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Flesh and Nature: Understanding Merleau-Ponty’s Relational Ontology

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In this paper I attempt to develop several ways Merleau-Ponty’s ontology might contribute to an environmental ethic through a redefinition of his concept of flesh in terms of a general theory of affectivity. Currently accepted interpretations of the concept such as those in Abram, Toadvine, Barbaras, and Dastur rely upon conceiving flesh as a perceptual experience. I contest this interpretation and argue that a more productive conception of flesh emerges when understood in terms of Heidegger’s philosophy. The paper concludes with a consideration of the normative significance of flesh by examining the role of “wildness” within a place-based ethic.

Affiliations: 1: Wesleyan University

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