Re: [xmca] Looking forward by looking back, sort of.

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Mon Jul 02 2007 - 15:46:45 PDT

On 6/28/07 3:52 PM, "Paul Dillon" <> wrote:

> the french resistance leader Merleau-Ponty has been largely forgotten. Paul,

I've been taking a look back at Merleau-Ponty, and if you and others are
interested, I think there are at least three ways in which his work has
relevance to the current discussion(s) as well as to broader interests:

In 'The Structure of Behavior' (1942) he could be said to be exploring the
notion we find also in Vygotsky that consciousness is precisely a matter of
the structuring of behavior. He distinguishes three kinds of the structure,
and the third, the human, is one in which there is a separation in time
between stimulus and response, a separation in which culture emerges. Sounds
familiar! In his view culture, language and reason emerge from a synthesis
of less sophisticated physical and biological structures, which are less
able to escape the concrete details of their situation. (And so
consciousness is the result of life working itself out, dialectically.)

Second, his insistence on embodiment has relevance to our discussion of
tools. Finally finding time to read Latour's article in MCA, I find that he
recommends an attention to objects not simply as tools, but as what we 'fold
ourselves into' (like eggs into dough?), which nonetheless have an ontology
different from our own, but which "frame" human interaction so it is no
longer "complex" (like primates) but "complicated." Much of this could be
inspired by Merleau-Ponty's notion (in The Visible and the Invisible, 1964)
of the "flesh of the world" in which body and thing have not yet been
divided. We are material beings, and although we do indeed have material
tools we are also living in a material world which speaks to us not merely
concretely and personally but generally and anonymously.

And all this, of course, is to avoid the errors and illusions of
subject/object dualism. In both 'The Structure of Behavior' and
'Phenomenology of Perception' (1945) M-P is in constant dialog with not only
philosophy but the science of the time, exposing and rethinking their
dualisms, and his texts have relevance to psychologists today.

Gone, but not forgotten.


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Received on Mon Jul 2 15:47 PDT 2007

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