Body-subject as an ambiguous, conditioned freedom: The subject and freedom in Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of perception



Robinson, Andrew Alan

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University of Guelph


The subject is always a body, always in the world. Merleau-Ponty's investigation of the subject brings to light parallel structures in the various attributes of the subject. These parallels are indebted to the underlying structure of the subject's operational intentionality. Each of the attributes is of an existential nature, and the subject is at heart a transcendence, which shows itself in the forms of spatiality, motility, and temporality. Our being as intersubjective bodies, our being-in-the-world, sets limits on our freedom. The subject as freedom can transcend these limits (context), but never its being as limited (contextualized). Merleau-Ponty casts the distinctions between subject, body, world, and other in an ambiguous light. This makes an analysis of the interplay of freedom and limit in the actions of the subject indeterminable. Therefore, the subject, as transcendence, is freedom, and the subject, as being-in-the-world, limits this freedom, and lends it an ambiguity.



Merleau-Ponty, phenomenology of perception, body, subject, ambiguous conditioned freedom