Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 275–289 | Cite as

On the role of depersonalization in Merleau-Ponty



This essay considers the role of depersonalization in the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty. While there has been a modest amount of interest in depersonalization from a phenomenological perspective, a critical exploration of the theme of depersonalization in Merleau-Ponty’s thinking itself remains overlooked (cf. Varga (Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology, 19:2, 103-113, 2012); Colombetti and Ratcliffe (Emotion Review, 4:2, 145-250, 2012). This is an oddity, given that the theme of depersonalization proves instructive in Merleau-Ponty’s account of the constitution of the subject, and appears within Phenomenology of Perception at key points in his thinking (Merleau-Ponty 2012). This paper serves as a critical exposition of the role of depersonalization in Merleau-Ponty’s thought. I proceed in three ways. In the first instance, I provide an overview of depersonalization, addressing its salient characteristics, which includes: a feeling of disturbed bodily subjectivity; a diminishment of affective feeling; and a corresponding and overarching sense of unreality, carrying with it a sense of estrangement. In the main part of the paper, I consider the articulation of depersonalization in Merleau-Ponty, especially as it figures in Phenomenology of Perception. My claim is that depersonalization can be best captured as an expression of Merleau-Ponty’s idea of ambiguity. I conclude by considering to what extent Merleau-Ponty’s account of depersonalization corresponds with the medical understanding of the condition.


Merleau-Ponty Depersonalization Pathology Body Ambiguity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA
  2. 2.School of PhilosophyUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland

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