"Digging in the Same Place": An Essay in the Political and Social Philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Dissertation, University of California, Santa Cruz (1982)
This dissertation is a critical study of Merleau-Ponty's understanding of the nature of social and political philosophy. Drawing on a wide range of Merleau-Ponty's published works, it attempts to define the limits and ends of philosophical reflection in the context of the social and political world. What are the fundamental and enduring interests of the philosopher in political and social life? What is the appropriate form of philosophical expression in the domain of collective existence? And what, finally, distinguishes philosophical expression from the vision and voice of the human sciences? ;These issues are addressed in four connected studies. Chapter I introduces the general themes of the essay through a discussion of Merleau-Ponty's critique of rationality and the problem of the nature of human social reality. Chapter II extends the analysis of these themes in a discussion of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy of language and its consequences for both the human sciences and social philosophy. Chapter III examines the concrete analysis of society and political action given in Merleau-Ponty's interpretation of Max Weber and Karl Marx. Chapter IV explores the relationship of philosophy to the social sciences, and of the philosopher to political community. There is, finally, a conclusion which attempts to draw together the prominent problems and arguments of the preceding chapters. ;The specific problems posed in this essay bear on a more general and fundamental concern. What does it mean to practice political and social philosophy in the contemporary world? What does the philosopher have to say to those trying to come to terms with the collective and public world? These questions no longer rest securely within the certain boundaries and perspectives of a settled tradition of philosophical discourse; political and social philosophy is clearly living through a time of transformation and "restructuring". This is in part a problem of developing new methodologies. But it is equally a matter of fundamental orientations and perspectives. It is in part, in other words, a philosophical problem. It is the argument of this essay that Merleau-Ponty's work constitutes a significant contribution to the task of defining the new directions social philosophy must seek out in the contemporary world
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