International Studies in Phenomenology and Philosophy

Book | Chapter


(1988) The horizons of continental philosophy, Dordrecht, Springer.

Communication science and Merleau-Ponty's critique of the objectivist illusion

Richard L Lanigan

pp. 205-226

Commentary is thematic in the work of Maurice MerleauPonty.1 We recall with familiar ease that his inaugural lecture at the Collège de France is a commentary on the philosopher as a person and as an agent provocateur in human communication. With dialectic explication, Merleau-Ponty's lecture describes the philosopher's consciousness of good ambiguity in the personae of Lavelle, Bergson, and Socrates, and in the human encounters we know as the discursive institutions of religion, history, and philosophy. "But," as he remarks, "it is not merely a question here of confronting ideas but of incarnating them and making them live, and in this respect we cannot know what they are capable of except by trying them out. This attempt involves a taking of sides and a struggle."2 And we might recall the more poignant version of human communication that R.D. Laing offers, namely, that the struggle is the "estranged integration we call sanity."3 It is in this hermeneutic sense that Merleau-Ponty struggles with communication science by taking sides and making conscious experience as lived the horizon of discourse. I would like to characterize the position that Merleau-Ponty takes on the practice of communication as the critique of the objectivist illusion in therepeutic philosophy. In my analysis I want to rely initially on MerleauPonty's view of the objectivist illusion that one finds in the last pages of the Prose of the World. He says: "Nowadays we encourage every form of illusive and allusive expression, especially pictorial expression, and in particular the art of the "primitives,' the drawing of children and madmen, as well as every genre of involuntary poetry, the "testament' or spoken language."4 Second, I briefly characterize the behavioral notion of therapeutic philosophy which Levin and Koestenbaum counter-pose to Merleau-Ponty's method of philosophic consciousness as a phenomenology of encounter bracketed by communication science, i.e., his hermeneutic of positive ambiguity. Having set the context in this way, I shall then return to the passage from the Phenomenology of Perception which grounds my analysis.5

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-94-017-3350-2_9

Full citation:

Lanigan, R.L. (1988)., Communication science and Merleau-Ponty's critique of the objectivist illusion, in H. J. Silverman, A. Mickunas, A. Lingis & T. Kisiel (eds.), The horizons of continental philosophy, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 205-226.

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