M.Sc Thesis

M.Sc StudentEisenberg Ram
SubjectThe Nature of "The Goodness Experience in Nature" A
Phenomenological Inquiry Grounded in Eugene
Gendlin's Ideas
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisors PROF. Tal Alon-Mozes
ASSOCIATE PROF. Efrat Eizenberg
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


    As a practicing landscape architect, I have spent the major part of my professional career designing public spaces, aiming to provide the greatest possible sense of well-being to most users. My wish to articulate accumulated, non-conceptualized, concrete knowledge, was the driving force of this venture. Since previous empirical research has firmly established the positive effect of natural environments on a wide range of experiential and behavioural variables, I decided to focus my inquiry on the experience of well-being in nature itself. The somatic processes of Focusing and Thinking-At-the-Edge, by Eugene Gendlin, were adopted for developing first-person and second-person phenomenological methodologies, whilst his seminal philosophical work, "a Process Model" served as the conceptual underpinning for explaining my findings. 

    A group of 15 focusing students, focused on finding a place that makes them feel good in the nature reserve of Alonei-Ytzhak. The word-for-word transcripts of their sessions became the raw material for a hermeneutic analysis, exploring the evolution of the experience of goodness-in-place.

    A content analysis yielded descriptions of a sense of an inner knowing resonating with a meaning embodied in nature; feelings of a "boundlessness" between inner and outer realities coupled with a solid sense of self; a heightened sense of ability; noticing "an immensity", inner landscapes; a feeling of communion, care and generosity; and universal themes as dying, living, and the meaning of human and non-human presence.

    A structural reading recognized two central axes: a sensorial differentiation between "in" and "out", and a transition of expression between "conceptualized" and "non-conceptualized" meanings. A crossing of these axes yielded the "Field of Meaning" matrix, which was then used to trace the "flow of attention" over three general steps: A - "before-it" (pre-conceptualized), B -"within-it" (non-conceptualized threshold), and C -"after-it" (newly-conceptualized).

    I named the process of transitioning from the pre-conceptualized (old-knowledge) to the newly-conceptualized (insights about self and world), "The Formation of Acquaintance Process". Beginning with "An Appearing", a sensory awareness of something "calling" for attention, it then follows three grand inductive steps:

    1. A pre-conceptualized experiencing of "it", over varying depths of "within" such as "Tasting", "Dipping", and "Diving".

    2. Contexting: relating the particular experience to one's private-world-of-meaning.

    3. Universalizing: making grander and grander generalizations of meaning so as to befit more and more situations.

    The "Formation of Acquaintance Process" seems congruous with other scales of experience such as E. Gendlin's "Experiencing Scale" (1969), and D. Seamon's "Modes of Encounter scale" (1979), on which it adds and articulates the contextualizing and conceptualizing tiers as integrative to the goodness-experience-in-nature as a formation of an embodied meaning.

    The main insight arising from this study, is that the goodness experienced in nature is closely related to the formation of meaning: at first in an unconceptualized, preverbal form; and then slowly, given time and attention,  meaning emerges as a freshly conceptualized insight, which was in itself experienced as goodness.

    In conclusion I explore an emergent theory of discursive / non-discursive place; features and processes which may obstruct or be conducive to the genesis of a goodness-experience-in-place.