Merleau-Ponty: Key Concepts introduces the reader to the fundamental ideas that have emerged from these intertwinings, outlined in Chapter 1, of Merleau-Ponty's philosophical heritage, cross-disciplinary interests, and his personal and political life. His own reflections on the philosophical enterprise indicate how he may have understood the relationship between “life” and “work”, and they also provide the best guide to how we might approach his philosophy, as well as to how to approach the essays in this book.
In the Preface to Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty concludes his rendition of phenomenology and existentialism with the suggestion that philosophy “is not the reflection of a pre-existing truth, but, like art, the act of bringing truth into being” and “[t]rue philosophy consists in relearning to look at the world” (PP: xx). He later made a similar point in his inaugural lecture at the Collège de France in 1952 (published as In Praise of Philosophy in 1953): “the philosopher, in order to experience more fully the ties of truth which bind him to the world and history, finds neither the depth of himself nor absolute knowledge, but a renewed image of the world and of himself placed within it among others” (EP: 63). These definitions of philosophy in part reflect Merleau-Ponty's ontological commitments, in particular the idea that the self and world are inextricably entwined: to express oneself is to express a world that is already both a historical and natural event of meaning, but is no less real for that; and expression, whether philosophical, historical or scientific, is fundamentally creative.