Phenomenology is not simply an approach
to philosophy, but more than that, as Giorgi
has said, it is a way of seeing.
Phenomenology is concerned with the study
of experience from the perspective of the
individual, ‘bracketing’ taken-for-granted
assumptions and usual ways of perceiving
It is to illuminate the specific, to identify
phenomena through how they are perceived
by the actors in a situation.
Phenomenology is a practice of carefully
describing and unfolding what is given to us
to describe a "lived
In the human sphere this normally
translates into gathering ‘deep’ information and
perceptions through inductive, qualitative methods
representing it from the perspective
of the research participant(s)
Edmund Husserl (1859-1938)
What is Phenomenology?
CONTRA Descartes and Locke,
Husserl argues that in order to
answer the question of how we can
have knowledge of the world ; we
ought to turn our attention to the
study of our experience of it.
Phenomenology studies the
structure of various types of
There is “natural attitude” (our
everyday involvement in the
world) and “phenomenological
attitude” (the philosophical act of
pure reflection (where we
suspend the natural attitude).
The structure of these forms of experience
typically involves what Husserl called
"intentionality", that is, the directedness of
experience toward things in the world, the
property of consciousness that it is a
consciousness of or about something.
By “going back to the things themselves”
Husserl meant the entire field of original
experience. He came to the point that the
ultimate root of Philosoiphy and of all
rational assertions was not to be found in a
concept, nor in a principle, not in the Cogito
in the whole field of our lived experience.
Going back to the phenomenon, to that
which presents itself to man, seeing things
as they really are, independent of any
To a carpenter it is aTOOL.
To a retailer it is MERCHANDISE..
To a killer it is aWEAPON.
To a lecturer it is a PROP.
To my girlfriend it is a NUISANCE.
To a communist it is a SYMBOL
The Hammer: It is many things to many people.
Critique of Science
Husserl argued that the scientific method was delusional.
The impossibility of casual passive observation meant that the notion of
1.Observing the world
Was not as simple as scientists would have us believe.
Rather, our attention is always directed at the object of our experience and
so before the scientist can only prove the accuracy of their original
He also came up with the main insight of phenomenology: THE
INTENTIONALITY OF CONSCIOUSNESS. Every conscious act intends
Consciousness is consciousness of something other than itself. If an act is
present, the object is also present. Therefore, the character of the object
is co-determined by the character of the act.
Consciousness does not just adapt itself to the object passively but rather,
its very essence is to form meaning, to give meaning to the object.
The intentional process of consciousness is called noesis.
Phenomenology describes the objects of consciousness.
The Ideal context of noesis is noema. Phenomenology also
describes consciousness itself.
Let us return to our hammer; we have already spoken about the different ways we may
encounter it, as a tool, a weapon etc.
But have we gone far enough?
Our questioning is only beginning.
What are the assumptions governing your experience of this hammer at this moment?
How do these affect your experience?
• Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)
• Hans-George Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur
• Disagrees with Husserl’s epoche.
• An effort to “get beneath” the subjective experience and
find the genuine, objective nature of things.
• Focuses on the relationship between the event and the
person, and how meaning is formed in that relationship.
• Leads to endless possibilities and endless interpretations.
• Our relationship with things is not the object/subject
To conclude our example of the hammer:
The Rational Approach would deny the possibility of having certain
knowledge; under the method of radical scepticism.
The EmpiricalApproach would affirm the scientific existence of the hammer
but would give us no information about the hammer as we experience it.
The HusserlianTranscendental model would ask us to gain knowledge of the
hammer as-it-is-in-itself by bracketing off the presuppositions and schema that
we bring to the act of perceiving it.
The Hermeneutic model would argue that the hammer has no
Being.Any knowledge we can gain about the hammer must be first examined for
hermeneutic impurities and is subject to change.
How to Philosophise with a Hammer
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