Galen Johnson


Raised in North Dakota and Illinois, Dr. Johnson specializes in recent Continental philosophy, Continental aesthetics, and American philosophy. He works particularly on the writings of French philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and American philosophers Thoreau and Emerson. He serves as the General Secretary (Executive Director) of the International Merleau-Ponty Circle.

He is a winner of the URI Foundation Teaching Excellence Award and URI Division of Research Distinguished Research Award. He has served as Director of the URI Honors Program, Director of the URI Center for the Humanities, and Chair of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities (RICH).   His research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), and American Philosophical Society.

He is married to Jean M. Johnson, Executive Director of the House of Hope CDC, Warwick, RI, a provider of housing and services for the homeless. He has five brothers, including several in academia. In addition to writing, teaching, and traveling, he is an avid cabinetmaker.


Recent French philosophy (especially Merleau-Ponty’s aesthetics), the art and writings of Paul Klee, philosophy of literature (currently co-author of a book project on Merleau-Ponty’s Poets and Poetics).


  • Ph.D., Philosophy, Boston University, 1977
  • M.A., Philosophy, Northern Illinois University, 1973
  • B.A., Philosophy, Wheaton College (IL), 1971

Selected Publications

“On the Origin(s) of Truth in Art: Merleau-Ponty, Klee, and Cézanne.” The Philosophical Vision of Paul Klee.  Edited by John Sallis.  Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2014, 168-209.

“Glimpsing the Sublime: Casey, De Kooning, and Abstract Expressionism.”  Exploring the Work of Edward S. Casey: Giving Voice to Place, Memory and Imagination.  Edited by Don Landes and Azucena Cruz.  London, England: Bloomsbury Press, 2013, 133-142.

Le Sublime et ‘ce monde baroque’ chez Merleau-Ponty.” [“The Sublime and ‘this baroque world’ according to Merleau-Ponty.”]  Merleau-Ponty et l’esthetique aujourd’hui.  [Merleau-Ponty and Aesthetics Today].  Edited by Mauro Carbone, Anna Caterina Dalmasso, and Elio Franzini.  Milano: Mimesis Edizione, Book Series: Collana: L’oeil et l’esprit [Eye and Mind], No. 44, 2013, 163-178.  Translation from English to French by Marjorie L. Johnson.

“Nietzsche and Merleau-Ponty: Art, Sacred Life, and Phenomenology of Flesh.”  Nietzsche and Phenomenology: Power, Life, Subjectivity.  Edited by Christine Daigle and Élodie Boublil.  Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2013, 195-214.

De la pluralité des arts, dès Lascaux jusqu’à nos jours: Merleau-Ponty et le concept radicalisé du temps historique.”  [“On the Plurality of the Arts, from Lascaux to our Times: Merleau-Ponty’s Radicalized Concept of Historical Time”].  In L’empreinte du visible: Merleau-Ponty et les images aujourd’hui [The Stamp of the Visible: Merleau-Ponty and Images Today], edited by Mauro Carbone.  Geneva, Switzerland: MetisPresses, 2013, 44-63. Translated from English to French by Stefan Kristensen.

“Metamorphosis and Music: Paul Klee and Merleau-Ponty.”  Paul Klee: Philosophical Vision; from Nature to Art.  Edited by John Sallis.  Chestnut Hill, Boston: McMullen Museum of Art, 2012, 85-97.

“Continental Aesthetics, 1930-1970: Phenomenology and Anti-Phenomenology.”  Chapter 10 in Volume 4, Phenomenology: Responses and Developments (1930-1970), edited by Leonard Lawlor.  In The History of Continental Philosophy, General Editor Alan D. Schrift.  Durham, UK: Acumen Publishing Limited,  2010, 87-109.

“Merleau-Ponty and Kant’s Third Critique: The Beautiful and the Sublime.” Merleau-Ponty at the Limits of Art, Religion, and Perception.  Edited by Neal DeRoo and Kascha Semonovitch.  London: Continuum International Publishing.  2010, 41-59.

The Retrieval of the Beautiful: Thinking Through Merleau-Ponty’s Aesthetics.  Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2010.