Merleau-Ponty on taking the attitude of the other

Martin J. Matustik

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Hegel's analysis of the struggle for recognition between two consciousnesses is reconciled by him only in the higher-level subjectivity of absolute consciousness. Merleau-Ponty argues for a paradigm shift from the constitutive model of consciousness and intersubjectivity to a dialogical model that bypasses the aporias of objectification. Dialogue avoids the consequence of mutual annihilation between two consciousnesses fighting for recognition in the objectifying paradigm. But in passing from the natural to the social level of intersubjective selfhood Merleau-Ponty falls short of articulating the linguisticality of the preconscious body-subject. Only because the body-subject is conceived as a prelinguistic, i.e. natural experience, it exhibits the solipsism of the Cartesian cogito. Thus while Merleau-Ponty points out an alternative to the sado-masochistic duel between consciousness as object and other as subject, and consciousness as subject and other as object, this alternative is neither fully cognizant of the difference between the body-consciousness and the discourse of the unconscious (Lacan) nor does it make a conclusive linguistic account of the unconscious, the preconscious, the conscious and the rational intersubjectivity (Habermas). The argument of the paper is that Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of intersubjective selfhood, when further developed through a linguistic theory of communication, can account for Lacan's discourse of the other in the unconscious, on the one hand, and strengthen Habermas’ linguistic theory of communicative ethics, on the other hand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-52
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the British Society for Phenomenology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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