The Inescapable Corporeality of Occupation: Integrating Merleau-Ponty into the Study of Occupation

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Since the time of Descartes, western science has tended to separate and prioritize the mind over the body when studying human behavior. Consequently, the corporeal dimension of human activity is often overlooked in studies of participation in meaningful occupation. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the body's fundamental and active role in sensory perception and to encourage occupational scientists to consider the body as an intelligent and intentional repository of experiential knowledge that is predisposed to draw an actor towards particular behaviors at a pre-reflective level. To achieve this end, we present a focused discussion on Merleau-Ponty's concepts of the corporeality of perception, grip, coupling, écart, and reversibility. These concepts enable occupational scientists to consider perception and action as phenomena that are predicated on an active body that incorporates experiences of participation in occupation. Merleau-Ponty's philosophy portrays the body as a sediment of past experiences which structure an actor's perceptual orientation including the meaning-directions and the intentional arcs that the actor tends to identify among the environment. We argue that Merleau-Ponty's work is complementary to the philosophies of Dewey and Bourdieu while adding a nuanced perspective on the micro-level social processes invoked by participation in occupation.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bailliard, AL; Carroll, A; Dallman, AR

Published Date

  • April 3, 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 25 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 222 - 233

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2158-1576

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1442-7591

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1080/14427591.2017.1397536

Citation Source

  • Scopus