Merleau‐Ponty’s Reading of Kant’s Transcendental Idealism

Southern Journal of Philosophy 57 (1):103-131 (2019)
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The aim of this paper is to explore Merleau-Ponty’s ambivalent relationship with Kant’s transcendental philosophy. I begin by looking at several points of convergence between Kant and Merleau-Ponty, focusing on the affinities between Kant’s account of transcendental realism and Merleau-Ponty’s notion of objective thought. I then show how Merleau-Ponty’s analysis of Kant’s paradox of asymmetrical objects points to a parallel in Kant’s thought to Merleau-Ponty’s thesis of the primacy of perception. In the second part of the paper, I show why Merleau-Ponty believes that, despite the promise of Kant’s thought, he fails to adequately escape from objective thought. After presenting the central claims of the transcendental deduction, I piece together Merleau-Ponty’s criticism of it by answering three questions: For Merleau-Ponty, how do we encounter the world prior to reflection? How is experience constituted? And what leads Kant to mischaracterise experience in his own transcendental philosophy?

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Henry Somers-Hall
Royal Holloway University of London


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