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Phenomenology

2. The Discipline of Phenomenology

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1. What is Phenomenology?

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Furthermore, as psychoanalysts have stressed, much of our intentional mental activity is not conscious at all, but may become conscious in the process of therapy or interrogation, as we come to realize how we feel or think about something.

We should allow, then, that the domain of phenomenology—our own experience—spreads out from conscious experience into semi-conscious and even unconscious mental activity, along with relevant background conditions implicitly invoked in our experience.

These issues are subject to debate; the point here is to open the door to the question of where to draw the boundary of the domain of phenomenology. To begin an elementary exercise in phenomenology, consider some typical experiences one might have in everyday life, characterized in the first person:. Here are rudimentary characterizations of some familiar types of experience. Each sentence is a simple form of phenomenological description, articulating in everyday English the structure of the type of experience so described.

The verb indicates the type of intentional activity described: Of central importance is the way that objects of awareness are presented or intended in our experiences, especially, the way we see or conceive or think about objects. In effect, the object-phrase expresses the noema of the act described, that is, to the extent that language has appropriate expressive power. The overall form of the given sentence articulates the basic form of intentionality in the experience: Rich phenomenological description or interpretation, as in Husserl, Merleau-Ponty et al.

But such simple descriptions bring out the basic form of intentionality. As we interpret the phenomenological description further, we may assess the relevance of the context of experience. And we may turn to wider conditions of the possibility of that type of experience.

In this way, in the practice of phenomenology, we classify, describe, interpret, and analyze structures of experiences in ways that answer to our own experience.

In such interpretive-descriptive analyses of experience, we immediately observe that we are analyzing familiar forms of consciousness, conscious experience of or about this or that. Intentionality is thus the salient structure of our experience, and much of phenomenology proceeds as the study of different aspects of intentionality. Thus, we explore structures of the stream of consciousness, the enduring self, the embodied self, and bodily action.

Furthermore, as we reflect on how these phenomena work, we turn to the analysis of relevant conditions that enable our experiences to occur as they do, and to represent or intend as they do.

Phenomenology then leads into analyses of conditions of the possibility of intentionality, conditions involving motor skills and habits, background social practices, and often language, with its special place in human affairs. The Oxford English Dictionary presents the following definition: The science of phenomena as distinct from being ontology. That division of any science which describes and classifies its phenomena. From the Greek phainomenon , appearance.

In physics and philosophy of science, the term is used in the second sense, albeit only occasionally. In its root meaning, then, phenomenology is the study of phenomena: Yet the discipline of phenomenology did not blossom until the 20th century and remains poorly understood in many circles of contemporary philosophy. What is that discipline? How did philosophy move from a root concept of phenomena to the discipline of phenomenology?

Immanuel Kant used the term occasionally in various writings, as did Johann Gottlieb Fichte. From there Edmund Husserl took up the term for his new science of consciousness, and the rest is history. Suppose we say phenomenology studies phenomena: How shall we understand phenomena? The term has a rich history in recent centuries, in which we can see traces of the emerging discipline of phenomenology.

In a strict empiricist vein, what appears before the mind are sensory data or qualia: In 18 th and 19 th century epistemology, then, phenomena are the starting points in building knowledge, especially science.

Accordingly, in a familiar and still current sense, phenomena are whatever we observe perceive and seek to explain. As the discipline of psychology emerged late in the 19 th century, however, phenomena took on a somewhat different guise.

More generally, we might say, phenomena are whatever we are conscious of: In a certain technical sense, phenomena are things as they are given to our consciousness, whether in perception or imagination or thought or volition. This conception of phenomena would soon inform the new discipline of phenomenology. Brentano distinguished descriptive psychology from genetic psychology. Where genetic psychology seeks the causes of various types of mental phenomena, descriptive psychology defines and classifies the various types of mental phenomena, including perception, judgment, emotion, etc.

According to Brentano, every mental phenomenon, or act of consciousness, is directed toward some object, and only mental phenomena are so directed. Phenomenology as we know it was launched by Edmund Husserl in his Logical Investigations — Two importantly different lines of theory came together in that monumental work: In his Theory of Science Bolzano distinguished between subjective and objective ideas or representations Vorstellungen.

In effect Bolzano criticized Kant and before him the classical empiricists and rationalists for failing to make this sort of distinction, thereby rendering phenomena merely subjective.

Logic studies objective ideas, including propositions, which in turn make up objective theories as in the sciences. Psychology would, by contrast, study subjective ideas, the concrete contents occurrences of mental activities in particular minds at a given time. Husserl was after both, within a single discipline. So phenomena must be reconceived as objective intentional contents sometimes called intentional objects of subjective acts of consciousness.

Phenomenology would then study this complex of consciousness and correlated phenomena. The intentional process of consciousness is called noesis , while its ideal content is called noema.

Thus the phenomenon, or object-as-it-appears, becomes the noema, or object-as-it-is-intended. Is the noema an aspect of the object intended, or rather a medium of intention? For Husserl, then, phenomenology integrates a kind of psychology with a kind of logic. It develops a descriptive or analytic psychology in that it describes and analyzes types of subjective mental activity or experience, in short, acts of consciousness.

Yet it develops a kind of logic—a theory of meaning today we say logical semantics —in that it describes and analyzes objective contents of consciousness: These contents are shareable by different acts of consciousness, and in that sense they are objective, ideal meanings. Following Bolzano and to some extent the platonistic logician Hermann Lotze , Husserl opposed any reduction of logic or mathematics or science to mere psychology, to how people happen to think, and in the same spirit he distinguished phenomenology from mere psychology.

For Husserl, phenomenology would study consciousness without reducing the objective and shareable meanings that inhabit experience to merely subjective happenstances.

Ideal meaning would be the engine of intentionality in acts of consciousness. With theoretical foundations laid in the Investigations , Husserl would then promote the radical new science of phenomenology in Ideas I And alternative visions of phenomenology would soon follow. Phenomenology came into its own with Husserl, much as epistemology came into its own with Descartes, and ontology or metaphysics came into its own with Aristotle on the heels of Plato. Yet phenomenology has been practiced, with or without the name, for many centuries.

When Hindu and Buddhist philosophers reflected on states of consciousness achieved in a variety of meditative states, they were practicing phenomenology. When Descartes, Hume, and Kant characterized states of perception, thought, and imagination, they were practicing phenomenology. When Brentano classified varieties of mental phenomena defined by the directedness of consciousness , he was practicing phenomenology.

When William James appraised kinds of mental activity in the stream of consciousness including their embodiment and their dependence on habit , he too was practicing phenomenology.

And when recent analytic philosophers of mind have addressed issues of consciousness and intentionality, they have often been practicing phenomenology.

Still, the discipline of phenomenology, its roots tracing back through the centuries, came to full flower in Husserl. The diversity of traditional phenomenology is apparent in the Encyclopedia of Phenomenology Kluwer Academic Publishers, , Dordrecht and Boston , which features separate articles on some seven types of phenomenology.

The most famous of the classical phenomenologists were Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty. In these four thinkers we find different conceptions of phenomenology, different methods, and different results. A brief sketch of their differences will capture both a crucial period in the history of phenomenology and a sense of the diversity of the field of phenomenology.

In his Logical Investigations —01 Husserl outlined a complex system of philosophy, moving from logic to philosophy of language, to ontology theory of universals and parts of wholes , to a phenomenological theory of intentionality, and finally to a phenomenological theory of knowledge.

Then in Ideas I he focused squarely on phenomenology itself. In this spirit, we may say phenomenology is the study of consciousness—that is, conscious experience of various types—as experienced from the first-person point of view. In this discipline we study different forms of experience just as we experience them, from the perspective of the subject living through or performing them.

Thus, we characterize experiences of seeing, hearing, imagining, thinking, feeling i. However, not just any characterization of an experience will do. Phenomenological analysis of a given type of experience will feature the ways in which we ourselves would experience that form of conscious activity. And the leading property of our familiar types of experience is their intentionality, their being a consciousness of or about something, something experienced or presented or engaged in a certain way.

How I see or conceptualize or understand the object I am dealing with defines the meaning of that object in my current experience. Thus, phenomenology features a study of meaning, in a wide sense that includes more than what is expressed in language. In Ideas I Husserl presented phenomenology with a transcendental turn. We thereby turn our attention, in reflection, to the structure of our own conscious experience. Our first key result is the observation that each act of consciousness is a consciousness of something, that is, intentional, or directed toward something.

Consider my visual experience wherein I see a tree across the square. In phenomenological reflection, we need not concern ourselves with whether the tree exists: However, we do need to concern ourselves with how the object is meant or intended. I see a Eucalyptus tree, not a Yucca tree; I see that object as a Eucalyptus, with a certain shape, with bark stripping off, etc. Thus, bracketing the tree itself, we turn our attention to my experience of the tree, and specifically to the content or meaning in my experience.

This tree-as-perceived Husserl calls the noema or noematic sense of the experience. Philosophers succeeding Husserl debated the proper characterization of phenomenology, arguing over its results and its methods. And they were not alone. Heidegger had his own ideas about phenomenology. In Being and Time Heidegger unfurled his rendition of phenomenology.

By contrast, Heidegger held that our more basic ways of relating to things are in practical activities like hammering, where the phenomenology reveals our situation in a context of equipment and in being-with-others.

Much of Being and Time develops an existential interpretation of our modes of being including, famously, our being-toward-death. In a very different style, in clear analytical prose, in the text of a lecture course called The Basic Problems of Phenomenology , Heidegger traced the question of the meaning of being from Aristotle through many other thinkers into the issues of phenomenology.

Our understanding of beings and their being comes ultimately through phenomenology. Heidegger questioned the contemporary concern with technology, and his writing might suggest that our scientific theories are historical artifacts that we use in technological practice, rather than systems of ideal truth as Husserl had held.

Our deep understanding of being, in our own case, comes rather from phenomenology, Heidegger held. In the s phenomenology migrated from Austrian and then German philosophy into French philosophy. In the novel Nausea Jean-Paul Sartre described a bizarre course of experience in which the protagonist, writing in the first person, describes how ordinary objects lose their meaning until he encounters pure being at the foot of a chestnut tree, and in that moment recovers his sense of his own freedom.

In Being and Nothingness , written partly while a prisoner of war , Sartre developed his conception of phenomenological ontology. Consciousness is a consciousness of objects, as Husserl had stressed.

The chestnut tree I see is, for Sartre, such a phenomenon in my consciousness. For Sartre, the practice of phenomenology proceeds by a deliberate reflection on the structure of consciousness. Sartre wrote many plays and novels and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. In Phenomenology of Perception Merleau-Ponty developed a rich variety of phenomenology emphasizing the role of the body in human experience.

Unlike Husserl, Heidegger, and Sartre, Merleau-Ponty looked to experimental psychology, analyzing the reported experience of amputees who felt sensations in a phantom limb. Merleau-Ponty rejected both associationist psychology, focused on correlations between sensation and stimulus, and intellectualist psychology, focused on rational construction of the world in the mind.

Think of the behaviorist and computationalist models of mind in more recent decades of empirical psychology. For the body image is neither in the mental realm nor in the mechanical-physical realm.

Rather, my body is, as it were, me in my engaged action with things I perceive including other people.

The scope of Phenomenology of Perception is characteristic of the breadth of classical phenomenology, not least because Merleau-Ponty drew with generosity on Husserl, Heidegger, and Sartre while fashioning his own innovative vision of phenomenology.

His phenomenology addressed the role of attention in the phenomenal field, the experience of the body, the spatiality of the body, the motility of the body, the body in sexual being and in speech, other selves, temporality, and the character of freedom so important in French existentialism.

In short, consciousness is embodied in the world , and equally body is infused with consciousness with cognition of the world. In the years since Husserl, Heidegger, et al.

Interpretation of historical texts by Husserl et al. Since the s, philosophers trained in the methods of analytic philosophy have also dug into the foundations of phenomenology, with an eye to 20 th century work in philosophy of logic, language, and mind.

A phenomenological research study typically follows the four steps listed below: Bracketing — The process of identifying, and keeping in check, any preconceived beliefs, opinions or notions about the phenomenon being researched.

Bracketing is important to phenomenological reduction, which is the process of isolating the phenomenon and separating it from what is already known about it. Intuition — This requires that the researcher become totally immersed in the study and the phenomenon and that the researcher remains open to the meaning of the phenomenon as described by those that experienced it.

The process of intuition results in an understanding of the phenomenon and may require the researcher to vary the data collection methods or questions until that level of understanding emerges. Analysis — The process of analyzing data involves the researcher becoming full immersed into the rich, descriptive data and using processes such as coding and categorizing to organize the data.

The goal is to develop themes that can be used to describe the experience from the perspective of those that lived it. Description — This is the last phase of the process.

The researcher will use his or her understanding of the data to describe and define the phenomenon and communicate it to others. The descriptive phenomenological psychological method. Journal of Phenomenological psychology , 43 1 , The theory, practice, and evaluation of the phenomenological method as a qualitative research procedure.

Journal of phenomenological psychology , 28 2 , Some guidelines for the phenomenological analysis of interview data. Human studies , 8 3 , Existential-phenomenological perspectives in psychology: Exploring the breadth of human experience , A comparison of phenomenology, discourse analysis, and grounded theory.

In fact, metaphysics is made irrelevent. He is NOT talking ontologically. I feel like Husserl was reaching farther, but I feel that, by reaching farther, he was undermining his project.

But, again, I have no idea if my Doctoral Committee will care. This was an extraordinarily helpful post. Quite the public service you supply here, Mark. This is especially helpful because I have a hard time when I sits and thinks. Conversation is a much more effective way for me to learn.

Just a couple of additional points:. Can one be a more or less effective phenomenologist depending on the content one is trying to describe? Your email address will not be published. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. What interested me here primarily was Embree's breakdown of "tendencies and stages within philosophical phenomenology," which tells you how Husserl fits in with later folks: Just a couple of additional points: Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published.


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The Types and Scope of Phenomenology January 21, by Mark Linsenmayer 8 Comments To supplement whatever you interested folks might have encountered in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the site for the "Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology," run by Lester Embree (a student of students of Husserl).

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Phenomenology in business research focuses on experiences, events and occurrences with disregard or minimum regard for the external and physical reality. Phenomenology, also known as non-positivism, is a variation of interpretivism, along with other variations such as hermeneutics, symbolic interactionism and others.

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Qualitative Method of Research: Phenomenological Mark George Bound, Ph. D. Nova Southeastern University October 10, Qualitative Inquiry: Phenomenological Research This course identifies five different methods of qualitative research inquiry, narrative, phenomenological, participatory action. Phenomenology Methods & Data Collection This module provides an overview of research methods for phenomenological studies and describes means of data collection. Learning Objectives: List and describe the steps involved in a phenomenology .

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Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object. What is Phenomenological Research? By Marilyn K. Simon and Jim Goes Includes excerpts from Simon (), Dissertation and Scholarly Phenomenological research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Laitinen, Arto & Sandis,Constantine (). Hegel on Action. Palgrave Macmillan.