A More Whiteheadian Merleau-Ponty

I’m in the process of reviewing an excellent book, Nature and Logos: A Whiteheadian Key to Merleau-Ponty’s Fundamental Thought, by William Hamrick and Jan van der Veken.  It’s so thorough in its research and references, you can get a lot out of the book even if you don’t pay attention to the overall argument that the authors are presenting.  If you do pay attention to that overall argument, you’ll find a clear and constructive articulation of Merleau-Ponty’s “fundamental thought,” that is, his “new ontology,” which he was developing in the years before his untimely death at the age of 53. 

A lot of books talk about Merleau-Ponty’s new ontology and speculate about what his unfinished ontology would look like if he would have had a chance to finish it.  What’s interesting about Nature and Logos is that it supplements that new ontology with a Whiteheadian key, building on Merleau-Ponty’s similarity to and explicit interest in Whitehead’s philosophy of Nature as process.  To support the connection between Merleau-Ponty and process philosophy, the book draws attention to the influence of the evolutionary philosophies of Schelling and Bergson for Merleau-Ponty’s concepts of Nature, time, space, consciousness, body, perception, humanity, etc.  There’s also a chapter on the Stoic logos endiathetos, which parallels Merleau-Ponty’s understanding of Nature as a sensible logos.

The only thing I’ve been disappointed in is the lack of Whitehead in the book.  There’s a good amount of Whitehead in there, good in quality and quantity, but the title made me think that there would be a lot more.  Two names in the title, Merleau-Ponty and Whitehead, yet the Whitehead references are far fewer than the Merleau-Ponty references.  Overall, it’s a book about Merleau-Ponty’s ontology of the flesh, and Whitehead along with Stoicism, Schelling, and Bergson are shown to be keys to that ontology.  Nature and Logos has prepared the ground for the development of an even more Whiteheadian Merleau-Ponty and, hopefully, a more phenomenological process philosophy.


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