The Implications of Merleau-Ponty’s Thought for the Practice of Psychotherapy

  • Martin Dillon
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 95)


In his monumental work on Freud, Ricœur argues that Freud’s archaeology needs to be supplemented/counterbalanced/integrated with its own incipient teleology, and he turns to Hegel to find what psychoanalysis has left undeveloped. I am convinced by Ricœur’s critique, but not by his prescription: I agree that Freud’s preoccupation with the past needs to be contextualized within a more comprehensive and integrated understanding of human temporality, but I propose to look in Merleau-Ponty’s thought, rather than Hegel’s, for that context. Both Merleau-Ponty and Hegel understand freedom and reason to be the goals which define human teleology, but Hegel’s absolute reason is incompatible with Merleau-Ponty’s conception of reason as essentially finite. Without pausing to argue the case, here I shall simply opt for finitude and proceed to examine the implications that Merleau-Ponty’s teleology of freedom and reason has for the practice of psychotherapy.


Final Term Impossible World Gestalt Theory Rational Teleology Cartesian Cogito 
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  1. 1.
    Paul Ricœur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation, transi. Denis Savage (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1970), Book 3, chap. 3. Ricœur purports to discover in Freudianism a certain dialectic of archaeology and teleology that is clearly evident in Hegel (p. 461).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phénoménologie de la perception (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1945), pp. 180–202. See Martin Dillon, “Merleau-Ponty on Existential Sexuality: A Critique”, Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 11, no. 1 (Spring 1980); also, Merleau-Ponty, “Le Problème de la passivité: le sommeil, l’inconscient, la mémoire,” Annuaire du College de France (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1955), pp. 161-64; “Preface” to A. Hesnard, L’Oeuvre de Freud et son importance pour le monde moderne ( Paris: Payot, 1960 ), pp. 5–10.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Jean-Paul Sartre, L’être et le néant ( Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1943 ), p. 722.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1933), p. 80. “Wo Es war, solllch werden.” Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Merleau-Ponty, Preface to Hesnard’s L’Oeuvre de Freud, transl. Fisher, in The Essential Writings of Merleau-Ponty, ed. Fisher (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1969 ), p. 86.Google Scholar
  6. 20.
    Being and Time, transl. Macquarrie and Robinson (Harper and Row: New York, 1962), I, 4, sect. 26, pp. 158-159.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht/Boston/Lancaster 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Dillon
    • 1
  1. 1.BinghamtonUSA

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