New Book: Phenomenology or Deconstruction?: The Question of Ontology in Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricoeur, and Jean-Luc Nancy

Lucid and rigorous in equal measure, Watkin’s Phenomenology and Deconstruction is both a timely intervention and a critical introduction to a vital current in contemporary European thought. It is also an essential reconfiguration of the intellectual landscape as concerns phenomenology, giving us back the bodies we need, but stranger and richer. –Prof. Patrick ffrench, Department of French, King’s College, London

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Phenomenology or Deconstruction? challenges traditional understandings of the relationship between phenomenology and deconstruction through new readings of the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricoeur and Jean-Luc Nancy. A constant dialogue with Jacques Derrida’s engagement with phenomenological themes provides the impetus to establishing a new understanding of ‘being’ and ‘presence’ that exposes significant blindspots inherent in traditional readings of both phenomenology and deconstruction. In reproducing neither a stock phenomenological reaction to deconstruction nor the routine deconstructive reading of phenomenology, Christopher Watkin provides a fresh assessment of the possibilities for the future of phenomenology, along with a new reading of the deconstructive legacy. Through detailed studies of the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, Ricoeur and Nancy, he shows how a phenomenological tradition much wider and richer than Husserlian or Heideggerean thought alone can take account of Derrida’s critique of ontology and yet still hold a commitment to the ontological.This new reading of being and presence fundamentally re-draws our understanding of the relation of deconstruction and phenomenology, and provides the first sustained discussion of the possibilities and problems for any future ‘deconstructive phenomenology’.

Christopher Watkin is a Junior Research Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge. He is currently working on atheism and the death of God in Nancy, Badiou, Zizek and Meillassoux.

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