Continental Philosophy Review

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 179–195 | Cite as

How to do things with brackets: the epoché explained

  • Søren OvergaardEmail author


According to ‘purification interpretations’, the point of the epoché is to purify our ordinary experience of certain assumptions inherent in it. In this paper, I argue that purification interpretations are wrong. Ordinary experience is just fine as it is, and phenomenology has no intention of correcting or purifying it. To understand the epoché, we must keep the reflective nature of phenomenology firmly in mind. When we do phenomenology, we occupy two distinct roles, which come with very different responsibilities. As reflecting phenomenologists, we must deactivate all our beliefs about the world. But the only point of this is to be able to describe the experiences we have as experiencing subjects, including all those beliefs about the world that may be part and parcel of those experiences. I end by suggesting that there is a useful analogy between phenomenological reflection and the familiar practice of quoting.


Epoché Phenomenological method Husserl Quoting 


  1. Alweiss, L. 2013. Beyond existence and non-existence. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 21: 448–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ayer, A.J. 1976. Phenomenology and linguistic analysis: II. In Analytic philosophy and phenomenology, ed. H.A. Durfee, 232–242. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Burge, T. 2010. Origins of objectivity. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carman, T. 1999. The Body in Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. Philosophical Topics 27: 205–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carman, T. 2005. On the inescapability of phenomenology. In Phenomenology and philosophy of mind, ed. D.W. Smith, and A.L. Thomasson, 67–89. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dennett, D.C. 1991. Consciousness explained. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
  7. Fink, E. 2004. Operative concepts in Husserl’s phenomenology. In Phenomenology: Critical concepts in philosophy, vol. V, ed. D. Moran, and L.E. Embree, 44–58. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Heath, D., and C. Heath. 2007. Made to stick. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  9. Husserl, E. 1969. Formal and transcendental logic (trans: D. Cairns.). The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  10. Husserl, E. 1970. The crisis of European sciences and transcendental phenomenology (trans. D. Carr.). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Husserl, E. 1983. Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy. First book: General introduction to a pure phenomenology (trans. F. Kersten.). The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  12. Husserl, E. 1989. Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy. Second book: Studies in the phenomenology of constitution (trans. R. Rojcewicz and A. Schuwer.). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  13. Husserl, E. 1995. Cartesian meditations: An introduction to phenomenology (trans. D. Cairns.). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  14. Husserl, E. 1997. Psychological and transcendental phenomenology and the confrontation with Heidegger (1927–1931) (trans. and Ed. T. Sheehan and R. E. Palmer.). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  15. Husserl, E. 2001. Analyses concerning passive and active synthesis (trans. A. J. Steinbock.). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  16. Kierkegaard, S. 1987. Either/or, Part I (trans. H. V. Hong and E. H. Hong.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Merleau-Ponty, M. 1964. The visible and the invisible (trans. A. Lingis.). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Overgaard, S. 2004. Husserl and Heidegger on being in the world. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Overgaard, S. 2010. Ordinary experience and the epoché: Husserl and Heidegger versus Rosen (and Cavell). Continental Philosophy Review 43: 307–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rosen, S., ed. 1999. Philosophy and ordinary experience. In Metaphysics in ordinary language, 218–239. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Searle, J. 1983. Intentionality: An essay in the philosophy of mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Smith, A.D. 2003. Husserl and the Cartesian Meditations. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Smith, D.W. 2007. Husserl. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Smith, J. 2005. Merleau-Ponty and the phenomenological reduction. Inquiry 48: 553–571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Sokolowski, R. 1984. Quotation. Review of Metaphysics 37: 699–723.Google Scholar
  26. Sokolowski, R. 2000. Introduction to phenomenology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Spiegelberg, H. 1940. The “reality-phenomenon” and reality. In Philosophical essays in memory of Edmund Husserl, ed. Marvin Farber, 84–105. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Steeves, H.P. 2006. The things themselves: Phenomenology and the return to the everyday. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  29. Strawson, P.F. 2011. Philosophical writings, eds. G. Strawson and M. Montague. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Wittgenstein, L. 1963. Philosophical investigations (trans. G. E. M. Anscombe) Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  31. Zahavi, D. 2003. Husserl’s phenomenology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Media, Cognition and CommunicationCenter for Subjectivity ResearchCopenhagen SDenmark

Personalised recommendations