“The natural sciences have not in a single instance unravelled for us actual reality, the reality in which we live, move and are… the opinion that they can accomplish this – in principle- has revealed itself to those with more profound insight as a superstition.”
Edmund Husserl, Philosophy as a Rigorous Science
In this blog I have encouraged the reader to see the Landscape of Being as a co-dependent and equiprimordial unity. Human identity owes its genesis necessarily to embodiment, to intersubjective intentionality and to embeddedness in the world, though it is more than a sum of these parts. This genesis draws meaning from the Landscape of Being in a process motivated by the essential desire for significance and capacity for purpose which defines the questioning being. In this and subsequent posts I will elaborate upon the way that this composite group interconnects and investigate some of the phenomena which support my claims. Rather than address them individually however, I will take as my central theme the world to which they are indebted.
The world is all around me. Its colours press in on my perception as do its sounds, tastes, textures and smells. In the grass there are creatures so small I must stoop to perceive them. In the air, in the soil and even on the surface of these tiny creatures there are smaller entities that are not so much indeterminate as beyond normal sight. Microorganisms, molecules and atoms are all around me but if I am to see them I must bring them into view somehow.
Consider the cells of the trees around me. They can be seen, but they are so small I must magnify them if I am to distinguish the nucleus from the vacuole or the cytoplasm. These can be discerned if I can only find the optimum viewing point; if successful I may even begin to see the organelles each cytoplasm contains.
For each object in the world, contends Merleau-Ponty, ‘as for each picture in an art gallery’, there is an ‘optimum distance’ from which it is best observed. At this most suited vantage point one’s search for significance is optimally rewarded, depending of course on the significance one seeks and the purpose in seeking. Too short or too great a distance yields a perception blurred through excess or deficiency. For this reason the questioning being tends towards the ‘maximum of visibility’ in order to appropriate the world’s meaning. In seeking to understand the structure of a cell, indeed in order to observe a cell’s organelles, I seek a better focus by employing a microscope but, whilst I gain magnified detail, I lose a sense of the whole, for the detail is ‘divorced from any background against which it can stand out’. This super-sight renders the entity no longer a living body, but ‘a mass of matter as outlandish as a lunar landscape’.
On the other hand of course, I can change the scale. Climbing to the viewing gallery inside the dome of the Duomo in Florence renders the people below, seen from too great a distance, mere decoration or something alien; again they ‘lose their living value’ as people. As Merleau-Ponty contends; ‘the living body itself appears when its microstructure is neither excessively nor insufficiently visible, and this moment equally determines its real size and shape. The distance from me to the object is not a size which increases or decreases, but a tension which fluctuates around a norm.’ Certainly the objects viewed are real, they are facts, they are part of the background of my world. Because I am embedded in that world too however, they must be brought forward into my foreground through an intentionality that seizes their significance and adjusts the tension for maximum grip.
 Merleau-Ponty, M. (Trans.) Colin Smith, Phenomenology of Perception, London, Routledge, 1962/2006, 352