Time/Location: Mondays 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Collins Hall, conference room
Instructor: Shiloh Whitney
Office hours: Tuesdays and Fridays 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm
Office: Lowenstein, 916C
This course is an intensive study of the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961). We will read together some of Merleau-Ponty’s most important texts and work through his theory of embodiment across these texts, looking closely at his accounts of the body proper, habit, sensation, perception, language, and art.
The first part of the course explores Merleau-Ponty’s early work, beginning with a set of readings from The Structure of Behavior that explore Merleau-Ponty’s early adaptation of the concept of a gestalt, and focusing on his Phenomenology of Perception and the phenomenology of the body proper that text offers.
In the second part of the course, we will read two shorter texts from Merleau-Ponty’s middle period that explore pivotal developments in his thought. His lectures on “The Child’s Relations with Others” allow us to examine the influence of Merleau-Ponty’s encounter with child psychology and psychoanalysis on his account of the body. The transitional essay “Indirect Language and the Voices of Silence” offers us an opportunity to think through his adaptation of Saussurian linguistics.
The final section of the course addresses Merleau-Ponty’s later work. We will read his last published essay, “Eye and Mind,” as well as selections from the unfinished manuscript of The Visible and the Invisible, focusing on the ontology of “flesh” and “reversibility” these texts develop.
Our overall aim is to bridge the earlier and later works, understanding both the continuities and transformations in Merleau-Ponty’s thought, tracing directions in its development, and appreciating its original contribution to philosophy.
Assignments will involve one or two seminar presentations, one short paper on secondary literature, and one term paper. Further details TBA.