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The Logos of the Living World

Merleau-Ponty, Animals, and Language

Louise Westling

Publication Year: 2013

Today we urgently need to reevaluate the human place in the world in relation to other animals. This book puts Maurice Merleau-Ponty's philosophy into dialogue with literature, evolutionary biology, and animal studies. In a radical departure from most critical animal studies, it argues for evolutionary continuity between human cultural and linguistic behaviors and the semiotic activities of other animals. In his late work, Derrida complained of philosophers who denied that animals possessed such faculties, but he never investigated the wealth of scientific studies of actual animal behavior. Most animal studies theorists still fail to do this. Yet more than fifty years ago, Merleau-Ponty carefully examined the philosophical consequences of scientific animal studies, with profound implications for human language and culture. For him, "animality is the logos of the sensible world: an incorporated meaning." Human being is inseparable from animality. This book differs from other studies of Merleau-Ponty by emphasizing his lifelong attention to science. It shows how his attention to evolutionary biology and ethology anticipated recent studies of animal cognition, culture, and communication.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-8

Contents

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pp. ix-10

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

No one in my generation started out in ecocriticism, because the field did not exist. As I moved from traditional literary scholarship into environmental criticism and interdisciplinary alliances with philosophy and the sciences, I was fortunate to work in a university...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-12

Playwright Eugene Ionesco described archaic humans as living in “a time, long, long ago, when the world seemed to man to be so charged with meanings that he didn’t have time to ask himself questions, the manifestation was so spectacular.” He claimed that at...

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CHAPTER 1. A Philosophy of Life

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pp. 13-44

Human beings and their cultures are deeply enmeshed in the coevolutionary history of life forms, as well as being dynamically involved with the nonliving forms, materials, and energies of the world. But most of Western philosophical tradition has defined...

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CHAPTER 2. Animal Kin

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pp. 45-99

W. H. Auden in his late poems offered a radical answer to the central question of humanism addressed by Pico della Mirandola, Montaigne, Hamlet, Descartes, Darwin, and Heidegger—what is the human? A marvelous chameleon, said Pico, who can move at will up and...

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CHAPTER 3. Language Is Everywhere

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pp. 101-134

Language is central to being human. From Descartes to Heidegger and most contemporary Western philosophers, language and its connection to rationality have defi ned the transcendent Logos that is supposed to distinguish our species.1 Merleau-Ponty spent his...

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Conclusion

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pp. 135-144

Merleau-Ponty wrote in his working notes near the end of his life that his goal was to restore to us the world of “the wild Being,” showing how it is absolutely different from our representations, which cannot exhaust it but which all “reach” it in limited ways....

Notes

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pp. 145-165

Bibliography

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pp. 167-180

Index

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pp. 181-187


E-ISBN-13: 9780823255696
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823255658
Print-ISBN-10: 0823255654

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth
Series Title: Groundworks (FUP)