Macquarie University
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Physis, logos, history: Husserl and Merleau-Ponty on the historicity of rationality

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posted on 2023-11-02, 22:44 authored by Cenk Atli

In this thesis, I argue that late Merleau-Ponty's transformation of post-Husserlian phenomenology, based on his ontological shift, leads to a depiction of the historicity of rationality in which the Presocratic notion of element can be considered as having a key importance. The problem of the historicity of rationality applies to any period in human history. However, the thesis focuses on Western history and philosophy and argues that the "Presocratic moment", is crucial for an elucidation of a Merleau-Pontian approach to historicity. The first part examines the work of Husserl, delineating a tension between his notion of transcendental subjectivity and the field of operative intentionality, a tension that is reflected in Husserl’s account of the historicity of rationality. This critical analysis of Husserlian phenomenology helps to emphasize how Merleau-Ponty's late ontology overcomes these tensions through the implications of a circular interconnectedness between physis, logos and history. Following a teleological reading of Merleau-Ponty's Structure of Behaviour and Phenomenology of Perception from the perspective of his late ontology, the third and most important part of the thesis tries to show that Merleau-Ponty's concept of flesh and his retrieval of the Presocratic notion of element, both taken as two key milestones in the history of rationality, provide us with a better understanding of the key notion of a vertical history of wild Being. The thesis presents a formal model to understand this crucial notion, as an ongoing historical and cultural flow that has the shape of a double-edged spiral circularity combining vertical ontological depth and horizontal symbolic distance.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Part I. Husserl’s Transcendental Phenomenology and the Historicity of Rationality -- Part II. Merleau-Ponty and Ontology -- Part III. Merleau-Ponty’s Aesthetic Rationality and the historicity of rationality -- Bibliography

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Doctor of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Department of Philosophy

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Jean-Philippe Deranty

Additional Supervisor 1

Robert Sinnerbrink


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




218 pages

Former Identifiers

AMIS ID: 245721

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