Continental Philosophy Review

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 203–221 | Cite as

“The indestructible, the barbaric principle”: The Role of Schelling in Merleau-Ponty’s Psychoanalysis



The aim of this paper is to examine Merleau-Ponty’s idea of a “psychoanalysis of Nature” (Merleau-Ponty in The visible and the invisible. Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 1968). My thesis is that in order to understand the creation of a Merleau-Pontean psychoanalysis (together with the role the unconscious plays in this psychoanalysis), we need to ultimately understand the place of Schelling in Merleau-Ponty’s late thought. Through his dialogue with Schelling, Merleau-Ponty will be able to formulate not only a psychoanalysis of Nature, but also fulfil the ultimate task of phenomenology itself; namely, of identifying “what resists phenomenology—natural being, the ‘barbarous’ source Schelling spoke of” and situating it precisely at the heart of phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty in Signs. Northwestern University Press, Evanston, p 178, 1964b). The plan for studying this natural psychoanalysis is threefold. First, I provide an overview of the role psychoanalysis plays in the 1951 lecture, “Man and Adversity,” focusing especially on this lecture as a turning point in his thinking. Second, I chart how Merleau-Ponty’s psychoanalysis is informed by the various ways in which the unconscious is formulated in his thought, leading eventually to a dialogue with Schelling. Accordingly, in the final part of the paper, I trace the role of Schelling’s thought in the creation of a Merleau-Pontean psychoanalysis. As I argue, what distinguishes this psychoanalysis is the centrality of Schelling’s idea of the “barbaric principle,” which manifests itself as the notion of an unconscious indexing an “excess of Being” resistant to classical phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty in Nature: course notes from the college de France. Northwestern University Press, Evanston, p 38, 2003).


Nature Psychoanalysis Merleau-Ponty Schelling Unconsciousness 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PhilosophyUniversity College DublinDublinIreland

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