Blake Allen introduces the article ‘Merleau-Ponty: Beauty, Phenomenology, and the ‘Theological Turn’’
In a landmark text, ‘The Theological Turn of French Phenomenology’, Dominique Janicaud posits a boundary that sharply divides the legitimate phenomenological tradition from a problematic variant seen to be fundamentally compromised by theology. This article develops an immanent critique of Janicaud’s position. It demonstrates that his boundary relies on the mature work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty as a constitutive exemplar of the tradition, that this work is centrally concerned with beauty, and that its notion of beauty is irreducibly theological. Merleau-Ponty himself will thus be shown to enact his own version of the theological turn. I shall consequently propose a reconstrual of the boundary of phenomenology. My argument relies fundamentally on Merleau-Ponty’s essay, ‘Eye and Mind’, and includes a critical restatement of Galen Johnson’s reading of this text. In addition to its direct relevance to phenomenology, this article bears upon broader concerns, including the relationships between theory, the body, aesthetics, and the post-secular.