Famous Quotes Explained: « Philosophy is not an illusion; it is the algebra of history. » In Praise of Philosophy (Éloge de la philosophie), Merleau-Ponty, 1953.


Famous Quotes Explained: « Philosophy is not an illusion; it is the algebra of history. » In Praise of Philosophy (Éloge de la philosophie), Merleau-Ponty, 1953.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty was a 20th-century French philosopher (1908-1961), known for his contributions to the philosophy of perception and phenomenology (the study based on phenomena, on experience). He developed innovative ideas about how human beings experience the world through their bodies and senses, challenging traditional approaches to philosophy that prioritized abstract thought.

The quote Philosophy is not an illusion; it is the algebra of history is from his inaugural lecture at the Collège de France in 1953, presented in the work In Praise of Philosophy (Éloge de la philosophie1953). It presents a perspective on philosophy that emphasizes its role as an intellectual instrument, a tool for understanding and analyzing history. This quote suggests that philosophy is not a vain or illusory endeavor but has a precise and practical function, namely, to address the problems and questions related to the history of humanity.

In relation to Merleau-Ponty’s thought, this quote can be interpreted in several ways. First, Merleau-Ponty placed great importance on lived experience and sensory perception in understanding the world. He insisted that philosophy should be grounded in this concrete experience rather than in abstractions. From this perspective, the idea that philosophy is the algebra of history could mean that it seeks to solve concrete and complex problems that arise in the historical context.

Furthermore, Merleau-Ponty also addressed how individuals are deeply immersed in the world and how their bodies and senses are essential for their understanding of the world. In this light, philosophy could be seen as an attempt to decipher and explain the historical processes and dynamics that shape our perception and understanding of the world.

However, it is important to note that the quote seems to ascribe to philosophy a highly utilitarian role, that of solving historical equations. Merleau-Ponty, while acknowledging the importance of philosophy for understanding the world, would likely caution against too instrumental a view of philosophy, emphasizing its deeper role in reflecting on the human condition and the meaning of existence.

Through this quote, Merleau-Ponty sought to anchor philosophy in concrete reality. We can also assume that for him, philosophy, like history, was an inquiry (etymology of history), always in motion.

Philosophy is not an illusion; it is the algebra of history

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2 commentaires sur “Famous Quotes Explained: « Philosophy is not an illusion; it is the algebra of history. » In Praise of Philosophy (Éloge de la philosophie), Merleau-Ponty, 1953.”

  1. Ping : Famous Quotes Explained: « The strength of love appears in suffering, » The Palace Gallery, Pierre Corneille, 1632. - Les Cours Julien

  2. Ping : Famous Quotes Explained: « Fanaticism is a monster that dares to call itself the offspring of religion », Philosophical Dictionary, Voltaire, 1764. - Les Cours Julien

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