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Humanism and Terror : An Essay on the Communist Problem

ISBN-10: 0807002771
ISBN-13: 9780807002773
Edition: 1990
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Description: First published in France In 1947, Merleau-Ponty's essay was in part a response to Arthur Koestler's novel,Darkness at Noon, and in a larger sense a contribution to the political and moral debates of a postwar world suddenly divided into two armed  More...

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Book details

Copyright year: 1990
Publisher: Beacon Press
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 240
Size: 5.50" wide x 8.00" long x 0.50" tall
Weight: 0.594
Language: English

First published in France In 1947, Merleau-Ponty's essay was in part a response to Arthur Koestler's novel,Darkness at Noon, and in a larger sense a contribution to the political and moral debates of a postwar world suddenly divided into two armed camps. For Merleau-Ponty, the basic question was: given the violence in Communism, is Communism still equal to its humanist intentions? Starting with the assumption that a society is not a "temple of value-idols that figure on the front of its monuments or in its constitutional scrolls; the value of a society is the value It places upon man's relation to man," Merleau-ponty examines not only the Moscow trials of the late thirties but also Koestler's re-creation of them. And Merleau-Ponty makes it clear that the Moscow trialsand violence in general in the Communist worldcan be understood only In the context of revolutionary violence. He demonstrates that it is pointless to begin an examination of Communist violence by asking whether Communism respects the rules of liberal thought; it is evident that Communism does not. The question that should be asked is whether the violence Communism exercises is revolutionary violence, capable of building humane relations among men. At a time when many are addressing similar questions to societies both in the East and in the West, Merleau-Ponty's investigations and speculations are of prime importance; they stand as a major and provocative contribution to the argument surrounding the use of violence.

Appointed Professor at the College de France in 1952, Maurice Merleau-Ponty was a highly esteemed professional philosopher because of his technical works in phenomenology and psychology. He was also an activist commentator on the significant cultural and political events of his time, as well as a collaborator with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in the founding and editing of Les Temps Modernes in Paris immediately after World War II. Besides being influenced by Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty assimilated the contributions of experimental philosophy and Gestalt psychology to focus on perception and behavior. His work "The Structure of Behavior," although centering on the body, presented an interpretation of the distinctions among the mental, the vital (biological), and the physical that ruled out the reductionist inclinations of behaviorism. With the appearance of his work on the phenomenology of perception in 1945, his position as a philosopher ranking beside Heidegger and Sartre was established. He unveiled a theory of human subjectivity similar to theirs but with greater technical precision. From the standpoint of an existentialist thinker whose conception of subjectivity stressed the primacy of freedom, he examined Marxism and the political factions and movements fostered in the name of Karl Marx. The resulting studies, always insightful and provocative, satisfied neither the right nor the left. In the foreword to the English translation of Merleau-Ponty's inaugural lecture at the College de France, In Praise of Philosophy, John Wild and James Edie praised him for having made "important contributions to the phenomenological investigation of human existence in the life-world and its distinctive structures. He was a revolutionary, and his philosophy, even more than that of his French contemporaries, was a philosophy of the evolving, becoming historical present." Merleau-Ponty views man as an essentially historical being and history as the dialectic of meaning and non-meaning which is working itself out through the complex, unpredictable interaction of men and the world. Nothing historical ever has just one meaning; meaning is ambiguous and is seen from an infinity of viewpoints. He has been called a philosopher of ambiguity, of contradiction, of dialectic. His search is the search for "meaning."'

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