With The Voluntary and the Involuntary, “I envisaged, not without some naïveté, to give a counterbalance, in practical order, to the Phenomenology of Perception”. A confrontation between the thought of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and that of Paul Ricoeur cannot do without this characterization by Ricoeur in his entrance into philosophical work. All the same, this remark highlights the advantage of fixing the terms of a relation marked by its methodological proximity and its thematic distance. The former, at first glance, seems to trump the latter. The privilege accorded by Ricoeur to the “practical order” resonates, certainly, with a philosophy essentially concerned with the phenomenon of action. According to its own discourse, the anthropology of the “capable human being” constitutes the guiding thread from which it becomes possible to reconstitute the unity of his oeuvre. It is clear that Merleau-Ponty is in no way indifferent to the “practical order”. Without even mentioning the texts he specifically dedicates to the political, it suffices to remember that the Phenomenology of Perception concludes in a chapter devoted to freedom. More profoundly, the two philosophers will come together in according a central place to the phenomenology of the “I can”. For all this, the thematic distance between the two philosophers is not without importance. It concerns less knowing how Ricoeur brings a “counterbalance” to the Phenomenology of Perception in the practical order than to understand why in his work he accorded ultimately only a secondary interest to perception. The principal agreement between the two philosophers resides in their refusal of all “surveying thought”. Not any less than Ricoeur, Merleau-Ponty renounces the “ideal of the absolute spectator” because this ideal necessarily implies the transformation of the position of the interpreter into a principle of error. Nevertheless, the two philosophers differ in the characterization of this point of view.

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