Merleau-Ponty and the Problems of Intersubjectivity: Encounters with Wittgenstein, Sellars, Mcdowell and Levinas on the Foundations, Nature and Modalities of Intersubjective Relations

Dissertation, New School University (2004)
Contemporary philosophy is marked by two movements: recognizing the situatedness of subjectivity; overcoming the legacy of Cartesian dualism. These often converge: the sovereignty of Cartesian subjectivity is compromised precisely by that within which subjectivity is always already situated. ;While the 'problem of the perception of other minds', resting upon the Cartesian ontology, is 'overcome' once that ontology is abandoned, two new problems emerge. ;First, what does it mean to say that truth and objectivity are constituted intersubjectively? Some contemporary philosophers appeal to language. The acquisition of a language endows subjectivity with reflexivity; language opens subjectivity to the world. Truth and objectivity are constituted within linguistic practices. This, it is suggested, should not lead to skepticism concerning the possibility of truth and objectivity---such worry is a mere residuum of the now untenable conceptions. ;Yet, it has not been easy to let go of the old conceptions of truth and objectivity. The second problem, the problem of alterity, encapsulates this concern. If it is one's language and culture that opens the subject as such to the world, if it is through such means that truth and objectivity within that world are established and acknowledged: how can such mutually reinforcing constitution be critiqued by something genuinely exterior? To what extent does contact with genuine transcendence remain necessary to retain the meaningfulness of 'truth', 'objectivity' and 'critique'? ;These questions are taken up from the perspective of Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology. The basic argument is that, in concert with language, a post-Cartesian ontology needs to be developed that establish that: the subject's basic relation to the world and to others is not cognitive, but vital and affective; the world is saturated with pre-linguistic meaning, i.e., language is not the exclusive origin of meaningfulness; that language itself, as well as the corporeal structures of subjectivity that open it to the world, are not subsumptive, but diacritical, thus genuinely open to transcendence
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