Journal of the History of Philosophy 60 (2):303-336 (2022)

Philip Walsh
Gartner (Research and Advisory Consulting Firm)
Merleau-Ponty’s relation to Husserl has been understood along a spectrum running from outright repudiation to deep appreciation. The aim of this paper is to clarify a significant and heretofore largely neglected unifying thread connecting Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, while also demonstrating its general philosophical import for phenomenological philosophy. On this account, the details of a programmatic philosophical continuity between these two phenomenologists can be structured around the concept of motivation. Merleau-Ponty sees in Husserl’s concept of motivation a necessary and innovative concept that we must formulate in order to properly theorize the anonymous and passive functioning of “operative intentionality.” Motivation is the principle that bridges this domain with the egoic life of consciousness. Merleau-Ponty’s focus on anonymity, bodily habit, and other facets of operative intentionality are thus not a repudiation of Husserl’s analyses of intentionality, but rather a deepening of the notion of consciousness. I conclude by showing how Merleau-Ponty’s early work on motivation lays the conceptual groundwork for his later rethinking of intentionality in terms of institution, and thus mature ontology of the flesh.
Keywords Merleau-Ponty  Husserl  motivation  intentionality  institution  temporality  passivity
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DOI 10.1353/hph.2022.0022
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