• Richard M. Zaner
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 17)


Unlike Sartre’s theory of the body-for-itself in his L’Etre et le Néant, it is not possible to submit Merleau-Ponty’s theory of the body-proper to a straightforward exposition and interpretation, following his major work1 step by step. Over and above the complexity of the theory itself, Merleau-Ponty’s analysis proceeds on a varity of levels which are not clearly distinguished by him. Moreover, when Merleau-Ponty makes use of other doctrines (as, for instance, those of Gestalt psychology, or those of Husserl), he has invariably transformed their meaning and reinterpreted them in terms of his own fundamental theory, but without letting his readers know of this in advance. In this way, certain fundamental notions (such as “form,” or “synthesis”), which have their own specific meanings in the contexts from which he takes them, are used in a quite different way by him, but with no indications that this transformation has occurred — and, indeed, within his own work itself, he does not always use the same term in the same way. The over-all result of this is an at times quite confusing amalgam of methods, analyses, and points of view.


Gestalt Psychology Existential Philosophy Reflective Analysis Phenomenological Reduction Cartesian Meditation 
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  1. 1.
    Phénoménologie de la Perception, Librairie Gallimard (Paris, 1945), 531 pp. (Hereafter citied textually as PP.)Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    Structure du Comportement, P.U.F. (Paris, 3rd edition, 1953), 248 pp.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    W. Köhler, Gestalt Psychology, Liveright (New York, 1929), pp. 228–29.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    Merleau-Ponty takes this point from Aron Gurwitsch, Recension du ‘Nachwort zu meinen Ideen,’ de Husserl, Deutsche Litteraturzeitung, 28 February 1932. See also, Gurwitsch La Théorie du Champ de la Conscience, Desclée de Brouwer (Paris, 1957), pp. 78–82.Google Scholar
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    Cf. also, PP, 25, where Merleau-Ponty interprets the unity of the object of perception as dependent upon this vague solicitation and, corresponding to it, a vague presentiment of the immanent unity of the object by consciousness. Cf. also Husserl, Erfahrung und Urteil, Ciaassen Verlag (Hamburg, 1954), pp. 79–80; and below, footnote, 2 p. 160.Google Scholar
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    Cf. de Waelhens, op. cit., pp. 391–92, and 402–08.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Gurwitsch’s presentation of this problem, Théorie du Champ…, op. cit., Parts I and II.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Husserl, “Philosophy as a Strict Science,” Cross Currents, Vol. vi, No. 3 (Summer, 1956), pp. 230–33.Google Scholar
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    Cf. de Waelhens, op. cit., p. 109.Google Scholar
  10. 2.
    Ibid., pp. 113–14.Google Scholar
  11. 1.
    Just this “en quelque manière” is the problem, as we shall see.Google Scholar
  12. 2.
    He thus accepts without question one of Sartre’s transformations of Husserl. See above, pp. 66–69.Google Scholar
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    Sartre, Situations, I, Gallimard (Paris, 1947), pp. 31–35. See above, Part II, Chapter I. pp. 59–80.Google Scholar
  14. 1.
    Cf. on this, PP, 491; and below, pp. 182–89.Google Scholar
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    J. H. Van Den Berg, The Phenomenological Approach to Psychiatry, op. cit., p. 32.Google Scholar
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    De Waelhens, op. cit., p. 386.Google Scholar
  17. 1.
    Cf. Cartesian Meditations, op. cit., pp. 18–21, 33–37; and Ideen, I, p. 94.Google Scholar
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    Richard Schmitt, “Husserl’s Transcendental-Phenomenological Reduction,” PPR, Vol. xx, No. 2 (December, 1959), p. 240.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Cartesian Meditations, op. cit., ibid., and Ideen, I, op. cit., pp. 56–57.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Cartesian Meditations, op. cit., p. 41.Google Scholar
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    Cf. above, footnote 4, p. 138; further references to this essay will be cited in the text as (Signes).Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 2.Google Scholar
  23. 1.
    Ibid., p. 4. For Merleau-Ponty, as we shall see, just this “ambiguity” becomes central to this theory.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 132.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., pp. 4–8.Google Scholar
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    Merleau-Ponty refers here to Husserl’s use of “aesthetic,” as pertaining to sensuous experience: Formale und transzendentale Logik, op. cit., p. 257.Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1971

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  • Richard M. Zaner

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