chapter  8
13 Pages

Politics and the political

ByDiana Coole

Merleau-Ponty was an intensely political thinker, who took seriously his role as a public intellectual and wrote as a man of the Left. He published many books and articles on politics, including astute analyses of current events as well as more general reflections on the direction of collective life in the mid-twentieth century. While he was not a political theorist in any conventional sense, he believed that philosophers have a civic responsibility to engage with contemporary issues, providing the critical distance and interrogative zeal that journalists, activists or the public typically lack. They have a duty “to demand enlightenment” and “to explain the manoeuvres, to dissipate the myths” that constitute everyday political life, while also aiming “to inspire a politics” by experimenting with new concepts and forms of coexistence (EP: 63; HT: xxix; TD: 12).