From Flesh to Cultural Flesh: Toward a Phenomenology of Intercultural UnderstandingKwok-ying Lau (Chinese University of Hong Kong)
221 Burwood Hwy
While the late Merleau-Ponty’s concept of flesh (la chair) has received a positive appraisal by some contemporary French phenomenologists such as Lévinas, some others are more skeptical (such as Derrida and Deleuze), or even severely critical (such as Renaud Barbaras, 1955- ). The present paper begins by a review of Barbaras’ criticism of Merleau-Ponty’s ontology of the flesh. It will defend the merits of the concept of flesh by highlighting its potential to overcome traditional metaphysical dualism as well as providing the ontological conditions for the activity of dialogue. On the basis of the notion of “flesh” the present author proposes the concept of “cultural flesh” as the one of the essential conditions of possibility of intercultural understanding. He will also assign a new task to phenomenology: to establish a phenomenology of intercultural understanding.