Physiology and Phenomenology

| April 28, 2012

The physiologist, at least traditionally, sees the body as separate parts that work together like a machine. For Merleau-Ponty, however, the body cannot be understood as separate parts but must be understand as a whole, as it is lived. The body as it is lived is an experiential body, a body that opens onto a world and allows the world to be for us. Physiology is not pointless; it has value, no doubt. But it does not get at the lived body. If we want to understand the body as it is lived in our experience, we have to use a phenomenological method. Merleau-Ponty would go so far as to argue that physiology is a second-order, intellectual abstraction from the primordial, lived body. In this sense, phenomenology can understand and incorporate physiological insights, but physiology is unable to incorporate phenomenological insights when it begins with a reductive approach.

via Maurice Merleau-Ponty.