Merleau-Ponty, Hegel, and the Task of Phenomenological Explanation

Phänomenologische Forschungen 2018 (1):27-52 (2018)

Dimitris Apostolopoulos
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
This paper provides an analysis of Merleau-Ponty’s view of philosophical explanation. Some commentators stress his indebtedness to the transcendental tradition, but this influence does not extend to his view of explanation. I argue that Merleau-Ponty gives up on the transcendental ideal of explanatory completeness, shared by Husserl and Kant. Motivated by a distinctive understanding of transcendental expression, he argues that phenomenological reflection, and the explanations that issue from it, must both have a circular structure if they are to provide a persuasive account of experience. This circular view of phenomenological methodology is further developed in later texts, which stress the openness and incompleteness of both reflection and explanation. Merleau-Ponty’s reliance on the concept of circularity testifies to the increasing importance of Hegel for his view of phenomenological explanation and philosophical methodology.
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