Thursday, April 07, 2005

What is Phenomenology?

For many people, the word "phenomenology" is difficult to pronounce and those who hear the word for the first time often ask what it means. The present attempt at an answer is in part methodological but is chiefly historical. It reflects lessons learned in editing the Encyclopedia of Phenomenology, and derives immediately from the Introduction of that work, which contains references to fairly detailed entries on disciplines, individuals, tendencies, etc. The following sections sketch aspects of phenomenology:



Seven Widely Accepted Features of the
Phenomenological Approach

Phenomenologists conduct research in ways that share most of the following positive and negative features.

1. Phenomenologists tend to oppose the acceptance of unobservable matters and grand systems erected in speculative thinking;

2. Phenomenologists tend to oppose naturalism (also called objectivism and positivism), which is the worldview growing from modern natural science and technology that has been spreading from Northern Europe since the Renaissance;

3. Positively speaking, phenomenologists tend to justify cognition (and some also evaluation and action) with reference to what Edmund Husserl called evidenz, which is awareness of a matter itself as disclosed in the most clear, distinct, and adequate way for something of its kind;

4. Phenomenologists tend to believe that not only objects in the natural and cultural worlds, but also ideal objects, such as numbers, and even conscious life itself can be made evident and thus known;

5. Phenomenologists tend to hold that inquiry ought to focus upon what might be called "encountering" as it is directed at objects and, correlatively, upon "objects as they are encountered" (this terminology is not widely shared, but the emphasis on a dual problematics and the reflective approach it requires is);

6. Phenomenologists tend to recognize the role of description in universal, a priori, or "eidetic" terms as prior to explanation by means of causes, purposes, or grounds; and

7. Phenomenologists tend to debate whether or not what Husserl calls the transcendental phenomenological epochê and reduction is useful or even possible.


From the Center for Advance Research in Phenomenology.