Guide Nature and Logos: A Whiteheadian Key to Merleau-Pontys Fundamental Thought

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Focusing on Merleau-Ponty, Stephen Watson addresses the issue of the incompleteness of the phenomenological reduction. A further pursuit of the political implications of personal anger would be highly valuable to social and political theory, and Babich provides some thoughts and resources on this important issue. Hannah Arendt on Vulnerability, Freedom and Education. Armed with an understanding of these two false assumptions, Rider argues, we can move to the more fundamental problem of what the crisis in education says about our form of life.

Donohoe contends that lifeworld is so deeply intertwined with homeworld and alienworld as to be inseparable, providing the foundation for the objective world but not being itself an objective world. Donohoe is firmly on the side of the latter, drawing on Arendt and Kelly Oliver to craft an understanding of us as intertwined with nature. Her purpose in this analysis is to argue for a conception of animal ethics based on the idea that our human lifeworld is not separate from the animal environment.

In other words, animals are not an alienworld to our homeworld, but our homeworld is grounded in the same environment shared with nonhuman animals. We are therefore responsible to Earth and the other creatures with whom we share the Earth. Taking as his starting point debates over display of the flag at a particular university, Bruno understands the conflict as regarding the definition and meaning of a symbol, not only in a political sense, but in an aesthetic sense.

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Bruno is employing aesthetics less in an artistic sense and more in the sense of how humans perceive the meanings of objects. With this move, he can adroitly position the symbol of the flag within the setting of a culture and language. Putting those images in a lockbox is a recipe for them becoming rancid, tools of resentment and disillusion that fester in the hands of the disengaged, or dare I say, the excluded. She is skeptical of the need for a speculative reading, and drawing on the German Idealists and Niezsche, states that perhaps a praxeological reading of tragedy is adequate to uncover the varied speculative aspects of Greek tragedy.

Dastur instead holds that both the ontological dimension and the political dimension of the tragedy have to be taken into account because they concern human beings in their entirety.

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Finally, the two editors each contribute an essay. From this concept, we can place our emphasis on lateral rather than hierarchical relationships of power that reject structures of domination.

Kontos identifies the pitfall of the myth in Heidegger who, Kontos claims, celebrates pure performativity, distorting the performativity proper to actions. Kontos sees Taminiaux as a corrective for how philosophers like Heidegger and Arendt, under the influence of the Myth, misunderstand the notion of solidarity, power, and memory. The storyteller is portrayed as not engaged in the web of political action so that the elusive character of actions is therefore not a predicament.

When we reject the Myth, we put the storyteller and the actor into a new light showing that the practice of historical storytelling is intrinsically political. Each chapter focuses on a specific subset of philosophical issues related to perception, all of them initially addressed by Merleau-Ponty in The Phenomenology of Perception henceforth the Phenomenology.

Perception and its Development has two strikingly original aspects. First, although the authors use ideas thematized by Merleau-Ponty in the Phenomenology as guidelines for their expositions, their understandings of these ideas are not limited to this context. This strategy both offers us a different and broader perspective on the Phenomenology , and opens the door to new hermeneutical possibilities of this work that are unexplored in other companion readers. Instead, they usually appeal to more contemporary problems in diverse areas of philosophy, science, arts, and even politics, a method that unveils through demonstration the similar approach used by Merleau-Ponty in his work to the philosophical problems of his concern.

The fifteen chapters are separated in four sections.

Tag: Intersubjectivity

The logic behind the section divisions, the editors claim 8 , is to reproduce the progressive advance made by Merleau-Ponty in the Phenomenology , from the most basic aspects of our perceptual experience i. Despite the general similitude in the organization of Perception and its Development with the Phenomenology , the structure of this volume also displays a very different order of exposition.

For instance, Perception and its Development begins by explicitly addressing the questions of passivity, intersubjectivity, and even freedom—all subjects that are addressed much later in the Phenomenology. This new order has both negative and positive consequences. Nevertheless, the alternative would be to follow the less original path already taken by most companion readers to the Phenomenology. Given their depth and complexity, a detailed description of the ideas posited in each chapter surpasses the scope of this review.

In what follows, I shall summarize the main proposals of each author, focusing on the four conceptual divisions of this book.

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In chapter one, John Russon describes the act of paying attention as an act of freedom. This freedom is, however, not to be understood as the independent will of our minds 25 , but as an act shaped and constrained by the organic nature of our bodies, the physical conditions of the environment, and, fundamentally, our engagement with others in shared projects This is because our perceptual attention exhibits the capacity of our bodies to be responsive to particular conditions of the environment that call for a specific set of actions i.

This responsiveness of the body is generated through a process of habituation 31 , but the normative process of habit acquisition is importantly determined by the intersubjective dimension. This is because the plasticity of the world and of the body is not enough to establish the necessary conditions for the criteria of adequateness needed to make our bodies responsive to worldly situations Work and communication are described by Russon as further expressions of our freedom in human contexts In chapter two, we find a more detailed description of the nature of the interrelation of the body and the environment in what Maria Talero calls experiential workspace.

That is, the space where the bodily skills and the affordances of the environment are related. It is by understanding the rhythm of music in my body that I am able to coordinate my body movements with those of my partner, and effectively dance Maclaren names this process an entre-deux dialogue between an embodied being and the environment Maclaren offers three examples of institution: artistic expression, perception, and emotion, the most intriguing of which is the latter.

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Emotions, such as the love described by Merleau-Ponty in his lectures of Institution, are not psychological states of individuals, but the very relation through which two people are entangled This process of institution is possible only when the child reestablishes the equilibrium of the interfamilial relations Merleau-Ponty argues in the Phenomenology that a blind person using a cane to navigate, given their habitual use of it, may incorporate the tool to the sensibility of their body.

Likewise, for Bredlau, our perception extends its reach by involving the active participation of other people An incorporation, Bredlau explains, involves a new form of sensitivity: the use of the cane is not the transformation of tactile experience in vision-like experience. Rather, it entails the acquisition of a new form of spatial navigation.

Bredlau distinguishes three types of scaffoldings based on other people incorporations: placement, engagement, and handling. The first type concerns the role of others drawing the paths of movement; the second refers to the influence of other people in constraining the possible actions that can be afforded in particular situations; and the third involves their participation in the development of the bodily skills necessary to function in such situations From this perspective, Jacobson addresses the case of spatial neglect , a condition where people, having suffered brain damage, are incapable of moving one side of their bodies, and equally incapable of explicitly perceiving this same side in their visual field Thus, what is at stake in this condition is the incapacity of their lived bodies to create new spatial levels by actualizing the relation between their actual bodily skills and the present environmental conditions, a capacity we normally possess, and through which we adapt ourselves to the ever-changing realm of worldly situations The crucial step of this chapter is to highlight that the habitual body grounds its own stability through movement.

The differences between the living bodies of humans and octopuses provide a good example of the peculiarities of movement and the institution of their bodies. Octopuses do not possess joints like us, their bodies are quite flexible. Joints, however, are fixed points of articulation that enable the opposition of different parts of our body and support further sequences of movement and patterns of locomotion.

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Since an octopus lacks these joints in its physical body, it needs to create the fixed points in its own patterns of movement—that is, in moving, it creates its own joints By contrast, we have joints that certainly constraint the flexibility of our limbs, but at the same time increases the possibilities of movement for our whole body.

Thus, paradoxically, the reduced flexibility of our limbs increases the range of freedom of our bodily movements An interesting comparison between perceiving and learning to read is made by Beith at the end of this chapter. Beith believes that we learn to read by writing, and only understand the meaning of read words by also being actively engaged in the motor task of speaking and writing Although the editors say that the second part of Perception and its development would directly deal with the concepts of generality and objectivity in perception, it is not until chapters seven and eight that such concepts are explicitly addressed.

In chapter seven, Moss Brender turns our attention from the perceptual realm of lived space to the perceptual experience of objective space , and in particular our perception of things. The key to understand the difference between lived and objective spatiality is the exercise of symbolic conduct : a sort of second order capacity, a second power , that turns the habitual motor significances into explicit or thematic objects of our experience Moss Brender further describes how space has a crucial temporal dimension.

On the one hand, space, as grounded in the developmental nature of the body, has an unfixed meaning that is open to the constant changes of that body. On the other hand, the meaning of space cannot be reduced to the activity of this body since space also involves a general or impersonal dimension that precedes the very existence of any-body Therefore, the space in which the body participates, the general space embodied by the orientation of the general past, is a tradition or an institution , but one that cannot be made fully explicit insofar as it transcends every possible individual body.

In chapter eight, David Ciavatta explicitly approaches the subject of time , and in particular its generality. He argues that, although our notion of time as an objective dimension of the world is rooted in the lived time of the embodied subject, it is the cyclical nature of time that gives it its generality, which does not correspond to any particular experience, but makes all of them possible. Nonetheless, there is a discontinuity within this generality that makes these recurrent patterns identifiable as episodes of an even more general or continuous time, just like this present moment is part of the present day of the present week, and so on.

These temporal episodes, always nested in broader cycles, do not represent a simultaneous happening of all of them at once , but a disintegration of cycles into more general fields of presence However, since the generality of time is grounded on the existence of individual cycles, each episode of time has an individuality that makes it unique in the general field of time In this regard, any experiential subject has a limited duration marked by the start of their own birth.

The time before their birth cannot, nonetheless, be experienced by them, though it can be experienced by someone else. The experience of natural cycles has the same historical or episodic feature. Consequently, the world has its own duration, its own history, its own episode, that is also part of a more general time. But here, we face a level of generality that cannot be lived by anybody—that is, the world has a past that has never been present, and this reveals some sort of natural a priori of time In keeping with the question of time, David Morris, in chapter nine, lead us deeper into the question of how the temporally open-ended relation of living beings and the environment grounds the emergence of meaning.

This balance, though, still might be considered as real if we consider it as a phenomenon of time —that is as balanc ing Briefly, the balancing movement might be oriented towards an optimal state of balance, but this optimality depends on the forces already at work at any particular moment of the movement such as gravity, momentum, inertia. Thus a balancing object moves towards this never fully given point of balance its future that carries on its past the preset of the dynamic forces The establishment of spatial levels exhibits the same characteristic of balance in terms of the body. The habitual response of the body to the call of different situations is guided by a norm that is not fixed or set in advance of the actual history of embodiment and enactment of the space of any particular situation However, in this latter case, the past of the body is not only the immediate past of its movement, but also the stable structure of the past represented by the habitual or virtual body , and the actualization of his actions when coping with the present conditions of the environment This same phenomenon occurs in perception, where significant changes take place at the level of the stable structure of the environment Basically, Morris argues that perception is an expressive act that involves the generation of new meanings through an institutional process Perception articulates new levels by generating new optimal points of balance meaning , from the already given forces the instituted past in its encounter with the present.

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However, since this expressive act generates a never fully given meaning, the indeterminateness of meaning leaves room for the institution of new meanings This indeterminateness, however, possess a directedness which is an excess, or a pregnancy of potential for new meanings. This excess, Morris argues, is temporality itself In chapter ten, we find one of the most peculiar texts of this volume.

Neither the physical stimuli nor an act of consciousness are enough to explain its unified nature This raises the problem of the integration of two different perspectives unified in the visual experience we habitually have. A more holistic approach to binocularity is taken by Merleau-Ponty as early as the Structure of Behavior , but it is in the Phenomenology that Merleau-Ponty offers an account of this issue in terms of an existential project —that is, in terms of the articulation of the body in light of a particular situations soliciting movement.

Moreover, the kind of unification represented by this binocularity is more than a synthesis. In the Visible and the Invisible , Merleau-Ponty describes this synthesis as a metamorphosis that expresses the power on perception perceptual faith to reveal the world as a unified whole where communication with others is possible This communication, like binocular vision, also entails the ambiguity of two perspectives looking at the same object, but nonetheless engaged in one single project By contrast, for the monocular view of the cyclops, the world is revealed as a sheer positivity that is, presences without ambiguity This makes him an isolated being, enclosed in his solipsism, and thereby excluded from the normative domain of law, language and love, characteristic of humans.

For Levinas, Merleau-Ponty ignores the radical separation between the self and the other Marrato identifies three main lines of criticism. Instead, vision is an act very similar to touch. But unlike touch, vision is a distancing experience that further emphasizes the inherent depth of the horizons of the world Painting, thereby, does not represent the world but articulates new forms of meaning, a new way to look at the world. Painting, Marratto argues, is already an ethical act since a normative dimension is already present in the very act of expression Expression is achieved when the painter or the seer gives birth to a new meaning—but this meaning is not merely the creation of the painter or the seer.

Rather, the visible imposes its own criteria of correctness on the act of expression , even as the visible is itself not fully determined in advance In this regard, vision opens up to something that is other than itself, questioning and responding through the expressive act of painting and perception. This space of alterity inhabits the body itself since the reversible act of the hand touching and being touched exhibits a never fully given coincidence within itself A similar account is given across the different modalities of perception such as vision and touch, and in binocularity Hence the expressive act of perception always involves some degree of alterity.

In chapter twelve, Mathew J. Goodwin explores the notion of aesthetic ideas. Goodwin starts by introducing us to the distinction made by Merleau-Ponty adapted from Leonardo da Vinci between two different kinds of artistic expressions: prosaic lines and flexuous lines. By contrast, flexuous lines aim to bring our aesthetic experience toward the very genesis of our perceptual experience, the lived space where things are situated and where they become enacted by our bodily activity. Thus, it is by revealing this genesis that an artist gives us an aesthetic idea , making visible the usually invisible depth of a thing He argues that phenomenal space and the ontological notion of the flesh in Merleau-Ponty entail the phenomenon of mourning.

Phenomenal Space or depth are concepts that redefine our traditional notions of space and time Instead of conceiving space and time as already given dimensions where objects and events are juxtaposed and mutually excluded, depth is the dimension where they are seen to encroach upon one another Kristensen is especially interested in the phenomenon of mourning as it is implicated in the temporal dimension of depth Merleau-Ponty describes our experience of the world as involving not only its presence, but also its past.

However, this foundational dimension of the body represents the already-being-there of the body, its past that cannot be seen but afterwards Mourning, then, is the process of restructuring bodily spatiality insofar as it is a process that set us free from the past, allowing us to become newly instituted in the present. Nonetheless, the divergence of the body from itself is a process of loss, through which the subject of perception has already vanished even before they try to look at themself.

The immersion of the body in the world, becoming part of the flesh the ontological basis of meaning exhibits its dual form of appearance as seeing and being seen. This phenomenon, for Costello, is analogous to the Aristotelian affirmation that democracy requires the capacity of citizens to govern and being governed Moreover, the immersion of the body in the flesh involves the interrelation of the body with multiple anonymous other bodies, and thus has an intercorporeal aspect to it This means that the flesh enables an anonymous dimension of visibility , like the space of the intertwining with other people—that is, the public space where we are always already interrelated one each other.

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Nevertheless, the full access to this public space involves our explicit engagement in it, by mutually caring for one another so as to create a community The volume ends with an exquisite text from Laura McMahon, where phenomenology is described as the reflection on first order perception. McMahon begins her argument by distinguishing between first- and second-order expression.

For Merleau-Ponty, a thought or an idea cannot be given before its linguistic expression since it is in the process of its concrete articulation in language that thought become explicit for the thinker themself, and for the others. Consequently, it is in the moment of speaking or writing that thoughts acquire their particular meaning, their existence The meaningful wholes of perception Gestalten are the analogous unities of meaning to sentences in speech In here, McMahon argues, it is also possible to find a second order of perception where things appear as already made objects, fully given in advance to our encounter, as if our own presence were irrelevant for their appearance.