Merleau-Ponty’s Hermeneutics of the Normal and the Pathological, Expanded Version
Invited conference paper presented and published in conference proceedings


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AbstractTo Foucault, phenomenology, at least as it was practiced in France during the years 1930s to 1960s, has not proceeded to reformulate the theory of the subject as it should be; French phenomenology is still too positivistic. By praising Canguilhem for introducing the study of error in a philosophy of the concept of the living being and of life in opposition to the theory of the subject practiced by phenomenologists, Foucault thinks that Canguilhem is able to overcome the positivist naivety of phenomenology. While we think that Foucault is amply right to raise from the point of view of theory construction the question of the constitutive role played by moments of negativity in the formation of the concept of life, rationality and world, his historical line of demarcation should be subjected to a more nuanced revision. Merleau-Ponty is well-known for working on an unfinished ontology of the invisible with the notion of écart in his later years. There his awareness of constitutive negativity is entire. But even in his earlier works, especially in "Phenomenology of Perception", the constitutive role of negative elements is already well thematized. This is shown in his hermeneutics of the normal and the pathological in the well-known phenomenology of the body-subject as the basis of a phenomenology of the human capacity. This paper shows that Merleau-Ponty shares a conception of the normal and the pathological in close affinity with Canguilhem. The proximity of these two philosophers on this issue can be further traced back to the clinical and theoretical works of the originally German non-positivistic neurologist and psychiatrist Kurt Goldstein (1878-1965) which have influenced both Merleau-Ponty and Canguilhem. Thus Merleau-Ponty, though a phenomenologist through and through, is exempted from the criticism of positivist naivety as is presented by Foucault.
All Author(s) ListLAU Kwok-ying
Name of ConferenceInternational Conference - Phenomenology, Empathy, Intersubjectivity: New Approaches
Start Date of Conference03/05/2017
End Date of Conference05/05/2017
Place of ConferenceDublin
Country/Region of ConferenceIreland
Year2017
LanguagesEnglish-United States
KeywordsMerleau-Ponty, phenomenology, hermeneutics, normal, pathological

Last updated on 2018-23-05 at 11:09