Between empiricism and intellectualism
Merleau-Ponty is best known for his positive account of the bodily nature of perception. Just as crucial to his phenomenology, however, is his negative critique of the ways in which traditional theories tend to misdescribe perception abstractly at the outset, without considering the ways in which it is constituted by the concrete structures and capacities of the body. Specifically, two chief misconceptions loom large, like Scylla and Charybdis, on either side of an adequate account of perceptual experience, threatening to obscure its distinctive character. They are what Merleau-Ponty calls “empiricism” and “intellectualism”, and they remain stumbling blocks, perhaps perennial temptations, for theories of perception today.