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About this book
This volume is the English translation of sixteen lectures by Maurice Merleau-Ponty given at the Ecole Normale SupTrieure in 1947-48 and reconstituted on the basis of notes taken by some of his most outstanding students. Devoted to three of the great names in the French philosophical tradition, Malebranche, Maine de Biran, and Bergson, these lectures center on a classic problem: the union of the soul and the body. They reveal a line of reasoning that Merleau-Ponty had already traced in The Structure of Behavior and Phenomenology of Perception, and anticipate later developments of his innovative philosophical inquiry in Signs and The Visible and the Invisible. In these lectures Merleau-Ponty demonstrates how Malebranche had articulated an early phenomenology of the human condition, how Maine de Biran had anticipated the central project and related themes of the Phenomenology of Perception, and how certain features of Bergson's method announce key elements of the philosophical methodology expressed in Merleau-Ponty's later works. This volume contains one of Merleau-Ponty's most sustained explications and critiques of BergsonAEs Matter and Memory, and, more important, his only major presentation and critique of the thought of Maine de Biran. The serious student of Merleau-Ponty and of the history of philosophy will find this unique volume of a hitherto-untranslated work of great value.
This book is a series of lectures reconstructed from the notes of several students who took this philosophical survey class from Merleau-Ponty in Paris back in the 1950s. In the introduction, we learn that Michele Foucault treasured his notes, although, unfortunately they were not available for the preparation of this manuscript.For my level of philosophical sophistication, it was rough going. Being written from student's notes, it's a lot like reading Aristotle... telegraphic, concise, not fulsomely explanatory. But Jan Patocka's Body Community Language World is from student's notes and that's extraordinary. The bigger problem for me was that Merleau-Ponty in these lectures was not explicating but criticizing the work of the three philosophers in question, Malebranche, Biran, and Bergson. I am not well versed enough in these philosophers to be able to construct a coherent picture of their philosophy from a text that is essentially trying to poke holes in it. In this regard, I was particularly disappointed in the section on Biran. Merleau-Ponty is particularly sharp in his criticism and it's nearly impossible to get a beat on what exactly Biran's arguments were. The section on Malebrance is better and the one on Bergson contains some real jewels. Only worth the slog for the more sophisticated than I or for the reading masochists who will slog through damn the torpedoes.