This thesis explores the evolution of the way the Phenomenology of Perception is read for the purpose of determining its relevance to cognitive science. It looks at the ways in which the descriptions of phenomena are taken to converge with connectionist and enactivist accounts (the "psychological" aspect of this reading) and the way Merleau-Ponty's criticisms of intellectualism end empiricism are treated as effective responses to the philosophical foundations of cognitivism. The analysis reveals a general assumption that Merleau-Ponty's thought is compatible with a broadly naturalistic approach to cognition.
This assumption has its roots in the belief that Merleau-Ponty's proximity to the existential tradition is incompatible with a commitment to a genuine transcendental philosophical standpoint. I argue that this suspicion is unfounded, and that it neglects the internal structure of the Phenomenology. Merleau-Ponty's criticism of classical forms of transcendental philosophy is not a rejection of that tradition, but instead prompts his unorthodox use of pathological case-studies. For Merleau-Ponty, this engagement with pathology constitutes a kind of transcendental strategy, a strategy that is much closer to Husserl's later work than is commonly acknowledged.
The thesis also demonstrates a different mode of engagement with cognitive science, through a critical encounter with John Haugeland's transcendental account of the perception of objects. Confronting his account with the phenomenon of anorexia, I challenge him to differentiate his notion of an existential commitment from the anorexic's pathological over-commitment to a particular body image. Merleau-Ponty's account does not suffer from the same problems as Haugeland's because transcendence is not construed in terms of independence, but in terms of the fecundity and inexhaustibility of the sensible. I attempt to articulate Merleau-Ponty's own notion of a pre-personal commitment through the metaphor of invitation and show how this commitment and the Husserlian notion of open intersubjectivity can shed light on the anorexic's predicament.