Enrica Lisciani Petrini

Rethinking Nature, with Merleau-Ponty

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The first part of this essay presents a concise excursus, tracing the main «variations» of the notion of nature, from the Greek physikoi to contemporary times, with a particular focus on the transition constituted by «modernity», when nature becomes an «object» at the disposal of the «subject», i.e. man. This concise reconstruction makes use, in part, of Merleau-Ponty’s famous «lectures on nature», which the second part of the essay focuses on, with a view to accessing a new understanding of nature. In them, in fact, a «new ontology» is outlined, based on the inter-relationality and inter-agentivity of all entities, as an original «virtual» dimension elusive to any human constitution. This makes it possible not only to overcome every traditional notion of dualism and every «objectivizing» attitude but above all to open the way to a possible new «idea of Nature». In this alternative perspective, in fact, nature is seen as a dimension endowed with a peculiar «activity» (agency), such that it is no longer a separate and inert «object» subject to man but enters an inseparable «relational circuit» with man, which constitutes man himself. In this sense, Merleau-Ponty’s theses prove to be pioneering and capable of helping us understand the developments of new evolutionary theories


  • Nature
  • Ontology
  • Agency
  • Virtual
  • Merleau-Ponty


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