Husserl, Schutz, “Paul” and me: Reflections on writing phenomenology
- Valerie Malhotra Bentz
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This paper is a reflection on the boundaries of academic discourse as I came to be acutely aware of them while attempting to teach a graduate seminar in qualitative research methods. The purpose of the readings in Husserl and Schutz and the writing exercises was to assist students trained in quantitative methods and steeped in positivistic assumptions about research to write phenomenological descriptions of lived experience. “Paul” could not write the assigned papers due to a diagnosed writing “disability” but he did submit fictional stories and sketches which beautifully illustrated the concepts of Husserl and Schutz. Paul's disability presented a natural “bracketing” experiment which brought the positivistic assumptions surrounding academic research and writing to the forefront. I engaged in verbal dialogues with Paul, in which he discussed the philosophical ideas. My work with Paul highlighted the extent to which the academic lifeworld marginalizes those who seek to write from the heart, disguising even the work of those philosophers who wish to uncover direct experiences.
The “crisis” of the sciences is the loss of meaning for life. (Husserl, 1970: 5)
I want to touch a person's heart. I don't want to just itemize things...that's why I write the way I do. — “Paul”
The world, the physical as well as the sociocultural one, is experienced from the outset in terms of types: there are mountains, trees, birds, fishes, dogs, and among them Irish setters ... they belong to the prepredicative thinking. The vocabulary and the syntax of the vernacular of everyday language represent the epitome of the typfications socially approved by the linguistic group. (Schutz, 1970: 119–120)
Schutz talked about how we have to live, approach the world according to how we experience it, what we know, I pushed it (Schutz may not want it pushed). My idea is that we don't really learn about life, or ourselves or meaning until we challenge the boundaries of our lifeworld and the kinds of typifications we live according to. When those boundaries are pushed we get an idea of the vastness of life. — Paul
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