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Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy of Nature

Ted Toadvine

Publication Year: 2009

Published by: Northwestern University Press

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pp. ix-x

There is nothing like the effort to acknowledge in writing one’s intellectual debts to show the true insuffi ciency and impossibility of that task. The list of colleagues and friends who have left their imprint on my thinking and these pages seems endless, but among them are David Abram, Alia Al- Saji, Bryan Bannon, Renaud Barbaras, Rudolf Bernet, Étienne...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xiv

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Introduction: Renewing the Philosophy of Nature

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pp. 3-20

In our time, the philosophical question of nature is almost entirely forgotten. Oddly enough, this amnesia parallels a rising public consciousness of the fragility of the natural environment. Corporate executives, political leaders, and informed citizens are increasingly aware of, even alarmed about, the rate of anthropogenic environmental degradation,...

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1. Nature as Gestalt and Melody

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pp. 21-49

In the recent wave of interest devoted to questions of nature and animality in Merleau- Ponty’s philosophy, the contribution of his first book, The Structure of Behavior, has been entirely overlooked. Structure is never mentioned, for example, in David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous, the best- known work on Merleau- Ponty and environmental thought, and it...

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2. Radical Reflection and the Resistance of Things

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pp. 50-75

Phenomenology of Perception, which Merleau- Ponty completed as his second doctoral thesis in 1945, has been critically received primarily as a contribution to the philosophy of embodiment, establishing Merleau- Ponty’s reputation as, in the words of Richard Shusterman, “something like the patron saint of the body” in Western philosophy (Carman and Hansen 2005, 151). It is indisputable that this text gives a uniquely central...

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3. Animality

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pp. 76-96

In his popular environmentalist novel Ishmael, Daniel Quinn calls attention to the “creation myth” of our culture, according to which human beings are the telos of the evolutionary process. To illustrate this point, the character Ishmael, a telepathic gorilla, imagines an “anthropological” interview with a jellyfi sh undertaken a half billion years ago, prior to the...

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4. The Space of Intentionality and the Orientation of Being

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pp. 97-106

Merleau- Ponty’s contribution to our understanding of the body’s role in the constitution of “lived” space is well known. Jeffrey Malpas, for example, considers Merleau- Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perceptionto be an “important instance in which the central role of locality, especially as this arises through embodiment, is given philosophical grounding” (Malpas...

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5. The Human–Nature Chiasm

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pp. 107-130

It is well known that Merleau- Ponty introduces the fi gure of “chiasm” in his later work, even entitling the fi nal section of his manuscript in progress “The Intertwining—The Chiasm” (“L’entrelacs—Le chiasme”). The term derives from the Greek...

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pp. 131-136

While Merleau- Ponty’s explorations of perception, the body, animality, space, art, and ontology have much to offer a renewed philosophy of nature, his key contributions to this effort can be summarized concisely in two points: fi rst, that perceived meaning is ontologically basic, such that the perceived world of nature is meaningful on its own terms...


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pp. 137-158

Works Cited

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pp. 159-168


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pp. 169-174

E-ISBN-13: 9780810163751
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810125995

Publication Year: 2009