The Humanities and Social Sciences Library

A staircase in the Arts and Social Sciences library
A staircase in the Humanities and Social Sciences library

I went to the Humanities and Social Sciences library to try to get a book on Merleau-Ponty. I still don’t get Phenomenology. I found one of the books, but I didn’t find the Cambridge Companion to Merleau-Ponty.

The library is pretty fun, though. What’s most fun, I think, is the rare books collection. It’s climate-controlled and the doors are locked, so you have to be buzzed in by a librarian.

Merleau-Ponty

The Phenomenology of Perception
The Phenomenology of Perception

Maurice Merleau-Ponty is my worst enemy. This is the cover of the newest edition of his book, The Phenomenology of Perception. It is terrible.

I tried to read the Preface, first and fourth chapters for class last week. I read them, read them again, downloaded some articles on them from the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, and even checked out Wikipedia. I still don’t get it.

I went to class, and on the way there, the instructor for my first class, Bioethics Theory, was talking to me, trying to explain what’s going on. I went to the seminar, which was a class discussion, in which the professors didn’t participate. I felt a little better, because at the end, one of the other students asked what the motivation behind Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological project was. That’s philosopher-speak for, “Why on earth did he write this terrible book?”

If the Preface were submitted to me as an essay by one of my third-year students in the class for which I am a TA, I would fail him. He does not define his terms. He does not give a clear thesis. He rambles. I do not like phenomenology.

I spoke to the prof afterward, asking for some help, and she indicated that it’s normal to feel totally confused. That didn’t make me feel much better. I’ll have another go this week. I don’t have a choice. Maybe it won’t be as bad.