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Disembodiments. Reflecting on Violence with Merleau-Ponty

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses the question whether violence is a constitutive part of the human condition. Biology, culture, and history, have all been called upon to explain the persistence of violence in human interactions. Notwithstanding its optional, unforeseeable, and amorphous character, violence needs to be acknowledged as a genuinely pervasive factor of human experience given its expressive force and symbolic power. The chapter briefly comments on two related misunderstandings of the phenomenological method and the aims of phenomenological research. Following Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, the chapter presents the phenomenological concept of embodiment and shows how it enables us to assess the manifold vulnerability of the subject. Then, the chapter describes the inter-subjective constitution of our life-world and distinguishes different forms of violence as correlates of the various levels of subjective vulnerability. Finally, it shows how author's approach provides the basis for the elaboration of a comprehensive theory of violence.

Keywords: expressive force; human interactions; Husserl; Merleau-Ponty; phenomenological method; symbolic power; violence; vulnerability



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