The recent publication of the lecture notes Research on the Literary Use of Language confirms the role played by poetic language in Merleau-Ponty’s ambitious and unfinished project that began in his 1951 essay “On the Phenomenology of Language”. The conviction that language is the crucial question for phenomenology in Merleau-Ponty’s work nears the research Paul Ricoeur would develop in the 1970’s: it is in words, in expressed discourse, that we encounter not only relations among subjects, but also our relation to things. For the two philosophers, the Lebenswelt is a sort of promised land for phenomenology, a world that we can grasp only indirectly. And, it is the figure of the metaphor that represents an exemplary form of mediation, as a negation of every attempt toward a direct grasp, of the transparency of language in itself. In the metaphorical expression, which is not reducible to a nominal dimension, an “indirect” or “outlined” ontology is sketched out. In the stylistic technique of Merleau-Ponty, more practiced than theoretical unlike Ricoeur, the poetic or living metaphor constitutes a junction between the pre-categorical and the categorical, between the sensible world and the world of expression, between silent logos and pronounced logos. Referring to Valery’s analogy between dance and literary language, Merleau-Ponty traces a theory of the figure as expression in the orders of perception that can transfigure ordinary language, a theory very similar to that of Ricoeur’s “figuration” which, rooted in the world of life, subsequently returns to it.

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