Sense, Language, and Ontology in Merleau-Ponty and Hyppolite

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Abstract

Hyppolite stresses his proximity to Merleau-Ponty, but the received interpretation of his “anti-humanist” reading of Hegel suggests a greater distance between their projects. This paper focuses on an under-explored dimension of their philosophical relationship. I argue that Merleau-Ponty and Hyppolite are both committed to formulating a mode of philosophical expression that can avoid the pitfalls of purely formal or literal and purely aesthetic or creative modes of expression. Merleau-Ponty’s attempt to navigate this dichotomy, I suggest, closely resembles Hyppolite’s interpretation of Hegel’s “speculative” mode of expression. In particular, his emphasis on the “mediating” character of philosophical language, which moves between descriptive and creative expression, suggests a debt to Hyppolite. This reading provides more evidence to think that Hyppolite cannot be straightforwardly understood as an anti-humanist or post-phenomenological thinker, and paves the way for a rapprochement between his work and the broader phenomenological tradition.

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