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Maurice Merleau-ponty

After the war, Sartre's younger colleague Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908–1961) convinced him that he should modify his "absolute" insistence on freedom in his later works, although his insistence on freedom and responsibility remains. Merleau-Ponty went on to develop his own radical revision of the phenomenology of freedom and the essentially embodied nature of human consciousness. Following Sartre, Merleau-Ponty expanded the role of the body in phenomenology. Accordingly, Husserl's intentionality becomes motility, and instead of dis-embodied perception we have the body's orientation to the world. It is a radical move, and phenomenology could not quite keep up with it. So when phenomenology was replaced in French thinking, by the new wave of poststructuralism, the body retained its now privileged position but phenomenology moved to the margins. It is still practiced by diehard Husserlians and Sartreans, and it has become a valuable tool—one among many—for researchers on all sorts of psychological topics, but as an exclusive approach to philosophy, a "first philosophy," it is now for the most part simply a part of history.


Brentano, Franz. Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint. Edited by Oskar Kraus and Linda L. McAlister. Translated by Antos C. Raucella et al. London: Routledge, Kegan and Paul, 1973.

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper, 1962.

Husserl, Edmund. Cartesian Meditations. Translated by Dorion Cairns. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1964.

——. Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology. Translated by W. R. Boyce-Gibson. London: Macmillan, 1931.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness. Translated by Hazel E. Barnes. New York: Philosophical Library, 1956.

Scheler, Max. Formalism in Ethics and Non-formal Ethics of Values. 5th rev. ed. Translated by Manfred S. Frings and Roger L. Funk. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

——. The Nature of Sympathy. Translated by Peter Heath. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1954.

Solomon, Robert C. From Hegel to Existentialism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

——. From Rationalism to Existentialism: The Existentialists and Their Nineteenth-Century Backgrounds. New York: Harper and Row, 1972.

Robert C. Solomon

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Pebi- to History of Philosophy - IndifferentismPhenomenology - Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Max Scheler And Emmanuel LĂ©vinas, Jean-paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-ponty