Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The imagination plays a central role in Merleau-Ponty's philosophy. In his earlier works, the imagination is shown to be the creative ability of the body to have a sense of space and motility in terms of which we are able to make sense of the world. In his later works, the view that the human body is a dynamic and creative process of realizing possibilities is extended to ontology; Being is shown to be a continual dissemination of meaning through the medium of 'flesh'. Thus Merleau-Ponty's philosophy, from start to finish, is a philosophy of the imagining body. This thesis begins with a discussion of imagination theory in order to show that there are four kinds of imagining: (i) perceptual imagining, (ii) aesthetic imagining, (iii) fanciful imagining, and (iv) elemental imagining. It is shown how Merleau-Ponty's philosophy of the imagination covers each kind, and how his analysis is superior to those of many other philosophers. Merleau-Ponty's theory of the body is then examined in the light of contemporary research, with an emphasis on the nature of the body schema. The body is shown to be a creative medium for engaging with the world, and to be the basis for the four kinds of imagining. Thus the imagination theory of Merleau-Ponty is a theory of the imagining body. Finally, the role of the imagining body in ontology is explored. It is shown that Being is itself dynamic and creative, and expresses itself through the medium of 'flesh'. The imagining of Being, however, finds its ultimate expression in the imagining body as it imagines itself in perception, aesthetic production, fanciful thinking and the interpretation of elemental images.
Steeves, James B., "Imagining bodies with Merleau-Ponty" (2000). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2592.