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What Is Phenomenology?

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Part of the book series: Palgrave Philosophy Today ((PPT))


What is phenomenology? There have been books written on this question, including books by some of the major figures in this philosophical tradition. Let’s start by taking a look at some of the recent definitions.

Phenomenology is the study of human experience and of the ways things present themselves to us in and through such experience (Sokolowski 2000, 2).

Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. (Smith 2008)

These definitions closely reflect the traditional starting point for phenomenology. Husserl, considered the founder of the phenomenological movement, would certainly have accepted these characterizations. He focused on consciousness, and thought of phenomenology as a kind of descriptive enterprise that would specify the structures that characterize consciousness and the world as we experience it. The first-person point of view means that the phenomenologist, the investigator of consciousness, studies his or her own experience from the point of view of living through that experience. This sounds a bit like introspection, but as we’ll see, phenomenology should not be equated with introspectionist psychology.

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© 2012 Shaun Gallagher

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Gallagher, S. (2012). What Is Phenomenology?. In: Phenomenology. Palgrave Philosophy Today. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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