Merleau-Ponty’s ontological interpretation of Husserl’s conception of the body as a “double unity”

Filosoficky Casopis 62 (3):339-354 (2014)

Authors
Jan Halák
Palacky University
Abstract
Merleau-Ponty holds that Husserl’s descriptions of the body go beyond the conceptual framework of subject-object ontology to which his philosophy is usually thought to conform. Merleau-Ponty says of his own philosophy that it is founded on the circularity in the body; that is, on the fact that from the ontological point of view, perception and availability to be perceived, are one and the same in the body. The inseparability of these two aspects of the body he calls "flesh" (chair). According to Husserl, I perceive my body such that in a certain perceived object I also co-perceive sensations roused by the perception of that object – I observe the “consequential parallel” between two series of objective and subjective phenomena. Husserl argues that the unity of the body should be descrived as a double unity, and the body as a subject-object. In this article I analyse Husserl’s example of two hands of the same body touching mutually and, following Merleau-Ponty, I attempt to show that the body can appear to itself as an object only on the basis of a differentiation of the body as a particular field of perceiving. The body as a double unity of subject and object is therefore grounded in the body as a pre-objective and pre-subjective field; that is, in flesh as Merleau-Ponty understands it. This is also the point of departure for an original conception of ontology as we find it in his later philosophy.
Keywords Husserl  Merleau-Ponty  body (corps, Leib)  ontology  flesh (chair)  phenomenology of the body  perception of one's own body
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