Title

Occupation as Embodied Social Experience: The Contributions of Maurice Merleau-Ponty

1

Location

Studio 2

Start Time

21-10-2017 11:30 AM

End Time

21-10-2017 12:30 PM

Session Type

Theoretical Paper

Abstract

Intent: The purpose of this paper is to outline how the philosophical perspective of Maurice Merleau-Ponty can be useful to expand understandings of occupation and inform the design of research on occupation. To achieve this end, we will review major concepts from Merleau-Ponty’s work and discuss how his ideas can be applied to the study of occupation.

Argument: This paper uses Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy to emphasize that all action is grounded in a corporeal body, embodied, and connected through the material and social world. Merleau-Ponty argued that human beings do not passively receive stimuli from their environments, but actively orient their bodies and sensorial capacities to perceive their surroundings. In his view, the body is not only the tool through which humans engage and experience their surroundings, but it is also a repository of sedimented past experiences of perceptual ‘couplings’ with the material and social environment. Merleau-Ponty shifts the focus of perceptual experience from the individual to the situation where the perceiver and perceived are ontologically complicit in a holistic experiential situation. We will discuss how Merleau-Ponty’s theory of active perception deconstructs many mainstream assumptions regarding the role of the senses in occupation. We will also outline how Merleau-Ponty’s concept of perceptual coupling emphasizes the emergent and relational nature of occupation.

Importance to Occupational Science: In occupational science, there has been an increasing uptake of analyses of occupation that move beyond long-standing assumptions that regard occupation as individual and autonomous. The work of Merleau-Ponty further contributes to these collective efforts for understanding occupation as a socially funded and embodied experience. His philosophy highlights the relational nature of occupation and the primacy of the body as the vehicle for occupational experience. We will discuss how Merleau-Ponty’s theory of embodiment and active perception has significant implications for research design and analysis in occupational science.

Conclusion: The work of Merleau-Ponty fits well into current paradigms of occupational science that eschew individualistic approaches. We believe that his ideas can provide valuable insight into the process of embodiment in occupation by highlighting the primacy of its relational and perceptual dimensions. Further, Merleau-Ponty’s emphasis on experiential perceptual coupling through action elucidates the unavoidable sociality and corporeality of human experience and occupation.

Questions to Facilitate Discussion:

  1. Given that each body provides its own unique sensory system and way of opening to the world, what methodologies help us better understand individual experiences.

Keywords: Merleau-Ponty, sensory, embodiment

References

Hass, L. (2008). Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy: Studies in continental thought. J. Sallis (Ed.). Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.

Landes, D. A. (2013). Merleau-Ponty and the paradox of expression. London: Bloomsbury.

Mazis, G. A. (2016). Merleau-Ponty and the face of the world: Silence, ethics, and imagination. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). The phenomenology of perception (C. Smith, Trans). T. Honderich (Ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul LTD 1962.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1968). The visible and the invisible (C. Lefort, Trans). C. Lefort (Ed.). USA: Northwestern University Press.

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Oct 21st, 11:30 AM Oct 21st, 12:30 PM

Occupation as Embodied Social Experience: The Contributions of Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Studio 2

Intent: The purpose of this paper is to outline how the philosophical perspective of Maurice Merleau-Ponty can be useful to expand understandings of occupation and inform the design of research on occupation. To achieve this end, we will review major concepts from Merleau-Ponty’s work and discuss how his ideas can be applied to the study of occupation.

Argument: This paper uses Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy to emphasize that all action is grounded in a corporeal body, embodied, and connected through the material and social world. Merleau-Ponty argued that human beings do not passively receive stimuli from their environments, but actively orient their bodies and sensorial capacities to perceive their surroundings. In his view, the body is not only the tool through which humans engage and experience their surroundings, but it is also a repository of sedimented past experiences of perceptual ‘couplings’ with the material and social environment. Merleau-Ponty shifts the focus of perceptual experience from the individual to the situation where the perceiver and perceived are ontologically complicit in a holistic experiential situation. We will discuss how Merleau-Ponty’s theory of active perception deconstructs many mainstream assumptions regarding the role of the senses in occupation. We will also outline how Merleau-Ponty’s concept of perceptual coupling emphasizes the emergent and relational nature of occupation.

Importance to Occupational Science: In occupational science, there has been an increasing uptake of analyses of occupation that move beyond long-standing assumptions that regard occupation as individual and autonomous. The work of Merleau-Ponty further contributes to these collective efforts for understanding occupation as a socially funded and embodied experience. His philosophy highlights the relational nature of occupation and the primacy of the body as the vehicle for occupational experience. We will discuss how Merleau-Ponty’s theory of embodiment and active perception has significant implications for research design and analysis in occupational science.

Conclusion: The work of Merleau-Ponty fits well into current paradigms of occupational science that eschew individualistic approaches. We believe that his ideas can provide valuable insight into the process of embodiment in occupation by highlighting the primacy of its relational and perceptual dimensions. Further, Merleau-Ponty’s emphasis on experiential perceptual coupling through action elucidates the unavoidable sociality and corporeality of human experience and occupation.

Questions to Facilitate Discussion:

  1. Given that each body provides its own unique sensory system and way of opening to the world, what methodologies help us better understand individual experiences.

Keywords: Merleau-Ponty, sensory, embodiment