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The Empiricist, Intellectualist And Embodied Perspective In Phenomenological Sense

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The focus of this essay is the analyses of the case study (sitting under a tree in the botanical garden and taking in nature). What I encountered in the Botanical garden is plants, trees and etc, therefore I tend to analyse it from the three perspectives namely, the empiricist (or natural scientist), an intellectualist (or rationalist), the embodied perspective ( ala Merleau- Ponty) and in a phenomenological sense. lastly, the explanation and description of the three perspectives will be given.

Empiricist or natural scientist perspective

In the philosophical field, empiricism is a theory that entails that knowledge comes only from sensory experience. The emphasis of empiricism is on the role of empirical evidence in the formation of ideas, rather than innate ideas or traditions. However, due to the historical view of empiricism, as it was associated with the 'blank slate' according to which the human mind is 'blank' at birth and develops its thoughts only through experience, empiricists argued that traditions (or customs) arise due to relations of previous sensory experiences. In the philosophy of science, empiricism emphasizes evidence, especially as discovered in experiments. Empiricism is a fundamental part of the scientific method which stated that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation. Empiricism, usually used by natural scientists, entails that 'knowledge is based on experience'. The empirical research, including experiments and validated measurement tools, guides the scientific method, Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (1969), 'Empiricism', vol. 2, p. 503

According to 2020 the study conducted on biodiversity by the Royal Botanic Gardens in the UK, 22% of the approximately 380,000 known plant species (or about 83,600 plant species) are endangered. Empiricism’s view of plants and trees sees plants as the only life forms that can produce food using energy from sunlight. According to the empiricist view, plants have a green pigment called chlorophyll in their cells, situated in the leaves and it allows plants to make food from sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide in a process called photosynthesis.

The Environmental Impact

The interpretation of empiricism on plants is that photosynthetic plant life as a dominant force on earth transformed our atmosphere into the oxygen-rich air we breathe. In addition to releasing oxygen, empiricists argued that plant/ trees are not just mere observational natural objects, but they have an essential role on earth. In contrast, plants use carbon dioxide to complete the carbon cycle and recycle the carbon dioxide released by human beings and other heterotrophs. Carbon dioxide also helps mitigate the greenhouse effect and climate change. It could be stated that according to empiricist plants has essentially led to the beginning of aerobic life due to their production of oxygen required for life to form. Trees play an effective role in removing the carbon dioxide from the surrounding air and transforming it, by photosynthesis into oxygen Fernando, W. D. (2012).

Intellectualist/ rationalist perspective

According to O’Connor, J. K. (2007), the focus of intellectualism is related to mental perspectives that emphasize the use, the development, and the exercise of the intellect; and identifies the life of the mind of the intellectual person. In the field of philosophy, 'intellectualism' is also known as rationalism, which referrers to knowledge derived from reasons. Merleau-Ponty to study the nature of perception, he further proposes to synthesize recent findings in experimental psychology (especially Gestalt psychology) and neurology to develop an alternative to dominant intellectualist. Merleau-Ponty rejects the empiricist idea based on an understanding of sensation, with its correlative 'constancy hypothesis. The goal of Intellectualism is to provide a deputy to empiricism by introducing judgment or attention as mental activities that synthesize experience from the sensory reasons.

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As I was sitting there in a Botanical Garden looking for a kind of a plant, I finally, judge explicitly that it was there, in fact, present, but that is only one moment in my perceptual experience; before the judgment. I was seeing the trees and the plants, but my visual experience requires the kind of determinacy recorded by the eventual judgment. The plant I was looking for was both there-to be-seen and yet not fully present in my visual field. By insisting on the primacy of judgment, the intellectualist effaces these kinds of tensions and indeterminacies in the act of perception, thereby rendering perceptual experience as more frozen and static than it is and must be. On the contrary, Intellectualism can be understood as an overreaction to the lifeless, mechanical model offered by the empiricist.

As Merleau-Ponty noted, neither view can accommodate the vital character of perceptual experience as it is lived. 'empiricism]'consciousness is poor in the first case and intellectualism is rich for any phenomenon to appeal compellingly to it. In addition, empiricism lacked to see that we need to know what we are looking for, otherwise, we would not be looking for it, and intellectualism fails to see that we ought to be ignorant of what we are looking for, or equally again we should not be searching. They are both in agreement that neither can grasp consciousness in the act of learning and that neither attaches due importance to that circumscribed ignorance, that still 'empty' but already determinate intention, which is attention itself O’Connor, J. K. (2007). p28,29.

Embodiment perspective

Embodiment refers to any instance of being-for-itself experiences itself as an embodied being, acting in and on the world. He rapidly adds that being-for-itself 'cannot be united with a body. He argued further of a union between consciousness and the body involves a conflation of two different, mutually exclusive manifestations of the body precisely, the body as experienced by me and body as experienced by others. The experience of one's body and the body's role in the experience of other kinds of objects receives little, if any, attention, and indeed, his endeavours to isolate and narrate an 'absolute' consciousness and the pure, non-empirical ego, along with the requisite procedures of the phenomenological reduction, invite imagery of a kind of ghostly, disembodied field or realm of consciousness O’Connor, J. K. (2007).

Phenomenological perspective/ sense

Attention to this work dissipates entirely the ghostly image of consciousness that the characterization of the phenomenological reduction often invites and serves to lay the foundation for Merleau-Ponty's later investigations. Merleau- Ponty made a close study of Ideas, precisely the archival form, and its influence may be discerned in his Phenomenology of Perception. A brief outline of some of the main arguments on the body from this work helps to both give a more developed picture of Husserlian phenomenology and prepared the way of Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of embodied experience. Husserl's account of the body in Ideas is oriented around two principal claims firstly, that the body is something that appears inexperienced as a categorically distinct kind of thing, and lastly, that the body and bodily self-experience play an essential role concerning the possibility of different forms of intentionality, that is, to the possibility of experience that is of or about objects other than the body itself. To have experiences that are of or about various kinds of objects O’Connor, J. K. (2007).

Husserl has material things and objects in mind. Analysing the case study from the perspective of phenomenology we could say that Husserl claims to have an experience that is of or about the material, spatiotemporal objects, basically ordinary things such as rocks and trees as encountered in the Botanical garden that one must experience oneself as embodied. Husserl claims that “the Body is, in the first place, the medium of all perception; it is the organ of perception and is necessarily involved in all perception'. To clarify this claim, the upper-case for 'Body' records an important distinction. In the German language, all nouns are capitalized, but the translation's use of the capital 'B' signals that the signify the body understood in material terms, as a physical object of a particular kind, whereas in other distinct it specifies the living body and, in the phenomenological context, the experienced body or body-as-lived. One of Husserl's and Merlau- Ponty principle is that the body has not been experienced as just one more material object among others, but rather is manifest in a categorically distinct manner. Husserl claims that the body is the 'medium' and 'organ' of perception seems reasonably clear from many of the most basic descriptions of our perceptual experience involve reference to our bodily existence O’Connor, J. K. (2007).


The empiricism perspective, emphasis on the knowledge-based on experiments precisely encountered through scientific methods, The intellectual perspective’s emphasis is on the knowledge encountered through reasoning and lastly, the embodied emphasis on the consciousness and the body, and lastly, the phenomenological emphasis is on material and spatiotemporal object.


  • O’Connor, J. K. (2007). Understanding Phenomenology—David R. Cerbone. International Philosophical Quarterly, 47(4), 486-488.
  • Fernando, W. D. (2012). Plants: An international scientific open access journal to publish all facets of plants, their functions, and interactions with the environment and other living organisms. Plants, 1(1), 1.
  • Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (1969), 'Empiricism', vol. 2, p. 503
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