Phenomenological reduction in Merleau‐Ponty's The Structure of Behavior: An alternative approach to the naturalization of phenomenology

European Journal of Philosophy 28 (1):15-32 (2020)
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Approaches to the naturalization of phenomenology usually understand naturalization as a matter of rendering continuous the methods, epistemologies, and ontologies of phenomenological and natural scientific inquiry. Presupposed in this statement of the problematic, however, is that there is an original discontinuity, a rupture between phenomenology and the natural sciences that must be remedied. I propose that this way of thinking about the issue is rooted in a simplistic understanding of the phenomenological reduction that entails certain assumptions about the subject matter of phenomenology and its relationship to the natural sciences. By contrast, Merleau‐Ponty's first work, The Structure of Behavior, presents a radically different approach to the phenomenological reduction, one that traverses the natural sciences and integrates them into phenomenology from the outset. I outline the argument for this position in The Structure of Behavior and then discuss consequences for current methodological issues surrounding the naturalization of phenomenology, focusing on the relationship between empirical sciences of mind, phenomenological psychology, and transcendental phenomenology. This novel exegesis of Merleau‐Ponty's view on the reduction offers new insight into his oft‐quoted remark that the phenomenological reduction is impossible to complete.

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Hayden Kee
Chinese University of Hong Kong


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