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Habituality and undecidability: a comparison of Merleau-Ponty and Derrida on the decision

journal contribution
posted on 2002-01-01, 00:00 authored by Jack ReynoldsJack Reynolds
This essay examines the relationship that obtains between Merleau-Ponty and Derrida through exploring an interesting point of dissension in their respective accounts of decision-making. Merleau-Ponty's early philosophy emphasizes the body-subject's tendency to seek an equilibrium with the world (by acquiring skills and establishing what he refers to as 'intentional arcs'), and towards deciding in an embodied and habitual manner that minimizes any confrontation with what might be termed a decision-making aporia. On the other hand, in his later writings, Derrida frequently points towards a constitutive 'undecidability' involved in decision-making. He insists that a decision, if it is genuinely to be a decision, must involve a leap beyond all prior preparations, and this ensures that an aporia surrounds any attempt to decide. One must always decide without any equilibrium or stability, and yet these are precisely the things that Merleau-Ponty claims that our body moves us towards. Most of this essay will explore the significance of this disparity, and it will be argued that many of Merleau-Ponty's insights challenge the Derridean conception of the undecidability involved in decision-making. This becomes most obvious when comparing the decision-making processes of those expert in a particular field to those who are merely competent (for example chess), and this essay will attempt to establish that the aporia that Derrida discerns can actually be seen to constrict.

History

Journal

International journal of philosophical studies

Volume

10

Pagination

449-466

Location

Abingdon, Eng.

ISSN

0967-2559

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2002, Taylor & Francis Ltd

Issue

4

Publisher

Taylor & Francis