This introductory chapter discusses an imperative from Merleau–Ponty called “life-ism.” It argues that we must obey this imperative if we want to conceive an archē, an origin or a principle, such as the principle of life. Here is the imperative in its negative form: the principle must be conceived as neither positive nor negative, as neither infinite nor finite, as neither internal nor external, as neither objective nor subjective; it can be thought through neither idealism nor realism, through neither finalism (or teleology) nor mechanism, through neither determinism nor indeterminism, through neither humanism nor naturalism, through neither metaphysics nor physics. Veering off into one of these extremes is precisely “what we must not do.” In short, for Merleau–Ponty, there must be no separation between the two poles. But also, there must be no coincidence.
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