Penn State

Glen A. Mazis - Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Penn State Harrisburg

Book Title: Phenomenology of Perception

Author: Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Book Description:

For the past three decades, this philosophical work has been a magic carpet for me. It has transported me to a world of wonder that I'm not sure that I would have discovered without it. The strange thing is that this awe inspiring world is the world under our feet that we live within every day. Merleau-Ponty succeeded in his attempt to make us see the taken for granted world in a new way that reveals how deep it is in untapped meaning. I never had the honor to meet Merleau-Ponty before he died (as I was young and hadn't yet discovered philosophy), yet I feel as though he has been my teacher and has been at my side for most of my adult life. This work allowed me to see that embodiment and our relationship to other people and the natural and cultural worlds was more intimate, more layered and more fecund in transformative significance that I could have conceived alone. It is also a daring book that along with Merleau-Ponty's later works sketch out horizons about solutions to problems of thought in many areas where we are just understanding decades later how insightful they are. Merleau-Ponty gave me enough tasks to pursue further to keep me engaged for a lifetime.

The other important aspect of this book for me is that it opened up a new vision of what philosophy could be and of different ways to write. Merleau-Ponty drew from so many sources, the history of philosophy, literature, psychology, depth psychology, history, sociology, and others, and yet wove them together in a way that made each field inform the others in a way they couldn't signify alone. This inspired me to pursue an interdisciplinary approach within my philosophical inquiries. It also made me see that abstract concepts need to be worked out in terms of these concrete situations from other disciplines or otherwise the concepts are empty. Finally, the poetry of Merleau-Ponty's style helped to free me from the restricted and deadening prose of much of traditional philosophy. It changed my writing as a philosopher and that changed my thinking. Ultimately, it has led me to pursue a path as a writer not only of philosophy, but also to become a poet.


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