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The Child as Natural Phenomenologist

Primal and Primary Experience in Merleau-Ponty's Psychology

Talia Welsh

Publication Year: 2013

Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908–1961) is well known for his work in phenomenology, but his lectures in child psychology and pedagogy have received little attention, probably because Talia Welsh translated the lectures in their entirety only in 2010. The Child as Natural Phenomenologist summarizes Merleau-Ponty’s work in child psychology, shows its relationship to his philosophical work, and argues for its continued relevance in contemporary theory and practice.

Welsh demonstrates Merleau-Ponty’s unique conception of the child’s development as inherently organized, meaningful, and engaged with the world, contrary to views that see the child as largely internally preoccupied and driven by instinctual demands. Welsh finds that Merleau-Ponty’s ideas about human psychology remain relevant in today’s growing field of child studies and that they provide important insights for philosophers, sociologists, and psychologists to better understand the human condition.

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Contents

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p. ix-ix

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Preface

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pp. xi-xxii

Flannery O’Connor wrote, “The fact is that anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days” (1969, 84). To begin a book asserting the relevance of childhood for our understanding of the human condition seems trite. Of course, childhood greatly ...

List of Abbreviations

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p. xxiii-xxiii

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1. Early Work in Child Psychology

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pp. 3-21

Merleau-Ponty’s philosophical commitments make it difficult to easily situate him. He evidently is committed to Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger’s work, but takes up a range of political inquiries and empirical research in the human sciences that are largely absent in their canonical philosophical texts. It is his inclusiveness that makes him a ...

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2. Phenomenology, Gestalt Theory, and Psychoanalysis

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pp. 22-44

This chapter will discuss the relationship between philosophy and psychology in the Sorbonne lectures to provide an introduction into the manner in which three theories—phenomenology, Gestalt theory, and psychoanalysis—shape Merleau-Ponty’s work. Merleau-Ponty argues for the relevance of ...

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3. Syncretic Sociability and the Birth of the Self

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pp. 45-71

The fi rst chapter provided a historical introduction to Merleau-Ponty’s work in child psychology by summarizing his pre-1949 comments on childhood. The second chapter introduced the Sorbonne lectures in child psychology and pedagogy by outlining the main theoretical influences of the ...

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4. Contemporary Research in Psychology and Phenomenology

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pp. 72-105

The spirit and practice of the Sorbonne lectures is to engage with a wide range of contemporary research. Thus it is fitting not only to summarize Merleau-Ponty’s lectures, but also to consider them in the broader context of contemporary discussions about the relevance of child experience for our understanding of ...

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5. Exploration and Learning

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pp. 106-124

When trying to understand the child’s intersubjective life, we must be careful to not overvalue intellectual, representational abilities in childhood since this highlights immaturity and reduces the child to a former adult state. Instead, we must approach childhood development with an open mind and be willing ...

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6. Culture, Development, and Gender

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pp. 125-146

If we take seriously the call to see our existential condition and the human sciences that study it—history, psychology, biology, sociology, anthropology—as relevant for a general philosophical understanding of ourselves, we cannot avoid turning to the question of cultural relativism. The conflict between cultural...

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Conclusion: An Incomparable Childhood

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pp. 147-151

Perhaps the argument that our primal experience is also historically primary is an ill-founded romanticism. Merleau-Ponty’s descriptions not only want to evoke this early element of human existence, but also want to “praise” childhood insofar as it reveals our true immersion in the world. What divorces us from our underlying syncretic ...

Works Cited

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pp. 153-159

Index

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pp. 161-167


E-ISBN-13: 9780810166486
E-ISBN-10: 0810166488
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810128804
Print-ISBN-10: 0810128802

Page Count: 193
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1
Series Title: SPEP
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth

Research Areas

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