Title page for ETD etd-10072010-121323

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Viljoen, Marga
URN etd-10072010-121323
Document Title The body as inhabitant of built space : the contribution of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Don Ihde
Degree Master of Arts
Department Philosophy
Advisor Name Title
Prof E Wolff Supervisor
  • Merleau-Ponty
  • inhabiting
  • Ihde
  • human-technology relations
  • embodiment
  • built space
  • body-subject
  • perception
  • technology
Date 2010-04-14
Availability unrestricted
This study explores the problem of how we perceive built space and relate to its abstract representations. In 1897, Poincaré presented the problem of space for the 20th century in his essay ‘The Relativity of Space’, in which the human body and technics in our spatial experiences were already implied.

Merleau-Ponty and Don Ihde's work is based on the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl and has been influenced to different degrees by Martin Heidegger. The study is presented as a comparative historical-thematic textual study.

For Merleau-Ponty, our primordial perception is general, pre-self-conscious and ambiguous. It is only in reflecting on our lived experiences that we can adequately describe our perceptions. One's own body is the means of having a world that is already intersubjective. Merleau-Ponty explicates the fusion of body and soul, as well as our irreducible relation to the world by referring to studies of behavioural pathologies. From these studies the motility and spatiality of one's body, as well as habit acquisition are already informative on general spatial experiences, the syntheses of our perceptions and the unity of the world. The body-subject is the nexus of all levels of perceptions. Merleau-Ponty describes the constitution of embodiment relations (by means of habit acquisition) with artefacts that mediate our interaction and perceptions in the world.

Ihde extends this aspect of Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology. Building on Merleau-Ponty's explications of the body, Ihde poses a structure of human-technology relations with different variations: embodiment, hermeneutic, alterity, background and horizonal relations that transform our perceptions of the world and ourselves. Ihde's 'body one' and 'body two' are based on the notion that perception is meaningful and culturally informed. Ihde (after Husserl), shows that geometry and Euclidean space are instances of cultural habitus as an abstraction from the lifeworld.

The different human-technology relations are present in our lifeworld-experiences of which built space is constantly part in the background or foreground of our projects and actions. By comparing both philosophers' work in a phenomenological explication of built space, new light is thrown on our experiences and perceptions thereof which have implications on architectural education.

© 2009 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Viljoen, M 2009, The body as inhabitant of built space : the contribution of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Don Ihde, MA dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-10072010-121323/ >


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