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Merleau–Ponty on the Body

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The French philosopher Maurice Merleau–Ponty claims that there are two distinct ways in which we can understand the place of an object when we are visually apprehending it. The first involves an intentional relation to the object that is essentially cognitive or can serve as the input to cognitive processes; the second irreducibly involves a bodily set or preparation to deal with the object. Because of its essential bodily component, Merleau–Ponty calls this second kind of understanding ‘motor intentional’. In this paper I consider some phenomenological, conceptual, and cognitive neuro–scientific results that help to elucidate and defend the distinction between intentional and motor intentional activity. I go on to argue that motor intentional activity has a logical structure that is essentially distinct from that of the more canonical kinds of intentional states. In particular, the characteristic logical distinction between the content and the attitude of an intentional state does not carry over to the motor intentional case.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Princeton University

Publication date: 2002-12-01

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