Merleau-Ponty's Indirect Ontology

Dialogue 27 (04):615- (1988)
Abstract
The Epilogue reviews the findings presented by indirect ontology. First, indirect ontology discovers a consistency to The Visible and the Invisible which has been overlooked. Secondly, it provides a resolution to problems which are first uncovered in his Phenomenology of Perception, notably the connection between tacit and spoken cogitos, as well as the relationship of silence to speech. Thirdly, indirect ontology serves as a useful tool in understanding the development of Merleau-Ponty's thought from its beginning in The Structure of Behavior through his ontological phase. Finally, indirect ontology brings to clarity the uniqueness of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy which is often overlooked; this uniqueness points to the fact that Merleau-Ponty's thought seems to move in a direction different from many of his successors and interpreters. ;Chapter four of the dissertation begins a positive delineation of Being by means of the indirect ontology examined in the first three chapters. This chapter situates philosophy within the hyperdialectic, thus showing how philosophy can investigate the world from which thought emerges. Chapter five unites the sequential analyses of the first four chapters in order to provide a detailed account of how the natural world serves as the basis of all human expression. Chapter six builds upon the description of nature provided by indirect ontology; in this chapter the working notes of The Visible and the Invisible are examined in order to discuss the philosophy of history and of culture provided by indirect ontology. ;The first three chapters of the dissertation examine the ontology of Being provided by perception. Chapter one concerns itself with our radical dependence upon perception, our "perceptual faith" in the world. By examining Merleau-Ponty's discussion of traditional ontology the dissertation develops the differences between ontology and the perceptual process. In chapter two the gap between ontology and perception is eliminated by providing an ontology which conforms to the manner in which perception presents itself to the body. This union of perception and human expression is made possible by Merleau-Ponty's implementation of hyper-reflection, the theory that perception is itself a form of originary reflection. Hyper-reflection is used to explain the existence of myself, others, and thinking within a shared visible world. Chapter three investigates the natural dialectic or hyper-dialectic which holds between the perceived world and throught; the result is a view of the dialectic which insists that thought remains attached to the perceived world. ;The goal of this dissertation is to present a sustained examination of The Visible and the Invisible. In contrast to the critical literature on Merleau-Ponty which maintains that the work is fragmentary, the position taken in the dissertation is that The Visible and the Invisible is a consistent and cohesive work. The key to unlocking the inner format of The Visible and the Invisible lies in abandoning the popular assumption that the first three chapters of the work are primarily critiques of other philosophers' positions. The dissertation attempts to replace this assumption by seeking, within the resources of the text itself, a new meaning and order. ;In the working notes accompanying The Visible and the Invisible Merleau-Ponty provides the necessary interpretive tool for understanding the work in the form of an "indirect ontology." Indirect ontology is Merleau-Ponty's effort to explain how our perceptual contact with the world is itself the ontological format of all Being. The Visible and the Invisible attempts to account for all phases of human expression through this model
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