Merleau-Ponty and the Radical Sciences of Mind

Synthese:1-35 (forthcoming)

Robin M. Muller
California State University, Northridge
In this paper, I critically reconstruct the development of Merleau-Pontyan phenomenology and “radical embodied cognitive science” out of Berlin-School Gestalt theory. I first lay out the basic principles of Gestalt theory and then identify two ways of revising that theory: one route, followed by enactivism and ecological psychology, borrows Gestaltist resources to defend a pragmatic ontology. I argue, however, that Merleau-Ponty never endorses this kind of ontology. Instead, I track his second route toward an ontology of “flesh.” I show how Merleau-Ponty’s arguments for this ontology depend upon criticisms of Gestalt Psychology to which radical embodied cognitive science remains vulnerable, and show that it leads him to a romantic philosophy of nature.
Keywords Merleau-Ponty  Phenomenology  Gestalt psychology  Cognitive science  Enactivism  Ecological psychology
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-018-02015-6
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