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Phenomenology of Perception (Routledge Classics) 2nd Edition
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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.
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!
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.
I fear that Merleau-Ponty's nuanced philosophical psychology will fall through the cracks, being ignored by continental philosophers who focus on other things nowadays, and also by English speaking philosophers who dismiss Merleau-Ponty because he is a continental philosopher.
If you consider yourself a philosopher of mind, epistemologist, or a continental philosopher, please read this book. Twice.