, Volume 118, Issue 1, pp 49-68

Merleau-Ponty's Modification of Phenomenology: Cognition, Passion and Philosophy

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This paper problematizes the analogy that Hubert Dreyfus has presented between phenomenology and cognitive science. It argues that Dreyfus presents Merleau-Ponty's modification of Husserl's phenomenology in a misleading way. He ignores the idea of philosophy as a radical interrogation and self-responsibility that stems from Husserl's work and recurs in Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception. The paper focuses on Merleau-Ponty's understanding of the phenomenological reduction. It shows that his critical idea was not to restrict the scope of Husserl's reductions but to study the conditions of possibility for the thetic acts. Merleau-Ponty argued, following Husserl's texts, that the thetic acts rest on the basis of primordial pre-thetic experience. This layer of experience cannot, by its nature, be explicated or clarified, but it can be questioned and unveiled. This is the recurrent task of phenomenological philosophy, as Merleau-Ponty understands it.