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Merleau-Ponty and the Mystery of Perception

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Abstract

This article offers an overview of the structure and significance of Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology. Neither a psychological nor an epistemological theory, Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception is instead an attempt to describe perceptual experience as we experience it. Although he was influenced heavily by Husserl, Heidegger, and Gestalt psychology, his work departs significantly from all three. Particularly original is his account of our bodily, precognitive experience of other persons, which he argues is essentially more primitive than any belief or doubt we can raise concerning the contents or even the existence of their minds. I conclude with a discussion of the differences between Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology and Alva Noë's more recent ‘enactive’ theory of perception.

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