Merleau-Ponty’s Developmental Ontology

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Publication Date
October 2018
Page Count
312 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Merleau-Ponty’s Developmental Ontology

David Morris

Winner of the 2020 Edward Goodwin Ballard Prize in Phenomenology

Merleau-Ponty's Developmental Ontology
shows how the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, from its very beginnings, seeks to find sense or meaning within nature, and how this quest calls for and develops into a radically new ontology. 

David Morris first gives an illuminating analysis of sense, showing how it requires understanding nature as engendering new norms. He then presents innovative studies of Merleau-Ponty's The Structure of Behavior and Phenomenology of Perception, revealing how these early works are oriented by the problem of sense and already lead to difficulties about nature, temporality, and ontology that preoccupy Merleau-Ponty's later work. Morris shows how resolving these difficulties requires seeking sense through its appearance in nature, prior to experience—ultimately leading to radically new concepts of nature, time, and philosophy.

Merleau-Ponty's Developmental Ontology makes key issues in Merleau-Ponty's philosophy clear and accessible to a broad audience while also advancing original philosophical conclusions.
About the Author

DAVID MORRIS is a professor of philosophy at Concordia University. He is the author of The Sense of Space. 

"Merleau-Ponty's Developmental Ontology is simply a great book. Morris's accounts of life and nature are creative and deeply philosophical. I might be exaggerating a little when I say this, but I think this is the best Merleau-Ponty book I have ever read." —Leonard Lawlor, author of Early Twentieth Century Continental Philosophy

“This book is unique as a contribution both to Merleau-Ponty scholarship and to a renewed phenomenological ontology. Drawing on contemporary life sciences and cosmology, it presents an organic and dynamic view of how meaning and a factual order arise and appear in being, space, and time. Hardly ever has the plea for a radical transcendental empiricism, instead of traditional forms of subjectivism, been made so concretely and convincingly.” —Rudolf Bernet, author of Force, Drive, Desire: A Philosophy of Psychoanalysis

"This scintillating text offers two books for the price of one: not only does it offer an insightful and innovative reading of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, early and late, but it also establishes David Morris as an original voice to be heard in its own right. The reader is provided with a rich panoply of new ways of finding sense embedded in experience and in being, and all this in the context of a phenomenology of nature, a new model of 'development' of life and the cosmos, and an inaugural notion of “templacement” that surpasses earlier discussions of space and time and is shown to be the foundation of a radically new ontology. The result is a tour de force in which contemporary immunology and biology and cosmic theory join forces with Merleau-Ponty’s final search for 'wild being.' This is one of the most exciting, intellectually engaging, and profound books of our time." —Edward S. Casey, author of The World on Edge

Morris’s thorough work represents some of the very best in contemporary scholarship in Merleau-Ponty. His lucid and pedagogical style is at once light and humorful with personal asides, while also being philosophically rich, rigorous, and engaging. Not only will any reader—from the newcomer to the well-seasoned scholar—gain fresh insight into Merleau-Ponty, but they will also witness the unfolding of a new ontology from a boldly original, well-spoken thinker." Journal of the Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition

"The overall argument amounts to a transcendental elucidation of the underlying ontological conditions that make sense possible . . .  Morris's book is an outstanding contribution that raises the bar of Merleau-Ponty scholarship in a way that will undoubtedly inspire and enable much further excellent work." —Bryan Smyth, The Review of Metaphysics

"Morris’s book is original and imaginative, and it does not assume familiarity with scholarly debates. It bears on discussions in object-oriented ontology, recent Continental philosophy of time, nature, and biology, and embodied/enactive approaches to cognitive science. Required reading for specialists but also an excellent guide for the relatively uninitiated. . . . Highly recommended." —Choice