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Home arrow Economics arrow Contingency and commitment : Mexican existentialism and the place of philosophy
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Embodiment and World

In Uranga’s reading, Merleau-Ponty represents the epitome of a new way of thinking that emphasizes embodiment and the unity of the human being with his/her environment. Merleau-Ponty’s displacement of disembodied knowledge and his privileging of corporal presence serves as a model for a philosophizing that aims to ground thinking, philosophy, and ideas in a particular space-time. The “self,”3 in this view, is immersed in a world; the “self” is embodied and, as such, tied to that world in complex and intimate ways; the “self” in the manner of its givenness is capable, Uranga writes, of “giving itself to the world in a definitive manner . . . in emotion” or “distancing itself from it” in fantasy (1948, 226). This means that the human being is, ambiguously, both what the philosophical tradition since Plato has said it was, namely, a being capable of transcending its own flesh, and also what is obvious to anyone who suffers, pains, or loves, namely, inseparable from that flesh. Uranga appreciates this ambiguity: “From this we can approach a more exact characterization of French existentialism as a philosophy of ambiguity, since on the one hand it insists in our engagement and commitment with the world, while on the other it emphasizes our capacity for disengagement or detachment, without ever insisting that either of these can be realized in a pure manner” (227).

Moreover, it is the ambiguity that existentialism reveals, or that it insists upon, that Uranga finds appealing for any future Mexican philosophy, as it holds as suspect any totalizing description of human existence. Totalizing descriptions that have traditionally privileged disengagement and detachment, Uranga will always maintain, must be the product of a purely western prejudice for universality that ignores the accidental emergence of human subjectivity in world history. In other words, metanarratives that stipulate the possibility of a consciousness without a world make this stipulation for a reason, namely, so as to maintain a stranglehold on what counts as purity or truth in the face of the inevitable encroachment of other subjectivities and other knowledges. What Merleau-Ponty reveals is the difficulty in characterizing human life once and for all, and the necessity of including accounts of how an embodied self interacts with the world and arranges its projection toward a future.

 
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