Continental Philosophy Review 50 (1):127-149 (2017)

Bryan Smyth
University of Mississippi
This paper takes up the question as to what has primacy within Merleau-Ponty’s existential phenomenology as a way to provide insight into the relation between empirical science and transcendental philosophy within his account of embodiment. Contending that this primacy necessarily pertains to methodology, I show how Kurt Goldstein’s conception of biology provided Merleau-Ponty with a scientific model for approaching human existence holistically in which primacy pertains to the transcendental practice of productive imagination that generates the eidetic organismic Gestalt in terms of which sense is made of empirical facts. Considering the analogous role played by imagination in Merleau-Ponty’s account of perceptual synthesis in the form of what he called projection, I argue that his account of embodiment is, parallel to Goldstein, grounded methodologically on the projection of an organismic Gestalt, and that as a form of operative-intentional praxis projection is the site of primacy in his phenomenology overall. In terms of the relation between natural science and transcendental philosophy in Merleau-Ponty’s account of embodiment, while the theoretical dimension of the latter—the eidetic apriority of the organismic Gestalt—is coupled dialectically with empirical facts on an epistemically coeval basis, these are jointly subordinated to the normative commitments implied by the imaginative projection of that Gestalt. The primacy of the latter is transcendental but in a distinctly practical sense, such that any substantive discrepancy between natural science and Merleau-Pontian phenomenology reflects metaphilosophical, not theoretical, disagreement.
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DOI 10.1007/s11007-016-9389-x
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Critique of the Power of Judgment.Immanuel Kant - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.
Critique of Pure Reason.Immanuel Kant - 1998 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
La Structure du Comportement.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1942 - Presses Universitaires de France.

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