Merleau-Ponty's Notion of Pre-Reflective Intentionality

Synthese 118 (1):69-88 (1999)
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This article presents an interpretation of Merleau-Ponty's notion of pre-reflective intentionality, explicating the similarities and differences between his and Husserl's understandings of intentionality. The main difference is located in Merleau-Ponty's critique of Husserl's noesis-noema structure. Merleau-Ponty seems to claim that there can be intentional acts which are not of or about anything specific. He defines intentionality by its ``directedness'', which is described as a bodily, concrete spatial motility. Merleau-Ponty's understanding of intentionality is part of his attempt to rewrite the relation between the universal and the particular. He claims that meaning is intrinsic to the phenomenal field and impossible to analyse by a distinction between form and matter. Still, Merleau-Ponty's notion of meaning and philosophy is strictly opposed to any naturalized philosophy. This becomes explicated at the end of the article, where his attempt to embody intentionality is compared to Daniel Dennett's corresponding approach.



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Martina Reuter
University of Helsinki

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