This essay begins with a historico-conceptual reconstruction of the Merleau-Pontian interpretation of Husserl’s manuscript, “Foundational Investigations of the Phenomenological Origin of the Spatiality of Nature,” with which Merleau-Ponty is in dialogue from Phenomenology of Perception onward, and revisits the development of the theme of the Earth in the progression of Merleau-Ponty’s reflection on le corps propre, the living organism, and the carnal dimension of being. The proposal for a return to the Earth, taken as irreducible Boden of experience, indeed finds its ontological reverse side in the idea of Spielraum, which Husserl already defined as a “milieu of possibilities,” and which in Merleau-Ponty takes on the sense of a margin of play always open in the flesh. Boden and Spielraum, two notions that Merleau-Ponty does not thematize by chance in the two parallel courses given at the Collège de France over the years 1959-1960, enable a reassessment of the living being according to a model that, against mechanistic reductionism, privileges spontaneity and contingency, and opens to the development of the porous ontology that the philosopher would propose in his final years. Reconstructing the function of reflection on corporeality, and on the relationship of the living being with its milieu in the process, it will be argued that the criticism directed by Merleau-Ponty against the dualism of empiricism-idealism finds in the idea of the Earth a key moment that contributes to orienting him in the direction of a philosophy of the flesh. This passage reconfigures Nature itself, no longer conceived of as an originating, but as a milieu of processual and transindividual possibilities, like that quasi-object, as Husserl again defined it, that presents an irreducible resistance against high-altitude thinking, precisely as the condition of thought itself and the anchorage of all life.

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