This principle indicates a ‘depth’ or ‘hollow’ internal to “flat being,” in virtue of which being can create more sense than is yet given. The paper illuminates this ‘depth’ and the role of space in sense by turning to some recent scientific accounts-of bees deciding on new nesting places, of termites building mounds, and of embryogenesis-to suggest how space is inherently ingredient in the genesis of sense. This depends on turning from a concept of space as extensive to place as intensive, for it is the intensity of places, rather than the extensity of already delineated spaces, that affords sense generation.
Keywords Merleau-Ponty   phenomenology   organism   Embryology   genesis   sense   meaning   space
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