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Romanyshyn, R.D. (1977). Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis: Contributions of Merleau-Ponty. Psychoanal. Rev., 64(2):211-223.

(1977). Psychoanalytic Review, 64(2):211-223

Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis: Contributions of Merleau-Ponty

Robert D. Romanyshyn, Ph.D.

In 1960 Merleau-Ponty wrote the preface to a book entitled L'Oeuvre de Freud et son importance pour le monde moderne, written by the French psychoanalyst A. Hesnard. At the beginning of this preface Merleau-Ponty says that he agreed to write it because he is “convinced that philosophy is concrete and that psychoanalysis is full of thoughts only very indirectly expressed in certain Freudian concepts.”2a The statement suggests that phenomenology and psychoanalysis can enrich each other, a suggestion that Merleau-Ponty makes again at the end of his essay. Not content to say that phenomenology and psychoanalysis are parallel to each other, he says that they are something better: “They both tend toward the same latency.”2b The task of this paper is to explore the meanings of this last statement, which is one of Merleau-Ponty's final judgments on this issue, as far as I know. But before I begin this task some general remarks about Merleau-Ponty and his relation to psychoanalysis will be helpful.


It should not come as a surprise to discover that Merleau-Ponty's relation to psychoanalysis changed during his lifetime. He says as much in Hesnard's preface when he states, “The psychoanalysis which we accept and appreciate is not the same which we denied.”2c And yet despite his changing views, Merleau-Ponty never lost a critical attitude with respect to Freud's work.

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