Notes from the underground
Merleau-Ponty and Husserl's Sixth Cartesian meditation
When I went to college in the 1950s I became an Existentialist. The problem with Existentialism is not so much that, like Romanticism, it is a "disease," but that, like Romanticism, it is an "incurable disease." I became an "incurable Existentialist." I am also sure that even before I went to college I was an Existentialist even though I had not yet acquired the label. The label itself was something I checked out of the college library. Never having mastered the card catalog system, and too embarrassed to ask for help, I found myself back in the library stacks staring at a series of bound volumes of University of Nebraska Studies. They did not look promising; for example, in the volume for 1951 I found several very long monographs on planting and growing potatoes. But bound in with the potato monographs, and what saved me from the a career in agriculture, was a long essay by Maurice Natanson: A Critique of Jean-Paul Sartre's Ontology. That essay made a lasting impression on me. And although it may seem irrelevant to try to explain how I came to realize that I am an Existentialist, or at least how I came to pin that label on my sleeve, and although it may seem unfair to remind an author of his first book, there is nevertheless an important connection between that essay and the present contribution to this volume. The connection is this: At the very end of his essay, Natanson says that "Sartre's greatest achievement is to have returned us to the nexus of philosophical problems concerned with the ultimate isomorphism between human subjectivity and human reality. We are returned, then, to the profound core of Kant's Copernican revolution and to the question: Can phenomenological ontology complete or advance beyond the Copernican revolution?"1
Kersten, F. (1995)., Notes from the underground: Merleau-Ponty and Husserl's Sixth Cartesian meditation, in S. Crowell (ed.), The prism of the self, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 43-58.
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