Foucault and Transcendence: Haunted by Merleau-Ponty, Affect, and the Norm of Determinacy

Gail Hamner on Merleau-Ponty and Foucault, sense and dream, world and the transcendence of climbing out

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“We are condemned to sense,” Maurice Merleau-Ponty writes in his Preface to Phenomenology ofPerception (Landes translation, lxxxiv). The statement concludes a paragraph not on our bodily schema or our being toward the world (être à monde) but on history, or the relation of (natural) perception to (social) history. He ends the sentence with the conviction that “there is nothing we can do or say that does not acquire a name in history.”

We are condemned to sense. This is to say that we are the kind of being, a kind of animal, that is condemned to pull meaning and orientation out of our habitats, or what we come to call our worlds.

My close reading of Phenomenology of Perception this summer has been juxtaposed with my return to volume 1 of Foucault’s Dits et Écrits. It is a forceful intellectual juxtaposition, by which…

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About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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