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Episteme

Abstract

Merold Westphal wrongly interprets the political power of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of ambiguity. Yet, Westphal is right about Merleau-Ponty’s politics as aesthetic: the essence of Merleau-Ponty’s political proposal is political activity defined as concrete lived-experience. The author argues in support of Merleau-Ponty’s politics, which, by way of the ambiguity of perception, must be related to his phenomenology. To keep dialogue—being-for-others—open, Merleau-Ponty embraces situated-ness. This allows him to avoid the foundationalist pitfalls of existential modality that lead to justifying vanguard party terrorism. Furthermore, his understanding of inter-subjectivity frees the proletariat from being irrational subjects merely used by political leadership. If Merleau-Ponty seems politically complacent, it is due to his recognizing that the revolutionary urge requires inviting horizons of Being, which depends far more on history’s gestalt than logical ground. But his critical politics, which steers clear of appeals to the Absolute, engenders true responsibility: openness to change, ambiguity, and pluralism.

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