Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Philosophy



First Advisor

Galen A. Johnson


The epistemological problem that I shall investigate in this thesis is the separation of the knowing subject from the object that is known. Generally, this problem is called "the subject-object dichotomy." Traditionally only the mind bas been considered as the knower, while the body has been thought of merely as a passive vehicle of data. Thus one has been left with the mind separated from the body and from the objects of knowledge by the body.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, a contemporary French phenomenologist, has sought to overcome the separation between the knower and the known by understanding the body as a crucial dimension of the active knower. The purpose of this present study is to examine whether and how Merleau-Ponty's philosophy of the body can be said to eliminate the subject-object dichotomy.

In the first chapter, I explicate Merleau-Ponty's philosophy of embodiment, including his critique of traditional theories of perception, as well as his exploration of the importance of the body and the role of language to the act of knowing. In the second chapter, I trace the application of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy to epistemology, giving special attention to our knowledge of the world, other persons, and ourselves. I conclude that the epistemic gap between the knower and the known can be overcome, along the lines proposed by Merleau-Ponty, by viewing the body at the outset as an intentional, active knower.



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