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Merleau-Ponty and Technology

Merleau-Ponty et la technique

“Chiasmi International” n° 22, 2020

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Published on Friday, August 09, 2019 by Céline Guilleux


The question of technology is not often directly addressed by Merleau-Ponty and is rarelythematized as such. The philosopher does not explicitly elaborate what today we would define as aphilosophy of technology or a theory of techniques. And yet, this issue often appears in thebackground of his analysis and sometimes it even constitutes the pivot of his questioning of themutual implication of the sense and the sensible, nature and culture.


Chiasmi International n° 22, 2020

Special section Merleau-Ponty and Technology


edited by Bernard Andrieu and Anna Caterina Dalmasso


The question of technology is not often directly addressed by Merleau-Ponty and is rarely thematized as such. The philosopher does not explicitly elaborate what today we would define as a philosophy of technology or a theory of techniques. And yet, this issue often appears in the background of his analysis and sometimes it even constitutes the pivot of his questioning of the mutual implication of the sense and the sensible, nature and culture.

Indeed, Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy lays the foundations to think through the relationship between the living body and technology. Already in 1990, post-phenomenologist Don Ihde argued that in Merleau-Ponty’s thought, and especially his phenomenology of the perceiving body, there is an implicit “latent phenomenology of instrumentation” (Ihde [1990]: 40), namely, a theory of the process by which the body operates both a technical exteriorisation of its functions and an incorporation of technical tools. Some of the examples analyzed by Merleau-Ponty, such as the blind’s man stick, are among the major and common references in contemporary debates on the notion of extension or exteriorisation, revolving around the technicity and the prosthetic capacity of the human body (De Preester, H., Tsakiris, M. 2009; Malafouris 2008 & 2013; Ihde & Malafouris 2018; Parisi 2019).

Technology has been at the core of Merleau-Ponty’s reflection on the sciences, since his study on the primacy of perception, as we can notice if we examine his references to neurology, developmental psychology, physiology, but also cinema and painting, which represent as many ways to understand the role and status of technics in his thought. For example:

  • Technologies of ecology, concerning his works on painting, but also on the animal, the organism and the living body, describing our relationship to the world as an embodied ecology, but also taking into account the immersion within Nature: cosmose
  • Technologies of augmentation and substitution (from the analysis of the blind’s man stick, to the act of driving a car, the experience of the phantom limb, but also cybernetics):
  • Technologies of enhancement, activating new bodily capacities (such as the relationship to instruments and artefacts, as well as their expressive possibilities): capacitations.
  • Techniques of the body consisting in the incorporation of space into the flesh (such as the football field for the player, dance, bodily expression, acting, music, sculpture, and so on):
  • Reflexive and self-reflexive techniques (such as optical devices, the mirror, the stereoscope and the anaglyph, or contemporary selfies and post-digital image practices) : reflection.
  • Emersive techniques, especially in the primacy of enacted perception and unconscious emotions (the body as “medium” or vehicle) : emersions.

It is also possible to draw decisive points of contact between the reflection Merleau-Ponty has devoted to our relationship to technology and the work of other philosophers and psychologists, such as Paul Schilder, Frederik J. J. Buytendijk, Raymond Ruyer, Norbert Wiener, Jean Piaget, Henri Wallon, Georges-Henri Luquet, Martin Heidegger, Gilbert Simondon, Michael Polanyi, but also with anthropologists, theorists and artists, who significantly contributed to the advance of the scholarship on this topic, such as Marcel Mauss, Margaret Mead, Antonin Artaud, Mélanie Klein, Jacob Levy Moreno, Paul Cézanne, Vsevolod Pudovkin, André Leroi-Gourhan and Marshall McLuhan.

Finally, the question of technology and more precisely the relationship between technology and sensibility is today a cutting-edge topic as regards crucial theoretical challenges raised by the proliferation of technological media and wearable devices. An interrogation of the relationship between bodies and technologies must take into account the multifarious epistemic and anthropological, ethical and political implications that are at stake in contemporary technoculture concerning governance and society today.

Thus, the special section of this issue also aims to encourage contributions that intend to question those processes and transformations of our present technocorporeality through Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy.

Submission guidelines

The deadline for submissions is January 15th, 2020.

Please send articles:


  • Anna Caterina Dalmasso (coeditor of the section): Email: annacate.dalmasso@gmail.com
  • Bernard Andrieu (coeditor of the section): Email: bandrieu59@orange.fr

In CC:

For submissions in French:

  • Mauro Carbone (Codirector): Email: mauro.carbone@univ-lyon3.fr

For submissions in English:

  • Ted Toadvine (Codirector): Email: tat30@psu.edu
  • Galen Johnson (Codirector): Email: gjohnson@uri.edu

For submissions in Italian:

  • Federico Leoni (Codirector): Email: federico.leoni@univr.it

Submissions are subject to double blind review process. The authors may be required to make revisions based on the feedback by reviewers.

Articles must be prepared for submission according to the Editorial Guidelines below.


  • Andrieu B., 2016, “Avant la phénoménologie, l’émersiologie du corps vivant chez Merleau-Ponty”,Chiasmi International, n°18, pp. 415-431.
  • Andrieu B., 2019, “No jogador, O campo : A Emersao Do Espaco Corporal Em Merleau-Ponty”, in T.P. da Nobrega, I. de Oliviera Caminha (eds.), Merleau-Ponty & a Eduçao Fisica, Sao Paulo, Ed. Libers Ars, pp. 13-20.
  • Brey, P., 2000, “Technology and embodiment in Ihde and Merleau-Ponty”, in Metaphysics, Epistemology and Technology, 19, pp. 45-58.
  • Brey, P., 2000, “Theories of technology as extension of human faculties”, in Metaphysics, Epistemology and Technology, 19, pp. 59-78.
  • Carbone, M., 2016, Philosophie-écrans. Du cinema à la revolution numérique, Paris, Vrin.
  • Crossley N., 2004, “Phenomenology, Structuralism and History: Merleau-Ponty’s Social Theory”, in Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory, 103, “Globalizing Democracy”, April, pp. 88-121.
  • Crossley, N., 1993, “Body Techniques and Agency in Mauss, Merleau-Ponty and Foucault”, Working Paper: The Centre For Psychotherapeutic Studies
  • Dalmasso, A.C., 2018, “Techno-Aesthetics and Technics of the Body. From Merleau-Ponty to Simondon and Back”, in Héder M. and Nádasi E. (eds.), Essays in Post-Critical and Contemporary Philosophy of Technology, Vernon press: Wilmington, pp. 89–97.
  • Dalmasso, A.C., 2018, Le corps c’est l’écran. La philosophie du visuel de Merleau-Ponty, Paris, Mimésis.
  • Dalmasso, A.C., 2019, “Techno-aesthetic Thinking. Technicity and Symbolism in the Body”, in Aisthesis, 12(1), pp. 69-84.
  • De Preester, H., Tsakiris, M., 2009, “Body-extension versus body-incorporation: Is there a need for a body-model?”, in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 8(3), pp. 307-319.
  • Guchet, X., 2001, “Théorie du lien social, technologie et philosophie : Simondon lecteur de Merleau-Ponty”, in Les Études philosophiques, 2/2001, n° 57, p. 219-237.
  • Guchet, X., 2010, Pour un humanisme technologique. Culture, technique et société dans la philosophie de Gilbert Simondon, PUF, Paris.
  • Hansen, M.B.N., 2006, Bodies in Code. Interfaces with Digital Media, Routledge, New York-London.
  • Hickman, L.A., 2008, “Postphenomenology and pragmatism: closer than you might think?”, in Technē: Research in Philosophy and Technology, 12(2), pp. 99-104.
  • Hoel, A.S., Carusi, A., 2015, “Thinking Technology with Merleau-Ponty”, in Rosenberger, R., Verbeek, P.-P. (eds.), Postphenomenological Investigations. Essays on Human–Technology Relations, Lexington Books, New York-London, pp. 73-84.
  • Hughson, D., Inglis, J., 2000, “Merleau-Ponty in the Field: Towards a Sociological Phenomenology of Soccer Spaces”, in Space and Culture, 3(6), pp. 115-132.
  • Ihde, D., 1990, Technology and the Lifeworld: From Garden to Earth, Indianapolis, Indiana University Press.
  • Ihde, D., 2002, Bodies in Technology, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Ihde, D., 2010, Embodied Technics, Automatic Press.
  • Ihde, D., Malafouris, L., “Homo faber Revisited: Postphenomenology and Material Engagement Theory”, in Philosophy and Technology, 2018.
  • Kujundzic, N., Buschert, W., 1994, “Instruments and the Body: Sartre and Merleau-Ponty”, in Research in Phenomenology, n° 24, pp. 206-215.
  • Malafouris, L., 2008, “Beads for a plastic mind: the blind man’s stick (BMS) hypothesis and the active nature of material culture”, in Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 18(3), pp. 401-414.
  • Malafouris, L., 2013, How Things Shape the Mind. A Theory of Material Engagement, MIT Press, Cambridge (MA).
  • Montani, P., 2014, Tecnologie della sensibilità, Milano, Cortina.
  • Parisi, F., 2019, “Temporality and metaplasticity. Facing extension and incorporation through material engagement theory”, in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 18(1), pp. 205–221.
  • Parmentier, M., 2018, “Espace, mouvement et corps virtuels chez Merleau-Ponty”, in Methodos, n° 18.
  • Slock, K., 2015, Le corps et la machine. La pensée de l’image cinématographique chez Jean Epstein et Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paris, Mimésis.
  • Tharakan K., 2011, “Questioning the Body: From Technology towards a Sense of Body”, in KRITIKE, 5(2), p. 112-122
  • Viljoen, M., 2009, “The body as inhabitant of built space: the contribution of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Don Ihde”, Unpublished MA thesis, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria.


  • Wednesday, January 15, 2020


  • Merleau-Ponty, technology, technics, technique, body, embodiment


  • Bernard Andrieu
    courriel : bandrieu59 [at] orange [dot] fr
  • Anna Caterina Dalmasso
    courriel : annacaterina [dot] dalmasso [at] unimi [dot] it

Information source

  • Anna Caterina Dalmasso
    courriel : annacaterina [dot] dalmasso [at] unimi [dot] it

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« Merleau-Ponty and Technology », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, August 09, 2019, https://calenda.org/661170

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