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Phenomenology of Perception (Routledge Classics) 2nd Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415278416
ISBN-10: 0415278414
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'Merleau-Ponty was one of the most substantial French philosophers of the twentieth century.' - Times Literary Supplement
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Product Details

  • Series: Routledge Classics
  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (May 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415278414
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415278416
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.1 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Merleau-Ponty's work is nothing less than a classic, one of the great works of philosophy in the 20th century. It should go without saying, then, that this work should be made available in an up-to-date and scholarly translation.

Unfortunately, this is what Routledge has refused to do. Not only does this "new" edition maintain all of the known mistakes and inconsistencies of the original translation (most of which were not corrected when the translation was revised twenty years ago), but it also introduces literally dozens of type-setting errors. In addition to all of the obvious mistakes in punctuation and spelling (e.g., "intelfection" on p. xx; "in a world" instead of "in a word" on p. 129; "deralizes" for "derealizes" on p. 140; "writes" for "writers," p. 163; "Rinswanger" for "Binswanger," note 6, p. 185, and the list goes on and on), you will also encounter such lovely gems as "Bergson's inferiority" (instead of "interiority", p. 67) and "adduction" transformed into "abduction" -- when distinguishing between the two is precisely the point of Merleau-Ponty's discussion (p. 243). In short, an already flawed translation has now been bungled into a bloody mess. If you are reading this book for the first time, you would be well-advised to check the used bookstores for a copy of the earlier edition. If you are trying to use this text with students, lots of luck to you!

It is also worth mentioning that Routledge has again failed to include a translation of Merleau-Ponty's original table of contents in this edition, so that many English readers are still unaware that he provided a detailed outline of the entire text to guide the reader. A translation by Daniel Guerriere is available in the Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 10, no. 1 (1979) - although, of course, the page numbers no longer correspond to this "new" edition.
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Format: Hardcover
It is difficult to overstate the importance of this new edition of a twentieth century classic, or the magnitude of the translator's achievement. For five decades the English-language reception of PHENOMENOLOGY OF PERCEPTION has been hampered by the Colin Smith translation, rushed into print shortly after the author's death, apparently with no competent editorial supervision. Donald Landes has done the job right this time, and is supported by an excellent introduction by Taylor Carman. To give a flavor of what's changed, here's a passage from Merleau-Ponty's original, from the opening paragraph of Part I, Ch. 5, "The Body as a Sexed Being":

Or tant que nous nous adressions à l'espace ou à la chose perçue, il n'était pas facile de redécouvrir le rapport du sujet incarné et de son monde, parce qu'ile se transforme de lui-même dans le pur commerce du sujet épistémologique et de l'objet (p. 180).

In the Smith translation, this passage reads:

Now so long as we considered space or the things perceived, it was not easy to rediscover the relationship between the embodied subject and its world, because it is transformed by its own activity into the intercourse between the epistemological subject and the object (p. 178).

Translating 'commerce' as 'intercourse' in a chapter on the body as sexed being gives precisely the wrong impression, and has led to numerous wholly specious interpretations. Here is Landes's text:

But insofar as we focused on space or the perceived thing, it was not easy to discover the relation between the embodied subject and his world because this relation transforms itself in the pure exchange between the epistemological subject and the object (p. 156).

Thank you, Donald Landes, Taylor Carman, and Routledge Press!
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Format: Paperback
As shown in his first book, The Structure of Behavior, and this extension of that piece, Merleau-Ponty was a philosopher who was way ahead of his time.
While Husserl was off sputtering abstractly about phenomenology and 'essences', Merleau-Ponty planted himself squarely into the concrete, thick, world of lived experience: this book is a detailed phenomenological description of of attention, memory, space-perception, free will, and other psychological/phenomenological categories. M-P claims that simply by paying attention to this lifeworld, we see that previous philosophical systems have overlooked ineliminable dimensions of what it is like to be a person, and that this oversight has led to radically incomplete philosophical accounts of things like memory, perception, etc..
The book is so rich, original, and nuanced that it is hard to do it justice in a short review here. Not saddling himself with narrow academic techniques or fields, he draws on any resources he can to come to make sense of human experience. He cites not only philosophers such as Heidegger and Sarte, but draws equally heavily upon the Gestalt psychologists and neuroscientists of his day. He discusses phantom limbs, experiments on spatial perception, and psychophysical results from the Gestalt psychologists.
Many ideas that are popular in modern analytic philosophy and psychology can be found in this book: the view that 'sense data' are simply theoretical constructs, the view that attention focuses on objects not abstract spatial locations, and the claim that our original concepts cannot be understood independently of the embodied interactions with the world where we first come to use them.
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