The Theory of the Body

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


As we indicated,1 it is possible to see the centrality of the problem of the body for Merleau-Ponty in another manner. The body arises as a specific “problem” for him in the course of a critical exposition of traditional theories of sensuous perception. At every point in theories of this kind one is necessarily led to a theory of the nature of sensuousness in general. In different terms: traditional theories of sensuous perception were mainly theories of sensuous knowledge; studies of sense perception were directed towards the solution of questions concerning the conditions, possibility, and “sources,” of knowledge — one of these “stems” of knowledge (as, for instance, in Locke or Kant) being sensuousness (Sinnlichkeit). 2 Just in so far as this was the case, however, the nature of sensuousness was simply presupposed, not itself made thematic; and the presupposition, we have seen, was that sensuousness is fundamentally passive and receptive. To sense perceive is simply to suffer, to be receptive, and thus actually to be modified by the thing perceived in some manner. And, the theories of perception built on this presupposition followed the style of it.


Traditional Theory Corporeal Scheme Reflex Activity Pathological Person Fundamental Phenomenon 
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    Cf. above, pp. 134–35.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, Kant’s Kritik der reinen Vernunft, Section 1, B, p. 33.Google Scholar
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    Thus, Kant (Ibid., idem) goes on to say the capacity by means of which we are affected by objects, i.e., Sinnlichkeit, is receptivity (Rezeptivität). Google Scholar
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    Descartes had already laid out the essential lines of this conception in his Rules for the Direction of the Mind. (Cf. Rule XII)Google Scholar
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    Cf. Part I, Chapter I, pp. 18–20.Google Scholar
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    By “le préjugé du monde,” Merleau-Ponty means what Husserl has called the “naturalization of consciousness.” Cf. Husserl, “Philosophy as a Strict Science,” Cross Currents, Vol. vi, No. 3 (Summer, 1956), pp. 230–37.Google Scholar
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    Buytendijk, Attitudes et Mouvement, op. cit., p. 59. Buytendijk, it is clear, flatly rejects Sartre’s position that I do not apprehend the Other as “subject.”Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1971

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  • Richard M. Zaner

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