This volume takes an interesting approach to the phenomenology of place and human lived emplacement. The book is an anthology of previously published papers and essays rather than a continuous arrative argument. Seamon has, however, assembled the parts of the anthology as an extended annotated bibliography for his 2018 book, Life Takes Place: Phenomenology, Lifeworlds, and Place Making. As Seamon states in his introduction to this volume, all of its chapters make a range of references to the three aspects of place discussed in Life Takes Place—phenomenology, lifeworlds, and placemaking.
Seamon is the curator of this anthology, giving it the strength of a deliberate, cohesive narrative, at least from the author’s perspective. How much would we love to have had notable philosophers of the past give us their own sense of their oeuvre as Seamon has given us here! Phenomenological Perspectives is an important service to phenomenologists interested in Seamon or in the philosophies of place and the social lifeworld.
Phenomenological Perspectives, being an in-depth exploration of the three interrelated themes of the book Life Takes Place, is divided into three groups of chapters. The three parts of Phenomenological Perspectives deal with phenomenology as a means of studying place, phenomenologically understanding place experience and lived emplacement, and using artistic media to illustrate the many ways that humans encounter lived experience in place.
In Part I, Seamon presents four chapters in which he explains the basics of the phenomenology of place. Chapter 2, “Lived Bodies, Place, and Phenomenology,” could serve as a general introduction to phenomenology and as an approach to understanding people and the societies they create. The other three chapters in Part I introduce and explain the concepts of lifeworld, homeworld, and environmental embodiment, foundational concepts for Seamon’s phenomenology of place. Chapter 4, “Body-Subject, Time-Space Routines, and Place Ballets,” is noteworthy for Seamon’s discussion of his concept of “place ballet.” This he defines as “the regularity of place grounded in the bodily habituality of users.” It is a concept reminiscent of Heidegger’s “everydayness,” with Seamon placing more emphasis on the lived body in our experience of place and our pedestrian routines within our lifeworld.
Expressing Seamon’s background in architecture and environment behavior, the chapters in Part II explore the relations of places and lived emplacement to architecture, design pedagogy, and urban placemaking. The five previously published papers in Part II use the concepts of lifeworld and place ballet to understand and improve architectural design, with particular emphasis on the practical value of understanding place and lived emplacement. Chapter 8, “Architecture, Place, and Phenomenology: Buildings as Lifeworlds, Atmospheres, and Environmental Wholes,” provides an insightful description of how architecture plays a central role in human life. The short essay of Chapter 7, “Serendipitous Events in Place: The Weave of Bodies and Context via Environmental Unexpectedness and Chance,” is a slight diversion in tone. In it, Seamon discusses place serendipity—relating stories of people having chance experiences in place. Seamon connects the stories to the subject of Part II by observing that architectural design is an aspect in serendipitous events that affect people’s lives.
Part III comprises eight essays about artistic creations that Seamon sees as providing real-world groundings that identify general aspects of human life and place events. The essays discuss the work of two filmmakers, a photographer, four writers, and a television producer. Seamon’s phenomenological interpretations of these mostly fictional artistic creations may or may not express the intentions of their creators. Nevertheless, the connections that Seamon makes are interesting and informative. If phenomenology, as Seamon defines it, is the description and interpretation of human experience, then fictional creations can concretize human experience in ways that help us understand that human life is impossible without place.
Phenomenological Perspectives is invaluable in a study of David Seamon’s philosophy. It also provides a solid set of resources for the phenomenological study of place and lifeworlds. This book can be useful on its own but is perhaps best appreciated if one also has Seamon’s Life Takes Place alongside. Phenomenological Perspectives deserves a place on the phenomenologist’s bookshelf next to monographs of Jeff Malpas and Anthony Steinbock.