Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty: Immanence, Univocity and Phenomenology

This paper will seek firstly to understand Deleuze’s main challenges to phenomenology, particularly as they are expressed in The Logic of Sense (1968) and What is Philosophy? (1991), although reference will also be made to Pure Immanence (1994) and Difference and Repetition (1968). We will then turn to a discussion of one of the few passages in which Deleuze (with Guattari) directly engages with Merleau-Ponty, which occurs in the chapter on art in What is Philosophy? In this text, he and Guattari offer a critique of what they call the “final avatar” of phenomenology – that is, the “fleshism” that Merleau-Ponty proposes in his unfinished but justly famous work, The Visible and the Invisible (1964). It will be argued that both Deleuze’s basic criticisms of phenomenology, as well as he and Guattari’s problems with the concept of the flesh, do not adequately come to grips with Merleau-Ponty’s later philosophy. Merleau-Ponty is not obviously partisan to what Deleuze finds problematic in this tradition, despite continuing to identify himself as a phenomenologist, and is working within a surprisingly similar framework in certain key respects. In fact, in the more positive part of this paper, we will compare Merleau-Ponty’s notion of flesh, and Deleuze’s equally infamous univocity of being, as a means to consider the broader question of the ways in which the two philosophers consider ontological thought, its meaning and its conditions. It is our belief that through properly understanding both positions, a rapprochement, or at least the foundation for one, can be established between these two important thinkers.
Keywords phenomenology  immanence  univocity  Merleau-Ponty  Deleuze  poststructuralism
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