Merleau-ponty, Gibson and the materiality of meaning

Man and World 26 (3):287-302 (1993)
Abstract
While there are numerous differences between the approaches taken by Maurice Merleau-Ponty and James J. Gibson, the basic motivation of the two thinkers, as well as the internal logic of their respective views, is extraordinarily close. Both were guided throughout their lives by an attempt to overcome the dualism of subject and object, and both devoted considerable attention to their "Gestaltist" predecessors. There can be no doubt but that it is largely because of this common cause that the subsequent development of their ideas is so similar. It is not my objective in what follows merely to demonstrate a similarity between two lines of thought. Instead, I will try to show that each approach gains considerably from attention to the other. There are numerous ways to begin such a project, each about as arbitrary as the next. For present purposes, I shall take as of central importance the question of the character of the perceived world, both in relation to the traditionally opposed mental and material "substances", and in relation to its identification and individuation of things vis a vis one another and vis a vis ourselves. This will implicate especially Gibson's "affordances" and Merleau-Ponty's thesis concerning the "materiality of meaning."
Keywords affordances  perception  Gibson  Merleau-Pony  meaning
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