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Merleau-Ponty's Philosophy (Studies in Continental Thought) Paperback – May 7, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Hass has a profound understanding of Merleau-Ponty's thought." ―Leonard Lawlor, University of Memphis



"[T]his is one of the few [Merleau-Ponty books] that is genuinely important." ―Symposium



"[T]his ambitious text is well worth reading... Toadvine offers a bold, yet carefully constructed reading of the early ontology oriented by Merleau-Ponty’s later self-evaluations of it." ―Environmental Ethics



"... a valuable contribution to scholarship bridging analytic and Continental concerns.... clear and largely jargon-free.... Recommended." ―Choice, January 2009



"This book will quickly become the staple Merleau-Ponty reference for both graduate and undergraduate students." ―Dorothea Olkowski, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs



One would think that scholarship on Merleau-Ponty nearly a half-century after his death would consist largely of mopping up disputed details. But longtime Merleau-Ponty scholar Hass (Muhlenberg College) contends that central points of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy, particularly his understanding of cognition, remain largely misunderstood. Hass's aim is twofold: (1) to interpret and defend major strands in Merleau-Ponty's overall thought, including his phenomenological method, work on perception, embodiment, intersubjectivity, and ontology in a way accessible to relative beginners; and (2) to excavate his theory of expression. For Merleau-Ponty, conceptualization and language are not representational products of the mind's access to an ideal or transcendental realm, but rather evidences of the multifaceted expressive possibilities of bodily life. After extensive stage-setting, Hass delves into philosophy of mathematics to make t! he case that Merleau-Ponty's model of cognition is a compelling alternative to current theories. Along the way, he considers many of Merleau-Ponty's most influential critics, including Foucault and Derrida, to arrive at a nuanced assessment of Merleau-Ponty's weaknesses as well as his strengths. The result is a valuable contribution to scholarship bridging analytic and Continental concerns. While clear and largely jargon-free, it remains bracing going. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers. --Choice A. B. Curry, St. Joseph College, January 2009

From the Publisher

"Hass has a profound understanding of Merleau-Ponty's thought." --Leonard Lawlor, University of Memphis

"This book will quickly become the staple Merleau-Ponty reference for both graduate and undergraduate students." --Dorothea Olkowski, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Continental Thought
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press (May 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253219736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253219732
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #967,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Matthew M. Perry on June 12, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just checked this book out from the new books shelf at my university library, and after reading just 30 pages, I must say it is by far the best written general introduction to Merleau-Ponty I have yet read. I've been conducting research on Merleau-Ponty for the purpose of a paper on his political thought for about a month now, and I have found the best secondary literature on Merleau-Ponty to be erudite and focused but not particularly helpful to one beginning with the texts. On the other hand, those philosophical texts which fancy themselves as introductory or general are almost universally awful (I must exclude Phenomenology Of Merleau Ponty: A Search For The Limits Of Consciousness (Series In Continental Thought)- an excellent and learned general, though not quite introductory, text). This text manages to be a general and clear introduction while at the same time being very learned and non-superficial. Moreover, its five-page introduction to phenomenology is the best statement of the strength and place of phenomenology I have yet read. If you care anything about phenomenology or Merleau-Ponty you must read this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lawrence Hass has written an excellent introduction to Merleau-Ponty's philosophy. The other reviewers have already pointed out some of the things which make this a good introduction and I agree with their assessments completely. Hass writes accessibly but without sacrificing depth. I thought his explanations of Merleau-Ponty's late philosophy, especially Merleau-Ponty's notions of the flesh, reversibility, and ecart were some of the best I have read. Hass also brings Merleau-Ponty into dialogue with a number of other philosophers such as Levinas and Deleuze. His comparisons between Merleau-Ponty and Levinas on alterity I thought were especially excellent. Not only was it one of the better explanations of Merleau-Ponty's theory of alterity that I have read but it was some of the clearest and most interesting writing on Levinas I have ever read as well. Hass also draws attention to the importance of Merleau-Ponty's new expressive notion of cognition, which is an important and often overlooked area of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy. So this book has a lot to recommend it and is certainly required reading for anyone interested in Merleau-Ponty or phenomenology in general. The rest of my review is a more detailed analysis of some of the main ideas expressed in this book and can be skipped by anyone who is uninterested.

I.

Merleau-Ponty was a phenomenologist in the tradition of Husserl and Heidegger. Phenomenology has drawn a great deal of criticism particularly from philosophers in the analytic traditions of philosophy. Phenomenology is accused of being irrational, subjectivistic, and immune to criticism. Hass attempts, in his introduction to this book, to defend phenomenology from these criticisms and he does an excellent job.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Lawrence Hass's introduction to phenomenology is a marvellous piece of work, which manages to elucidate Merleau-Ponty's ideas without over-simplification or "dumbing down" the sometimes thorny complexity of his philosophical project. Given the current pace of advancement of cognitive science, it seems that the time has come for Merleau-Ponty's thinking around embodiment to receive some overdue acknowledgement, and Hass clearly understands the significance of Merleau-Ponty's ideas for a new epistemological framework, one with due regard for the place of the body and intentionality in philosophy of mind.

Hass is not afraid to point out some potential problems in Merleau-Ponty's work, and this unbiased attitude of inquiry brings to the book a balanced outlook and some useful connections to the theories of other continental philosophers, especially Derrida and Levinas. Hass also describes with some clarity the key differences between Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, and this clears up (for the relatively uninitiated, in whose ranks I place myself) some of the difficulties in the beginning of "Phenomenology of Perception," not always the most approachable of texts. Excellent, and well worth the effort to get to grips with the work of a major continental philosopher.

A small caveat: for some reason, the hyper-linked end notes on the Kindle for iPhone edition I purchased don't work at all, which makes for time-consuming reading. Hopefully the publishers will sort this problem out in due course.
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Format: Paperback
In the review above, Matthew Perry writes: "This text manages to be a general and clear introduction while at the same time being very learned and non-superficial. Moreover, its five-page introduction to phenomenology is the best statement of the strength and place of phenomenology I have yet read. If you care anything about phenomenology or Merleau-Ponty you must read this book." I could not agree more. This is an excellent introduction to Merleau-Ponty's thought through all of its phases. It is very clearly written and accessible. I highly recommend it to readers wishing to a get a grip on the thought of this important philosopher.
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