The Sense of Space: "
A phenomenological account of spatial perception in relation to the lived body.
The Sense of Space brings together space and body to show that space is a plastic environment, charged with meaning, that reflects the distinctive character of human embodiment in the full range of its moving, perceptual, emotional, expressive, developmental, and social capacities. Drawing on the philosophies of Merleau-Ponty and Bergson, as well as contemporary psychology to develop a renewed account of the moving, perceiving body, the book suggests that our sense of space ultimately reflects our ethical relations to other people and to the places we inhabit.
“Readers interested in embodiment should find the book interesting.” — University of Toronto Quarterly
'I like the combination of sober scholarship with imaginative thought and writing. David Morris is fully at home in phenomenology, while being quite knowledgeable of existing and pertinent scientific literature. Having mastered both, he creates a dynamic tension between them, showing how each can fructify the other, albeit in very different ways. The result is truly impressive.
'This is a very rare book in many ways. First, it directly engages scientific literature that treats the experience of space; not since Merleau-Ponty himself has there been a comparable engagement. Second, it institutes a lively debate with this literature that shows how a different model from that of science—including ecological science as practiced by J. J. Gibson and dynamics systems theory—is required in order to avoid positing a ready-made world taken for granted, or else an infinite regress of models. Third, Morris draws in everyday experiences of space and place in order to elucidate the deep problem of depth—a problem that heretofore has not been elucidated so intelligently and imaginatively resolved. Fourth, he adopts a developmental perspective on perception and motion that makes his work virtually unique and that brings additional light to bear on the question of depth. Fifth, Morris explores the implications of his model of depth for the experience of place in human experience—a bold undertaking that succeeds remarkably well. In sum, this is a groundbreaking work.' — Edward S. Casey, author of Imagining: A Phenomenological Study, Second Edition
David Morris is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Trent University.
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: The Problem of Depth
Part I: The Moving Sense of the Body
1. The Moving Schema of Perception
2. Developing the Moving Body
3. The Topology of Expression
Part II: The Spatial Sense of the Moving Body
4. Enveloping the Body in Depth
5. Residing Up and Down on Earth
6. Growing Space
Conclusion: Space, Place, and Ethics
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I am an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. My main interests are in Continental Philosophy (especially Phenomenology, Merleau-Ponty and Bergson) and Hegel, with a focus on the philosophy of the body, mind and nature in relation to current biology and cognitive science. I am currently studying the problem of the genesis of meaning and sense, in relation to biological and perceptual phenomena. My most recent publications are on: reversibility, expression, perception, animal faces and embryology in Merleau-Ponty; animals and humans, in relation to the problem of mind and body; method in Husserl, Bergson, and Peirce; Hegel on the understanding; and Hegel on the logic of measuring the body. My book The Sense of Space was published by SUNY Press in 2004
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- David Morris, Andrew Robinson & Catherine Duchastel, Concordance of Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception.
This is a concordance of page numbers in the following editions of Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception: English editions prior to the Routledge Classics 2002; Routledge Classics edition, with the new pagination; the French edition from Gallimard, prior to 2005; the 2e edition from Gallimard, 2005, with new pagination.
- David Morris (2008). Diabetes, Chronic Illness and the Bodily Roots of Ecstatic Temporality. Human Studies 31 (4).
This article studies the phenomenology of chronic illness in light of phenomenology’s insights into ecstatic temporality and freedom. It shows how a chronic illness can, in lived experience, manifest itself as a disturbance of our usual relation to ecstatic temporality and thence as a disturbance of freedom. This suggests that ecstatic temporality is related to another sort of time—“provisional time”—that is in turn rooted in the body. The article draws on Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception and Heidegger’s Being and Time , (...) shedding light on the latter’s concept of ecstatic temporality. It also discusses implications for self-management of chronic illness, especially in children. (shrink)
- David Morris (2008). Reversibility and Ereignis: On Being as Kantian Imagination in Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger. Philosophy Today:135-143.
This paper aims to clarify Merleau-Ponty’s difficult concept of “reversibility” by interpreting it as resuming the dialectical critique of the rationalist and empiricist tradition that informs Merleau-Ponty’s earlier work. The focus is on reversibility in “Eye and Mind,” as dismantling the traditional dualism of activity and passivity. This clarification also puts reversibility in continuity with the Phenomenology’s appropriation of Kant, letting us note an affiliation between Merleau-Ponty’s reversibility and Heidegger’s Ereignis: in each case being itself already performs the operation that (...) Kant had located in the imagination. Reversibility discovers this Kantian imagination moving in place, Ereignis discovers it in temporality. (shrink)
- David Morris (2008). Body. In Rosalyn Diprose & Jack Reynolds (eds.), Merleau-ponty: Key Concepts. Acumen Publishing.
This chapter studies the theme of the body in Merleau-Ponty by first showing how it is anticipated in The Structure of Behaviour and is central to the Phenomenology of Perception. In addition to illuminating Merleau-Ponty's concept of the body, the aim is to show how the body is, for Merleau-Ponty, a key methodological term, since it marks philosophy's inherent openness to something prephilosophical, to which philosophy must be responsible. The chapter shows how this openness and the body's expressive role in (...) the earlier philosophy anticipates key issues in the later The Visible and the Invisible. (shrink)
- David Morris (2008). The Time and Place of the Organism: Merleau-Ponty's Philosophy in Embryo. Alter: revue de phénoménologie 16:69-86.
Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy attempts to locate meaning-sense-within being. Space and time are thus ingredient in sense. This is apparent in his earlier studies of structure, fields, expression and the body schema, and the linkage of space, time and sense becomes thematic in Merleau-Ponty’s later thinking about institution, chiasm and reversibility. But the space-time-sense linkage is also apparent in his studies of embryogenesis. The paper shows this by reconstructing Merleau-Ponty’s critical analysis of Driesch’s embryology (in the nature lectures) to demonstrate how, for (...) Merleau-Ponty, embryogenesis entails a principle of sense-generation that is irreducible to the plenitude of space or spatial distributions of material, yet is inseparable from being and spatial facts. This principle indicates a ‘depth’ or ‘hollow’ internal to “flat being,” in virtue of which being can create more sense than is yet given. The paper illuminates this ‘depth’ and the role of space in sense by turning to some recent scientific accounts-of bees deciding on new nesting places, of termites building mounds, and of embryogenesis-to suggest how space is inherently ingredient in the genesis of sense. This depends on turning from a concept of space as extensive to place as intensive, for it is the intensity of places, rather than the extensity of already delineated spaces, that affords sense generation. (shrink)
- David Morris (2007). Philosophy of Mind. In C. V. Boundas (ed.), The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century Philosophies. Edinburgh University Press.
- David Morris (2007). Faces and the Invisible of the Visible: Toward an Animal Ontology. Phaenex 2 (2):124-169.
This paper studies the role of faces in animal life to gain insight into Merleau-Ponty's philosophy, especially his later ontology. The relation between animal faces and moving, animal bodies involves a peculiar, expressive logic. This logic echoes the physiognomic structure of perception that Merleau-Ponty detects in his earlier philosophy, and exemplifies and clarifies a logic elemental to his later ontology, especially to his concept of an invisible that is of (endogenous to) the visible. The question why the logic of the (...) face can manifest this analogy or homology with the logic of perception and ontology is treated through a study of embryology, which suggests that the logic of the face ramifies a deeper logic of being. Methodologically, the face is taken as something like a lens into the onto-logic of being. This lens suggests that what underlies Merleau-Ponty's later ontology is a logic of animality. (shrink)
- David Morris (2007). Phenomenological Realism and the Moving Image of Experience. Dialogue 46:569-582.
- David Morris (2006). Hegel on the Life of the Understanding. International Philosophical Quarterly 46:403-419.
This article clarifies Hegel's argument within ``Force and the Understanding'' in his Phenomenology of Spirit by developing Hegel's underlying point through discussion of recent and ongoing issues concerning explanation in natural and psychological science. The latter proceeds by way of a critical discussion of the problem of other minds and the ``theory theory of mind.'' The article thereby shows how and why Hegel's analysis of the understanding inaugurates a crucial transition in his Phenomenology, from consciousness to self-consciousness and life. Putting (...) Hegel's underlying points into conversation with recent science shows how his point -- that scientific understanding is not abstract but embedded in human life -- still speaks to science. (shrink)
- David Morris (2006). Heideggerian Truth and Deleuzian Genesis as Differential 'Grounds' of Philosophy: Review Essay of Miguel De Beistegui's Truth and Genesis: Philosophy as Differential Ontology. Pli 17:166-183.
- David Morris (2006). The Open Figure of Experience and Mind: Review Essay of John Russon's Human Experience: Philosophy, Neurosis, and the Elements of Everyday Life. Dialogue 45:315-326.
This review of John Russon's Human Experience: Philosophy, Neurosis, and the Elements of Everyday Life focuses on Russon's position that experience is open (having a developmental, situated and dynamic, rather than fixed, structure) and figured (having a structure inseparable from forms of bodily function), and that mind is something learned in the process of working out experience as figured and open. These themes are drawn together in relation to recent scientific discussions (e.g., of bodily dynamics, mirror neurons, robotic systems and (...) thermodynamics), to show how Russon's view challenges deep philosophical assumptions in prevailing accounts of mind, body and experience. (shrink)
- David Morris (2006). Ecstatic Body, Ecstatic Nature: Perception as Breaking with the World. Chiasmi International 8:201-217.
I survey some unusual phenomena in which the body seems to be projected into other things. I argue that these phenomena should not be understood as illusions, as erroneous distortions of an objective body, but as indicating that the body is first of all a being absorbed in outside things. The usual questions about perception are thus reversed: the question is not how the outside world is represented in an inside, but how a moving body ecstatically absorbed in things ever (...) breaks out of that absorption. My suggested answer involves movement and has implications for rethinking nature. (shrink)
- David Morris (2005). Animals and Humans, Thinking and Nature. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 4 (1).
Studies that compare human and animal behaviour suspend prejudices about mind, body and their relation, by approaching thinking in terms of behaviour. Yet comparative approaches typically engage another prejudice, motivated by human social and bodily experience: taking the lone animal as the unit of comparison. This prejudice informs Heidegger’s and Merleau-Ponty’s comparative studies, and conceals something important: that animals moving as a group in an environment can develop new sorts of “sense.” The study of animal group-life suggests a new way (...) of thinking about the creation of sense, about the body, the brain, and the relation between thinking and nature. (shrink)
- David Morris (2005). Bergsonian Intuition, Husserlian Variation, Peirceian Abduction: Toward a Relation Between Method, Sense and Nature. Southern Journal of Philosophy 43:267-298.
Husserlian variation, Bergsonian intuition and Peircean abduction are contrasted as methodological responses to the traditional philosophical problem of deriving knowledge of universals from singulars. Each method implies a correspondingly different view of the generation of the variations from which knowledge is derived. To make sense of the latter differences, and to distinguish the different sorts of variation sought by philosophers and scientists, a distinction between extensive, intensive, and abductive-intensive variation is introduced. The link between philosophical method and the generation of (...) variation is used to illuminate different philosophical conceptions of nature and nature's relation to meaning and sense. (shrink)
- David Morris (2005). What is Living and What is Non-Living in Merleau-Ponty's Philosophy of Movement and Expression. Chiasmi International 7:225-238.
In ancient philosophy life has priority: non-living matter is made intelligible by living activity. The modern evolutionary synthesis reverses this priority: life is a passive result of blind, non-living material processes. But recent work in science and philosophy puts that reversal in question, by emphasizing how living beings are self-organizing and active. “Naturalizing” this new emphasis on living activity requires not simply a return to ancient philosophy but a new ontology, a new concept of nature. To explore that ontology, I (...) draw on Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, studying the link between the organism and its environment, the body and the world, as reflecting a nature in which things are already linked in a moving whole. I focus on the topics of expression and movement, putting Merleau-Ponty into conversation with recent discussions in philosophy of science, especially in immunology and in evolutionary theory, and attending to Bergsonian and Hegelian threads in the background of Merleau-Ponty’s thinking. (shrink)
- David Morris (2004). The Sense of Space. State University of New York Press.
The Sense of Space brings together space and body to show that space is a plastic environment, charged with meaning, that reflects the distinctive character of human embodiment in the full range of its moving, perceptual, emotional, expressive, developmental, and social capacities. Drawing on the philosophies of Merleau-Ponty and Bergson, as well as contemporary psychology to develop a renewed account of the moving, perceiving body, the book suggests that our sense of space ultimately reflects our ethical relations to other people (...) and to the places we inhabit. (shrink)
- David Morris (2002). Thinking the Body, From Hegel's Speculative Logic of Measure to Dynamic Systems Theory. Journal of Speculative Philosophy 16 (3):182-197.
A study of shifts in scientific strategies for measuring the living body, especially in dynamic systems theory: (1) sheds light on Hegel's concept of measure in The Science of Logic, and the dialectical transition from categories of being to categories of essence; (2) shows how Hegel's speculative logic anticipates and analyzes key tensions in scientific attempts to measure and conceive the dynamic agency of the body. The study's analysis of the body as having an essentially dynamic identity irreducible to measurement (...) aims to contribute to reconceiving the body, in a way that may be helpful to overcoming dualism. (shrink)
- David Morris (2002). Touching Intelligence. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 29 (149-162).
Touch requires that one move in concert with one's tactile object. This provokes the question how joint movement of this sort yields perception of tactile qualities of the object vs. tactile qualities of an object-augmented body. Phenomenological analysis together with results of dynamic systems theory (in psychology) suggest that the difference stems from 'resonant' vs. 'reverberant' modalities of body-object movement. The further suggestion is that tactile movement is itself a form of discriminative intelligence, and that the peculiar intimacy of touch (...) and movement can shed light on a general role of movement in perception, subject-object relations, and intelligence. (shrink)
- David Morris (2001). Lived Time and Absolute Knowing: Habit and Addiction From Infinite Jest to the Phenomenology of Spirit. Clio 30:375-415.
A study of habit and other unconscious backgrounds of action shows how shapes of spiritual life in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit each imply correlative senses of lived time. The very form of time thus gives spirit a sensuous encounter with its own concept. The point that conceptual content is manifest in the sensuous form of time is key to an interpretation of Hegel's infamous and puzzling remarks about time and the concept in ``absolute knowing.'' The article also shows how Hegel's (...) Phenomenology connects with current discussions of lived time, habit, and, via discussion of Wallace's Infinite Jest, addiction. (shrink)
- David Morris (2000). The Logic of the Body in Bergson's Motor Schemes and Merleau-Ponty's Body Schema. Philosophy Today 44 (Supplement):60-69.
- David Morris (1999). Edward S. Casey: Getting Back Into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World and Edward S. Casey: The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History. Continental Philosophy Review 32 (1).
- David Morris (1999). The Fold and the Body Schema in Merleau-Ponty and Dynamic Systems Theory. Chiasmi International 1:275-286.
Contemporary thought, whether it be in psychology, biology, immunology, philosophy of perception or philosophy of mind, is confronted with the breakdown of barriers between organism and environment, self and other, subject and object, perceiver and perceived. In this paper I show how Merleau-Ponty can help us think about this problem, by attending to a methodological theme in the background of his dialectical conception of embodiment. In La structure du comportement, Merleau-Ponty conceives life as extension folding back upon itself so as (...) to reveal Hegel’s ‘hidden mind of nature.’ In the Phénoménologie de la perception, radical reflection elucidates the body schema as an essence that reveals itself within embodied existence, qua shaping the natural perceptual dialogue in which the perceiver and the perceived permeate and separate from one another. In these two conceptions of embodiment, we progressively see how the dialectical principle of embodiment must reveal and conceive itself within embodiment itself. Science, on the other hand, follows the phenomena of the body to a certain point, but refuses to allow that embodiment is self-conceptual. I illustrate this using the example of dynamic systems theory, an inheritor of the tradition of J.J. Gibson’s ecological psychology. In this way, I show how Merleau-Ponty’s conception of the dialectic of embodiment as self-conceptual is important to problems in contemporary thought. (shrink)