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Title: The operative world : meaning and understanding in Merleau-Ponty
Author: Shaw, Dominic Michael
ISNI:       0000 0004 5363 6539
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis seeks an elucidation of Merleau-Ponty’s conception of 'operative' intentionality (l’intentionnalité opérante). This concept is central to Merleau-Ponty’s discussions of meaning and understanding throughout his career. I argue that Merleau-Ponty’s early work, in which he articulates the nature and place of operative intentionality in agency and perception, makes available a general thesis concerning meaning and understanding. Merleau-Ponty’s central claim here is that meaning should not be conceived of as the outcome of acts of interpretation or judgement. I argue that this general thesis is unsatisfactorily represented in some of the most prominent secondary literature on Merleau-Ponty’s work. Nonetheless, there is a tension at the heart of Phenomenology of Perception that compromises the clarity and coherence of Merleau-Ponty’s conception of operative intentionality. The difficulty lies in the way Merleau-Ponty conceives the relationship between perception and language in the early work. It is this problematic that provides the key to appreciating the developments that Merleau-Ponty instigates through his attempts to formulate a phenomenology of language and expression in the 1950s. Tracing the developments of the middle period work on language in this way allows us to see how Merleau-Ponty’s introduction of a new philosophical lexicon of ‘the flesh’ (la chair) in his final writings is motivated by the attempt to accommodate the general thesis concerning meaning and understanding that originally emerged with Phenomenology of Perception’s conception of operative intentionality.
Supervisor: Baldwin, Thomas ; Allen, Keith Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available