Severin Sales Rödel: Negative Erfahrungen und Scheitern im schulischen Lernen, Springer, 2019

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Severin Sales Rödel
Springer
2019
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Gustav Shpet: Hermeneutics and Its Problems: With Selected Essays in Phenomenology, Springer, 2018

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Gustav Shpet. Thomas Nemeth (Ed.)
Springer
2018
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George Pattison: A Phenomenology of the Devout Life: A Philosophy of Christian Life, Part I, Oxford University Press, 2018

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Oxford University Press
2018
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240

Frode Kjosavik, Christian Beyer, Christel Fricke (Eds.): Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity, Routledge, 2018

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Frode Kjosavik, Christian Beyer, Christel Fricke (Eds.)
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2018
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352

Jørgen Sneis: Phänomenologie und Textinterpretation: Studien zur Theoriegeschichte und Methodik der Literaturwissenschaft, De Gruyter, 2018

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De Gruyter
2018
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Martin Grajner, Guido Melchior (Hrsg.): Handbuch Erkenntnistheorie, J.B. Metzler, 2018

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David Seamon: Life Takes Place: Phenomenology, Lifeworlds, and Place Making

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David Seamon
Routledge
2018
Paperback £35.99
220

Reviewed by: Dr. Andrew Turk (Adjunct Associate Professor, Murdoch University, Western Australia)

David Seamon’s latest book Life Takes Place: Phenomenology, Lifeworlds, and Place Making (2018) is very readable for those from disciplines other than the obvious ones of architecture, urban planning, geography and philosophy. The content and structure of this book provides both an introduction to the topic and a summary of key issues.  Seamon has previously[i] introduced his method of ‘synergistic relationality’ analysis via six place process triads, however, this new book provides more illustrative examples and   explanation.  This book requires, and deserves, a detailed reading.  This is reflected in the nature of this review, which summarises, to the extent practicable, the content of the book, as well as providing more general comments, questions and conclusions.  This review is from the perspective of an interdisciplinary researcher regarding place, rather than from a strictly philosophical point of view.

Seamon starts by asking about the relationship between life and place, and argues that life requires place.  Seamon defines place from a phenomenological perspective, as “any environmental locus that gathers human experiences, actions, and meanings spatially and temporally” (2).  He notes that Jeff Malpas describes place as “an open and interconnected region within which other persons, things, spaces, and abstract locations, and even one’s self can appear, be recognized, identified and interacted with”[ii].  People also potentially have strong feelings (affects) about places, both positive and negative.

We understand place via analysis of real-world evidence and this is the proper basis for testing conceptual claims about place.  A key concern of this book is the best way to analyse such evidence.  Seamon contrasts ‘analytic relationality’, which divides places and their relationships into parts or factors, with, his preferred, ‘synergistic relationality’, which takes a holistic view of place as constituted of dynamic aspects which are interconnected both physically and experientially. To investigate modes of dwelling in place, a sound, structured methodology is important because of the complex, indeterminate, interdisciplinary and ever-changing nature of place.

There are many different approaches to phenomenology and ways that a phenomenological view of place can be applied, so it is important to judge this book in terms of its stated objectives (5, 6):

  • To develop a phenomenology of place grounded in synergistic relationality;
  • To demonstrate the use of a predefined ‘progressive approximation’ structure of analysis, implementing a form of Systems Theory, developed by British philosopher J. G. Bennett;
  • To surface relationships, actions and processes integral to phenomenology of place in a manner which is multidimensional but integrated;
  • To demonstrate the way wholeness of place can be expressed via examination of paired terms and six triads, based on Bennett’s systems theory;
  • To apply a phenomenological perspective to places, which is understood to arise from our personal, cultural, intellectual, and historical points of view;
  • To address, in the context of both historical and hypermodern places, certain critical concerns, raised by reviewers, about the approach adopted in this book.

Seamon defines phenomenology as “a way of understanding that emphasizes the description and interpretation of human experience, awareness, and meaning, particularly their unnoticed, taken-for-granted dimensions” (8).  He quotes Moran (2005[iii], 2) as suggesting that Edmund Husserl, the “founder of phenomenology”, envisioned phenomenology as “the descriptive, non-reductive science of whatever appears, in the manner of its appearing, in the subjective and intersubjective life of consciousness”.  Seamon explains that the aim is not just descriptions of phenomena, but their comparison to identify “underlying commonalities that mark essential, non-contingent features and qualities of the phenomenon” (9), i.e. their ‘essences’.

In this book the topic of interest is experiences, actions, meanings and events with respect to place.  He cites (9) Van Manen (2014, 39)[iv] as contending the need to study “active and passive” lived experience; the “ordinary and the extraordinary, the quotidian (commonplace) and the exotic, the routine and the surprising, the dull and the ecstatic moments”.  In this way phenomenology pays attention to the totality of human experience and seeks to develop informative and theoretical formulations as comprehensively and authentically as possible.  To achieve this, Seamon draws on a wide range of examples of descriptions of lived experience and, in order to conceptualize place phenomenologically, he cites earlier studies by renowned researchers such as Edward Relph, Edward Casey and Jeff Malpas.

Such phenomenological explorations are based on the assumption that all “human experience, awareness, and action are always intentional – i.e., necessarily oriented toward and finding their significance in a world of emergent meaning”; that is, we are “inescapably immersed, enmeshed, and entwined” in our particular lifeworld (11).  The phenomenological approach shines a light on key aspects of everyday life, including those experiences that normally go unnoticed, via “unquestioned acceptance of the lifeworld … what Husserl called the natural attitude” (12).   Place is not just manifest as the material environment, distinct from the people that dwell there.  Conceptualizations of place need to incorporate “lived complexity in an ordered way, including the generative processes whereby places and place experiences shift over time” (13).

As emphasised by phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty[v], people’s activities within their environment are embodied, often as unselfconscious gestures and behaviours, both individually and as group processes.  These include ‘body routines’ (integrated sets of gestures and actions) and ‘time space routines’ (often-repeated sets of actions to accomplish common tasks).  These conventionalised patterns of behaviour facilitate the dwelling group developing and maintaining a sense of deep involvement with that place.  A routine of bodily interactions is termed a ‘place ballet’ by Jane Jacobs (1961)[vi].

Key aspects of everyday activities in place can be examined phenomenologically via a methodology of data collection and analysis, which must exhibit interpretive accuracy and trustworthiness.  Such methodologies can draw data from a variety of sources, including: “phenomenologies of place already written … studies by sociologists, geographers, psychologists, architects, planners, urban designers and others … accounts from imaginative literature that relate to place experiences and place meanings … recent newspaper articles that deal with place events and place experiences” (16, 17).  Seamon suggests use of a wide range of such texts because this facilitates comparison between sources and validation of key phenomena.

The long history of investigation of ‘place’ is discussed by Seamon, including contributions by human geographers like Yi-Fu Tuan, Edward Relph and Anne Buttimer, regarding topics such as place attachment, place identity, place belonging and sense of place.  He notes (19) the interdisciplinary nature of place research, citing Bruce Janz (2005)[vii], who provides a critique of past research on phenomenology of place.  Janz lists requirements for effective place research, including adopting a phenomenological and hermeneutical approach, which concentrates on the experience of place.  This requires a complex, holistic and richly cultural approach to place.

Seamon follows the phenomenological tradition established by Edmund Husserl of being disinclined to collaborate with social science methods for understanding dwelling in place, and critiques examples of rationalist approaches to investigation of place.  He claims they prevent the whole of place being understood in terms of “ambience, character, presence, or serendipitous unfolding” (23).  Instead, he advocates a ‘synergistic relationality’ approach, which concentrates on processes, via an investigative methodology that does justice to the wholeness and emergent nature of place.

For Seamon, place is “an interconnected field of intertwined relationships gathering and gathered by a lived intimacy between people and the world and held together spatially and temporally” (29). A methodology for investigating place must identify and analyse these relationships as they unfold in actions and experiences of everyday life.  To develop his approach to this problem, Seamon turned to the ‘phenomenology of wholeness’ of British phenomenologist and science educator Henri Bortoft and British philosopher and mathematician J.G. Bennett, who together developed the notion of ‘progressive approximation’.  This method seeks to understand the whole via investigating its parts with respect to the way they ‘belong together’, “through a mode of careful, intuitive encounter uniting perception, feeling, and thinking” (30).

According to Seamon, the method of ‘progressive approximation’ permits the researcher to identify the ‘organized structure’ inherent, but hidden, within the bewildering diversity and complexity of phenomena involved with dwelling in place.  This is achieved through a structured investigation, starting from vague outlines of concepts, and subsequent filling in of details, providing a deepening of meanings.  Seamon contends that this seeking out of ‘underlying connectedness’ or ‘integrated structure’ implements a form of ‘triangulation’.

Seamon notes (34, 35) that Bennett (1993, 13)[viii] defines a system as “a set of independent but mutually relevant terms, (in which term refers to) those elements of the system that express a specific character, such as universality, complementarity, dynamism, activity, potential, and so forth”.   Bennett utilises a structured approach to investigation of complex systems, moving from the single, total wholeness (monad), through dyads, inherently belonging to the monad, and indicating the diverse nature of different features of the system.  This leads to triads, expressing the relatedness of different aspects of the system and the processes that bind them.

Based on Bennett’s publications, Seamon notes that the monad is an ‘undifferentiated diversity’, which needs to be encountered as a whole before the structure of its parts is examined to determine whether any particular element ‘belongs’ to the system.  Dyads concern binaries and contrasts inherent in the system, so that the existence of one term presupposes the other.  The contrasting elements are complementary to each other, rather than polar opposites.  They interpenetrate and cannot be separated because both are integral to phenomena.  Dyads are selected which most effectively contribute to a deepened understanding of the phenomenon via “the dyad’s two natures; what it is and what it does” (40).  Resolution of essentially contradictory conditions is explained by the triads, where the emphasis is shifted to identification of processes that enable this resolution.

Further background regarding the approach of using process triads to understand place can be found in Seamon’s previous work (2012; 2014).  In the 2012 chapter he contends that place can be understood in terms of three dimensions: “first, the geographical ensemble – i.e., the material environment, including both its natural and human-made dimensions; second, people-in-place, including individual and group actions, intentions, and meanings; and, third, spirit of place, or genius loci (common presence)” (3).  He goes on to show how this concept can be understood via six modes of dwelling (processes), based on ‘systematics’ developed by J.G. Bennett, using slightly different terminology to the 2018 book.  Seamon (2014) discusses the same six place processes, without reference to Bennett’s work, emphasising instead a ‘generative’ view of various aspects of relationships with place, which interact via a synergistic dynamic.  In his 2018 book, Seamon claims that the three ‘impulses’, which are differently combined in the six place triads, are direct consequences of the meaning of place, as explained by Edward Casey, Bruce Janz and Jeff Malpas.

In Chapters 5 to 8, Seamon explains how he utilizes Bennett’s analytic method of monad, dyads and triads for investigation of the essential character of place. Seamon’s method begins with explication of the monad of place as a multifaceted phenomenon of daily life.  He provides lists of the ‘thematic’ aspects and the ‘characteristics’ of place, as a ‘sphere of opening’, providing opportunities to investigate the experiential wholeness of place in a phenomenological manner. Different modes of lived emplacement involve temporal aspects (such as duration of dwelling) and nested horizons of place (household, workplace, neighbourhood, city, etc.).  There is a lived ‘co-envelopment’ between body and world, an inescapable commingling.

Moving from the monad, the next step is to establish dyads of place, to investigate the wholeness of place via an appropriate set of binaries and complementarities involved in encounters and actions in place.  The nominated five place dyads are: movement and rest; insideness and outsideness; the ordinary and extra-ordinary; the within and without; homeworld and alienworld.  He discusses (citing relevant theorists) the reasons for, and significance of, each dyad and examples of different modes of experiencing them.

The third, and dominant level of the systems theory approach to place is triads; the means for reconciling the tensions inherent in the dyads.  Seamon claims “that a triadic knowledge of place is essential if we are to envision design, policy, planning, or advocacy that work to strengthen rather than weaken real-world places” (67).  He adopts Bennett’s term ‘successive approximation’ to describe increasingly more detailed levels of analysis, which approach more closely the real level of complexity of dwelling in place.  To represent the dynamic, generative aspects of place, the six place triads depict various processes and relationships, which can have either a positive or negative impact on dwelling in place.

Bennett (1993, 37-39) defines a triad as “a system of three independent but mutually related terms, each of which he designated by the word impulse, to suggest a sense of force or motivation that, interacting with the two other impulses of the triad, leads to a specific action, process or happening”.  These three basic impulses are affirming (initiating, demanding, or forcing action), receptive (that which is acted upon; being passive, resisting or denying) and reconciling (combining the other two impulses; via integrating, harmonizing, bridging, or neutralizing).  They are successively termed the first (1), second (2) and third (3) impulses.  In the context of place, Seamon names these impulses people-in-place (1), environmental ensemble (2) and common presence (3) and justifies them as aspects of place-as-process.  They represent the fundamentals of place; i.e. the characteristics of people who live there, the nature of the topography and ecosystem, and the intertwining of those two systems to produce a particular, intricate mode of dwelling.

Seamon explains the three place impulses: “Environmental ensemble … refers to the material and environmental qualities of place, including topography, geology, weather, flora, fauna” (85).  This applies to natural landscape, and human-made elements, which provide “the material foundation for place events, transactions, experiences, and meanings” (86). The impulse of ‘people-in-place’ is ‘affirming’ because “typically, people actively manipulate and fabricate their worlds” (87).  It includes “their actions, routines, understandings, and situations, whether unself-conscious or conscious, habitual or out-of-the-ordinary” (87).

Seamon describes ‘common presence’ as “the material and lived ‘togetherness’ of a place impelled by both its physical and experiential qualities” (87).  Seamon notes the significance of Bennett’s (1961, 44)[ix] claim that ‘common presence’ is “one example of phenomena that occupy ‘a kind of no-man’s land between the fields of science, art, and religion’ … it cannot be readily grasped directly but only felt and spoken of imprecisely” (88).  Hence, a flexible interdisciplinary approach is required to incorporate this impulse within a comprehensive investigation of place.

All place processes involve ways of combining the three impulses.  This is reflected in each impulse’s positioning in any one of these six triads: place interaction (1-3-2); place identity (2-3-1); place release (3-2-1); place realization (3-1-2); place intensification (2-1-3); and place creation (1-2-3).  In Chapters 9 to 14, Seamon seeks to tease out the interactions between people and place via explication of the six place triads.  There is not space in this review to fully summarise Seamon’s explanation of the phenomenology of the place triads, however, a brief summary follows.

The ‘triad of place interaction’ “marks the existential foundation of any place – the lifeworld actions, happenings, and situations associated with that place” (93).  Seamon notes that this involves a wide range of interactions between the environment and those who dwell there. He cites authors who have developed typologies of individual and group place experiences.  Place interaction triads may ‘chain’, as a series of progressive actions, and smaller triads may ‘nest’ within larger scale triads to produce a particular mode of dwelling.

The ‘triad of place identity’ “involves ways that place becomes an extended, taken-for-granted part of how an individual or group suppose themselves to be personally and communally” (105).  Seamon distinguishes this triad from that of ‘place interaction’ in that it involves repetitive interactions with the environment which may have either a positive or negative impact on people’s feelings about the place.  A person may consider a particular place as their ‘homeworld’, motivating them to exhibit emotional and practical care for that place.

The ‘triad of place release’ is linked with the ‘triad of place realization’ because they demonstrate opposite ways that ‘common presence’ initiates place actions.  Seamon states that ‘place release’ “involves an environmental serendipity of unexpected encounters and events” (118).  He suggests that such events could involve ‘noticing’ something new, and this may trigger sequences of consequential interactions.  A question arises as to whether environments can be designed to facilitate serendipity or whether particular types of activities might encourage instances of ‘place release’ to occur?  The ‘triad of place realisation’ is, in contrast, defined by Seamon as relating to some breakdown of the ‘ordered wholeness’ of place, causing a deterioration in the mode of dwelling in place.  This can involve discord within ‘common presence’, operating at an unselfconscious or conscious level.

The ‘triad of place intensification’ is paired with the ‘triad of place creation’, because in both “the reconciling impulse of common presence is the outcome of place actions, though these actions are considerably different experientially” (138).  In the case of ‘place intensification’ the outcome is positive, creating a stronger form of ‘common presence’ via an improved physical environment.  However, for ‘place creation’ the improvement is generated by people implementing change through ‘creatively envisioning’ a better mode of dwelling.  These triads are perhaps most easily understood in terms of urban design and renewal of communal facilities and practices, such as creating new plazas and/or encouraging more vibrant communal activities, such as outdoor concerts and festivals.  The interaction between the two triads is evident in such examples and can be conceptualised as ‘organizing lifeworlds’ to overcome fragmentation and strengthen ‘common presence’ in terms of utilitarian, cultural or spiritual aspects.  It is also possible for changes in either the physical or socio-cultural aspects of dwelling to have a negative effect when inappropriate changes undermine place.  Seamon contends that the challenge for planners is to understand the ‘grounded wholeness’ of place, and the complex interactions between physical and social considerations.  Concentrating on the unique phenomenology of any particular place can lead to promotion of ‘place synergy’.

In Chapter 15, Seamon discusses ways of integrating the six triadic place processes.  He notes that the processes interact in a potentially synergistic fashion, although the intricate forms of reciprocity are largely unpredictable.  Places are constantly changing via the flux of internal change processes and by the influence of external forces.  Seamon provides a table (168) of the ways the six place processes may contribute to sustaining or undermining place and, hence, the lived experience of dwelling.  He introduces the notion of ‘virtuous spirals’, “whereby a dynamic interweave among the six processes supports an unfolding place tube intensifying the wellbeing of place and working against environmental and human entropy” (173).  Changes may occur across many places simultaneously or successively, since places are linked in a multitude of ways.  Understanding of the relationship between places requires its own detailed phenomenology (endnote 2, 176).

In the last two chapters of his book, Seamon contends that his method of ‘synergistic relationality’ aids in understanding places, and the processes that drive their creation and development.  He acknowledges the difficulty of fully understanding this approach and discusses some criticisms and concerns raised by reviewers of the draft book.  The conceptual approach taken in the book could be termed ‘essentialist’, i.e., that an invariant and universal human condition prevails, evident only when historical, social and cultural variables are bracketed.  Seamon responds by “emphasizing the basic phenomenological recognition that there are different dimensions of human experience and existence that all must be incorporated in a thorough understanding of human and societal phenomena, including place and lived emplacement” (178).  These dimensions include individual characteristics such as gender, intellectual endowments, and historical, social and cultural contexts, which affect individuals and communities.  However, all human beings experience ‘lived emplacement’ through universal, non-contingent dimensions, which are the subject of this book.

David Seamon’s book is successful in terms of its stated objectives, within the adopted conservative phenomenological paradigm.  However, this review includes some critiques and questions, at several levels of abstraction.  Seamon’s approach can be compared with a diverse range of methods for phenomenological investigation of place discussed in recent publications[x].

The centrepiece of Seamon’s book is the structured methodology of monad, dyads and triads, based on Bennett’s systems theory.  This implementation of ‘synergistic relationality’ is coherent, though somewhat mechanistic.  It would be more satisfying for the reader if Seamon had provided at least a partial review of the history of systems theory and a detailed argument as to why this method is the chosen option.  He states that he has studied this approach for three decades so perhaps felt no need to justify its validity and applicability.  Although this systems theory based method represents a significant development in our understanding of investigation of place, some questions can be raised.

Having established the fundamental wholeness of the place monad, Seamon develops five place dyads representing conceptual oppositions.  While Seamon’s explanations are compelling, they do not sufficiently explain why those particular, predominately physical (and somewhat overlapping), five dyads were chosen. There are other potential binaries of dwelling in place, relating to historical (e.g. whether colonised people or not), utilitarian (e.g. predominating form of work: hunter/gatherer and agricultural vs manufacturing and utilities), social (e.g. dominant vs marginalised people), political (e.g. democratic vs totalitarian), cultural (e.g. indigenous vs multicultural customs and languages), or spiritual (e.g. sacred vs secular places) aspects.   One assumes that the nature of the place investigation being undertaken would determine which type of dyads are most applicable.

The third step in Seamon’s method is to develop triads based on place impulses.  He suggests that the three impulses define place directly, rather than “in terms of other phenomena such as community, culture, politics, power, economics, or some similar qualities that in both analytic and poststructural research are assumed to be independent shaping the dependent factor of place” (84).  The three impulses are indeed fundamental, providing a generic, abstract definition of place.  However, the people-in-place impulse could incorporate the characteristics of the dwelling group, as a system, interacting with the system of topography and ecosystem, to produce an enhanced form of ‘common presence’.  It can be argued that the phenomena listed earlier in this paragraph can be considered as interdependent, with each other and with place.  They contribute to the mode of dwelling for any particular place, within phenomenological as well as social science methods of investigation.  This is an extension of the approach in Seamon (2012, 3) quoted above.

Uluru in central Australia is a strong example of complexity of place.  It has been a sacred place for Pitjantjatjara Anangu Aboriginal people for at least 10,000 years.  After colonisation by Europeans it was named Ayers Rock.  In 1985 land ownership by Anangu was officially recognised and its traditional name restored.  Uluru is a major tourist attraction.  Apart from being a magnificent monolith, that it is a place, and its nature as place, are intricately linked with each of the factors Seamon chooses to bracket. Uluru could be considered as multiple co-located places, each with respect to a community or stakeholder group (Anangu, governments, industry, tourists, etc.) or as one place incorporating all these relationships.  Given its lack of direct engagement with social and cultural aspects of dwelling, could Seamon’s method investigate these different perspectives appropriately, for instance, in the context of developing a fair and effective management plan for the area?

Seamon asserts that in analytic research approaches “place is typically interpreted as a dependent variable shaped by such independent variables as age, social status, home ownership, or duration of place involvement” (84). The two references provided by Seamon for this statement[xi] support an interdisciplinary and clearly articulated approach to place research.  Patterson and Willliams (2005) review the conceptual clarity of different approaches to research on place, and their epistemological foundations.  They conclude that “systematic coherence requires a pluralistic world view that understands place, not as a single research tradition but as a domain of research informed by many disciplinary research traditions at the research program and paradigmatic level” (362).  Lewicka (2011) reviews the linkages between the type of place research, the methods used, and the theories they rely upon.  She concludes that the key aspect requiring attention is theory concerning place processes, relevant to topics such as meaning-making in place attachment.  This requires interdisciplinary approaches to theory that facilitate consideration of contextual factors relating to the physical and social environments, as interacting systems.  This can be aligned with Martin Heidegger’s notions of ‘dwelling’ and ‘equipment’[xii], which are not significantly pursued by Seamon.

Seamon notes that his version of  ‘common presence’ is difficult to comprehend.  It could perhaps be more easily understood as the synergistic interaction of a group of people, gathered under a communal spatial-socio-cultural-spiritual framework, with a specific area of terrain, as a system of topography and ecosystem.  An enhanced notion of ‘common presence’ can then be thought of as the ‘togetherness’ of intersubjectivity and communalized intentionality,[xiii]in the context of dwelling in that topographic ecosystem.  This entails place as both a utilitarian ‘taskscape’ (Ingold[xiv]) and also a domain (potentially) suffused with culture and spirituality.  Seamon’s determination to avoid the label of ‘social constructivism’ leads him to emphasise the less cultural and task-related aspects of ‘common presence’, such as ‘sense of place’, weakening his approach.

In explaining each of the triads, and their role in his method of analysis, Seamon provides descriptive examples, some in greater detail, from newspaper articles and scientific publications.  Not surprisingly, due to his long-standing expertise in architecture and town planning, these examples predominately relate to urban places.  However, consideration of dwelling needs to cover urban, rural and wild places.  Future evaluations of this approach for places in rural and wild settings will assist in determining the generalizability of Seamon’s method of analysis.

Seamon explains that the six place triads need not arise from an analysis of Bennett’s systems theory.  This is a very important point.  It leads to the question of whether the total conceptual space delineated by the six Bennett-based triads could perhaps be subdivided, ordered and named in more effective ways, based on the broad approach to phenomenology of place developed by the cited authors and others?  What is clear is that Seamon has provided an excellent step forward, which will facilitate development of even more effective reasoning on this matter.

Seamon emphasises the pure phenomenological philosophical perspective.  However, it can be argued that the three place impulses are instantiated in different ways through particular characteristics of topography, ecosystems and communities. A particular mode of dwelling in place can be described via an extremely complex set of variables, usually acting interdependently, and numerous processes, often non-deterministic.  Thus, a model of place, operationalized as a method for investigation and comparison of particular real-world places, needs to facilitate examination of the role of physical and lifeworld factors via targeted case studies.  Indeed, this approach is the one implicitly used by Seamon to explain the six places triads, via reference to newspaper articles and studies of the role of various factors influencing modes of dwelling.

Seamon contends that his structured phenomenological method provides a useful conceptual approach to investigation of differences between places.  Alternative approaches to investigation of place can not only co-exist, but can potentially be synergistically combined.  For instance, Alfred Schütz[xv] developed ethnomethodology to integrate phenomenology and social sciences in the early 1930s.  Phenomenology can be blended with science to facilitate an interdisciplinary approach to investigation of place[xvi]. This can be extended to become transdisciplinary, if phenomenology is used as an overarching paradigm.  This would align with Husserl’s notion of phenomenology as a meta-science (Moran, 2000, 137)[xvii].


[i] Seamon, D. (2012) Place, Place Identity, and Phenomenology: A Triadic Interpretation Based on J.G. Bennett’s Systematics. In: Casakin, H. and Bernardo, F. (Eds.) The Role of Place Identity in the Perception, Understanding, and Design of Built Environments, Bentham Science Publishers, pp. 3-21; Seamon, D. (2014) Place Attachment and Phenomenology: The Synergistic Dynamism of Place. In: Manzo, L. C. and Devine-Wright, P. (Eds.) Place Attachment: Advances in Theory, Methods and Applications. New York: Routledge. pp. 11-22.

[ii] Malpas, J.E. (1999) Place and Experience. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. p. 36.

[iii] Moran, D. (2005) Edmund Husserl: Founder of Phenomenology. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

[iv] Van Manen, M. (2014) Phenomenology of Practice. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

[v]  Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962) Phenomenology of perception. New York: Humanities Press; Merleau-Ponty, M. (1968) The visible and the invisible. Evanston IL: Northwestern University Press.

[vi] Jacobs, J. (1961) The death and life of great American cities. New York: Vintage.

[vii] Janz, B, (2005) Walls and borders: The range of place.  City and Community, Vol. 4, No. 1, p. 87.

[viii] Bennett, J.G. (1993) Elementary systematics. Seamon, D. (Ed.), Santa Fe, NM: Bennett Books.

[ix] Bennett, J. G. (1961) The dramatic universe, vol. 2: The foundations of moral philosophy. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

[x]  e.g.: Janz, B. (Ed.) (2017) Place, Space and Hermeneutics. Springer; Donohoe, J. (Ed.) (2017) Place and Phenomenology. London: Rowman and Littlefield.

[xi] Lewicka, M. (2011) Place Attachment: How far have we come in the last 40 years? Journal of Environmental Psychology, Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 207-230; Patterson, M. and Willliams, D. (2005) Maintaining research traditions on place: Diversity of thought and scientific progress. Journal of Environmental Psychology, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 361-380.

[xii] Heidegger, M. (1962/2007) Being and time. Trans. by Macquarrie, J. and Robinson, E. Maldan, MA: Blackwell.

[xiii]  Kockelmans, J. J. (1994) Edmund Husserl’s Phenomenology. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press.

[xiv] Ingold, T. (1993) The Temporality of the Landscape. World Archaeology, Vol. 25, No. 2, Conceptions of Time and Ancient Society, pp. 152-174.

[xv] Schütz, A. (1940) Phenomenology and the Social Sciences. Initially published in: Farber, M. (Ed.) Philosophical Essays in Memory of Edmund Husserl. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press. In: Luckman, T. (Ed.) (1978) Phenomenology and Sociology: Selected Readings. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, pp. 119-141.

[xvi]  Mohanty, J. N. (1997) Phenomenology: Between Essentialism and Transcendental Philosophy. Northwestern University Press, p. 23.

[xvii]  Moran, D. (2000) Introduction to Phenomenology. Abingdon: Routledge.

David Kleinberg-Levin: Reason and Evidence in Husserl’s Phenomenology, Northwestern University Press, 2018

Reason and Evidence in Husserl's Phenomenology Book Cover Reason and Evidence in Husserl's Phenomenology
Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy
David Kleinberg-Levin
Northwestern University Press
2018
Paperback $45.00
232

Theodor Lipps: Schriften zur Einfühlung: Mit einer Einleitung und Anmerkungen, Ergon Verlag, 2018

Schriften zur Einfühlung: Mit einer Einleitung und Anmerkungen Book Cover Schriften zur Einfühlung: Mit einer Einleitung und Anmerkungen
Studien zur Phänomenologie und Praktischen Philosophie
Theodor Lipps. Faustino Fabbianelli (Hg.)
Ergon Verlag
2018
Paperback 78.00 €
792

F. Buongiorno, V. Costa, R. Lanfredini: La fenomenologia in Italia. Autori, scuole, tradizioni

La fenomenologia in Italia. Autori, scuole, tradizioni Book Cover La fenomenologia in Italia. Autori, scuole, tradizioni
Gulliver
F. Buongiorno, V. Costa, R. Lanfredini
Inschibboleth
2018
Paperback
318

Reviewed by: Vittoria Sisca (Independent Scholar)

Raccogliendo undici contributi degli allievi più vicini ai personaggi che hanno dato avvio alla tradizione fenomenologica italiana, il volume a cura di Federica Buongiorno, Vincenzo Costa e Roberta Lanfredini intitolato La fenomenologia in Italia. Autori, scuole, tradizioni mostra la possibilità di raccontare la fenomenologia attraverso un’operazione che non si esaurisce in una sterile ricostruzione storica ma si configura come il tentativo di convertire un tema “a portata di fanciullo” in una Rückfrage: un esercizio intimo, che consiste nel ricercare le parole adatte per descrivere il proprio maestro, in una domanda che scava all’indietro cercando di scorgere anche la propria storia nel movimento di quella stessa vicenda di pensiero. Il risultato di questo esercizio è il quadro di un percorso che attraversa almeno tre generazioni di filosofi: un itinerario decentrato, dislocato in varie “scuole”, eppure tutt’altro che scolastico se col termine “scuola” intendiamo «la ripetizione, malgrado allargata, di temi di origine» (109). Leggendo il testo, in effetti, risulta difficile tracciare delle parole-guida che lo caratterizzano, nella misura in cui ciò che sopravviene è la netta impossibilità di ridurre il variegato panorama fenomenologico italiano a una «preconcetta visione d’insieme» (11) o altrimenti l’inadeguatezza di coprire, a beneficio di una definizione, l’intreccio di autori, scuole e tradizioni che gli dà forma.

Partendo dal principio, si potrebbe dire che il pensiero di Edmund Husserl abbia fatto capolino, in Italia, sull’onda di una reazione storica alle ipoteche metafisiche che ostacolavano l’emergere di una ragione differente. In particolare, come si legge nei contributi di Luca Maria Scarantino e Angela Ales Bello, Antonio Banfi riconobbe alla trattazione husserliana dell’intenzionalità il merito di aver trasformato la necessità ontologica della «correlazione metafisica fra percezione e rappresentazione» (17) in una necessità di ordine storico; mentre Vanni Rovighi, pur attribuendo al pensiero di Husserl una cifra idealistica di fondo, si avvalse di quella teoria o, come direbbe lei, di quel «guardare come stanno le cose» (44), per contrastare il neoidealismo imperante ai suoi tempi. I saggi successivi di Roberto Gronda e Elio Franzini esemplificano perfettamente come, coerentemente rispetto al proposito di porre le «condizioni di una teoria del sapere relazionale, antidogmatica e aperta a una pluralità di forme culturali» (16), l’insegnamento di Banfi ebbe un’influenza molto diversa all’interno delle opere dei suoi allievi. Comparando i due scritti, infatti, è possibile notare che, se Preti continuò e approfondì il razionalismo critico banfiano, Formaggio ereditò dal maestro quella capacità di «“tentare la sordità dell’esperienza”» (117) che gli consentì di comprendere, a partire dall’arte, «come un corpo in azione» riesca ad «essere protagonista di una trasformazione del mondo»: una trasformazione che, per un verso, ne rivela le qualità e, per l’altro, «scopre se stesso come dimensione percettiva, memorativa e immaginativa» (127).

Leggendo il contributo di Amedeo Vigorelli è possibile constatare, invece, che fu Enzo Paci a proseguire la missione pedagogica del maestro Banfi. Egli vi riuscì perché, analogamente a Banfi, non si limitò mai a guardare a Husserl solo come a un interlocutore privilegiato per il proprio pensiero, bensì fece della fenomenologia husserliana il punto di partenza per la costruzione di una vera e propria Gemeinschaft: una dimensione culturale «aperta, che “senza essere ostile al pensiero scientifico” evitasse di “farsene colonizzare e di sviluppare complessi di inferiorità”» al fine di reagire a un «diffuso scetticismo anti-filosofico» (88). Una tappa fondamentale di questa costruzione, nel percorso di Paci, è la rivista “aut aut”, che egli fondò nel 1951. Attorno ad essa, infatti, si svilupparono dei legami particolarmente significativi per lo sviluppo della fenomenologia italiana, al punto che si potrebbe paragonare questo progetto all’ossatura di quella Husserl Renaissance che, soprattutto in seguito alla pubblicazione nella Husserliana del secondo volume di Ideen e della Krisis, interessò il panorama culturale italiano degli anni Cinquanta e Sessanta. Fra questi, il legame fra Paci e Semerari di cui si parla nel contributo del Ferruccio De Natale ha il merito di mostrare come, oltre alla volontà di «superare i pregiudizi legati ad una lettura pigra, stereotipata della fenomenologia» (90), alla base della rilettura italiana dei testi di Husserl vi fosse anche quella «avvalersi delle analisi husserliane per configurare un “atteggiamento”» suscettibile di essere trasformato «in prassi, in lotta per l’emancipazione del soggetto da ogni forma di reificazione della sua attività intenzionale» (141) attraverso il confronto col materialismo storico di Marx.

I richiami marxiani che innervano le opere di Enzo Paci si colgono perfettamente nell’entusiasmante Prefazione alla terza edizione de La crisi delle scienze europee e la fenomenologia trascendentale che egli scrisse nel ’68, all’interno della quale paragonò le idee di coloro i quali attaccavano «la fenomenologia come una fuga della realtà che mancava di praxis» a quelle degli «intellettuali della Russia zarista» che «consideravano puramente teorici e astratti i ragionamenti di Lenin e di Trockij». Tuttavia, l’audace paragone paciano dice qualcosa anche in merito alla tendenza del filosofo a ricomprendere il pensiero husserliano dalla fine all’inizio, mostrando l’insensatezza di distinguere fra un “primo” Husserl logico e slegato dalla prassi, e un “secondo” Husserl storico, impegnato a recuperare la problematica della Lebenswelt. Un’attitudine che dalla sua opera si riverserà sull’intero panorama fenomenologico italiano, dando avvio a un cammino che si proporrà riallacciare, dentro e fuori i testi husserliani, il piano della logica a quello dell’esperienza, la sfera del sapere a quella della vita.

Tutto questo però richiede una precisazione: dal momento che la fenomenologia italiana è lo specchio di una postura che non veicola tendenze dogmatiche, questa tendenza si realizzerà in maniera ogni volta diversa, rendendo difficile per molti versi rintracciarne i connotati. Come si legge nel contributo di Roberto Miraglia, ad esempio, Giovanni Piana, a differenza di Paci, criticò alcuni aspetti dell’opera testamentaria di Husserl riscontrando come gli scritti husserliani, nel corso del tempo, tendessero sempre di più a far spazio a «un Hussel ideologico che ripropone i temi etico-fondazionalisti, senza che questo incremento di drammaticità» potesse però «rendere più adeguata ad affrontarli una cassetta degli attrezzi pensata invece in vista della realizzazione di una analitica fenomenologica» (243).  Un discorso analogo, peraltro, si potrebbe fare in merito ai riferimenti che contribuiranno, insieme a Husserl, a determinare le linee della scena fenomenologica italiana, perché se lo Husserl di Paci e Semerari va a braccetto con Marx, mentre è humeano invece lo Husserl di Enzo Melandri di cui tratta il saggio di Stefano Besoli, quello di Sini, conformemente alla convinzione che tornare alle cose stesse (come scrive Federico Leoni) significhi tornare alle operazioni «attraverso cui le cose stesse si costituiscono», diventa un Husserl copernicano, e cioè «radicalmente kantiano» (222).

Ovviamente, si possono individuare anche dei punti comuni negli studi fenomenologici italiani, come l’antiriduzionismo che accomuna ad esempio due personalità per molti versi differenti come Paolo Parrini, di cui scrive Andrea Pace Giannota, e Paolo Bozzi, a cui è dedicato il contributo Roberta Lanfredini. Ma quello che bisognerebbe chiedersi è: posto che quelle che abbiamo individuato non siano affatto le uniche spaccature individuabili all’interno della Fenomenologia in Italia, ha davvero senso parlare di una fenomenologia italiana? Il contributo finale di Federica Buongiorno suggerisce che per affrontare questo problema occorra spostare la questione su un piano diverso rispetto a quello della mera teoria. Questo perché sul piano dell’esperienza, e cioè di un esercizio filosofico che si fa, lo scontro di prospettive differenti muta di senso. Al suo posto, come avviene quando si traduce un testo e ci si trova, da un lato, ad affrontare «la sfida di trovare, se non per certi versi “inventare” la “parola giusta” con cui rendere il termine originale» e, dall’altro, a doversi confrontare con le «scelte già consolidate e difficilmente aggirabili» (299) di una terminologia già presente, emerge l’idea di una comunità di studiosi grazie alla quale l’eco primitivo di un pensiero si è prodotto (o riprodotto) in un determinato contesto.

Quello che si tratta di capire, se è vero che non è affatto semplice individuare i caratteri della fenomenologia italiana, è che questa difficoltà però non è un elemento accidentale, e neanche la dimostrazione che si debba per questo parlare per forza di una pluralità di pensieri che apre le porte a una deriva scettica. Piuttosto, essa è la conseguenza dell’impossibilità di circoscrivere a priori qualcosa che somiglia più a uno stile, a una maniera «che esiste come movimento ancor prima di essere giunta a un’intera coscienza filosofica», come diceva Merleau-Ponty nella Fenomenologia della percezione. Se consideriamo che non si può ripetere quello stile, quella maniera, come si ripeterebbe un proverbio, non possiamo che convenire con i curatori de La fenomenologia in Italia rispetto al fatto che l’unico modo per raccontare la fenomenologia è allora quello di procedere von unten, e cioè quello di ricollegare questo racconto all’esperienza degli autori che le hanno dato forma. Volendo, però, potremmo spingerci anche oltre: riprendendo le parole di John Keats, potremmo affermare che non solo una particolare vicenda di pensiero, ma «Niente può mai diventare reale, senza essere vagliato dall’esperienza. Persino un proverbio: che proverbio è, prima che la vita te l’abbia mostrato?».