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Phenomenology Introduction
Phenomenology Introduction
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differs from others in that it tends to be more "descriptive" than "prescriptive".

Husserl and the origin of his Phenomenology

Husserl derived many important concepts that are central to phenomenology from the works and lectures of his teachers, the philosophers and psychologists Franz Brentano and Carl Stumpf. An important element of phenomenology that Husserl borrowed from Brentano was intentionality, the notion that the main characteristic of consciousness is that it is always intentional. Intentionality, which could be summarised as "aboutness" of thought, describes the basic structure of consciousness. Every mental phenomenon or psychological act is directed at an object — the intentional object. Every belief, desire, etc. has an object to which it refers: the believed, the desired. The property of being intentional, of having an intentional object, is the key feature which distinguishes mental/psychical phenomena from physical
Phenomenology has at least three main meanings in philosophical history: one in the writings of G.W.F. Hegel, another in the writings of Edmund Husserl in 1920, and a third, deriving from Husserl's work, in the writings of his former research assistant Martin Heidegger in 1927:

For G.W.F. Hegel, phenomenology is an approach to philosophy that begins with an exploration of phenomena (what presents itself to us in conscious experience) as a means to finally grasp the absolute, logical, ontological and metaphysical Spirit that is behind phenomena. This has been called a "dialectical phenomenology".

For Edmund Husserl, phenomenology is an approach to philosophy that takes the intuitive experience of phenomena (what presents itself to us in phenomenological reflexion) as its starting point and tries to extract from it the essential features of experiences and the essence of what we experience. When generalized to the essential features of any possible experience, this has been called "transcendental phenomenology". Husserl's view was based on aspects of the work of Franz Brentano and was developed further by philosophers such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Max Scheler, Hannah Arendt, Dietrich von Hildebrand and Emmanuel Levinas.
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David Hume (1711 – 1776) Scottish philosopher, called variably a skeptic or a common sense advocate. While this connection is somewhat tendentious, Hume, in A Treatise of Human Nature, does seem to take a phenomenological or psychological approach by describing the process of reasoning causality in psychological terms. This is also the inspiration for the Kantian distinction between phenomenal and noumenal reality.

Johann Heinrich Lambert (1728–1777) (mathematician, physician and
philosopher) for the theory of appearances underlying empirical knowledge.

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), in the Critique of Pure Reason, distinguished between objects as phenomena, which are objects as shaped and grasped by human sensibility and understanding, and objects as things-in-themselves or noumena, which do not appear to us in space and time and about which we can make no legitimate judgements.

Georg Hegel (1770–1831) challenged
Martin Heidegger believed that Husserl's approach overlooked basic structural features of both the subject and object of experience - what he called their "being", and expanded phenomenological enquiry to encompass our understanding and experience of Being itself, thus making phenomenology the method (in the first phase of his career at least) of the study of being: ontology.

The difference in approach between Husserl and Heidegger influenced the development of existential phenomenology and existentialism in France, as is clear from the work of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir; Munich phenomenology (Johannes Daubert, Adolf Reinach, Alexander Pfänder in Germany and Alfred Schütz in Austria), and Paul Ricoeur. Readings of Husserl and Heidegger have also been crucial aspects of the philosophies of Jacques Derrida and Bernard Stiegler.

Historical overview of the use of the term

While the term "phenomenology" was used several times in the history of philosophy before Husserl, modern use ties it more explicitly to his particular method. Following is a list of thinkers in rough chronological order who were instrumental in the development of phenomenology, with brief comments on their contributions:

Friedrich Christoph Oetinger (1702 - 1782) German pietist, for the study of the "divine system of relations".
Kant's doctrine of the unknowable thing-in-itself, and declared that by knowing phenomena more fully we can gradually arrive at a consciousness of the absolute and spiritual truth of Divinity. Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, published in 1807, prompted many opposing views including the existential work of Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre, as well as the materialist work of Marx and his many followers.

Franz Brentano (1838-1917) seems to have used the term in some of his lectures at Vienna. Also, he had Edmund Husserl as a disciple, and could have influenced his views on intentionality.

Carl Stumpf (1848-1936) used it to refer to an ontology of sensory contents.

Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) redefined phenomenology at first as a kind of descriptive psychology and later as an epistemological, foundational eidetic discipline to study essences. He is known as a "father" of phenomenology.

Max Scheler (1874-1928) developed further the phenomenological method of Edmund Husserl and extended it to include also a reduction of the scientific method. He influenced the thinking of Pope John Paul II and Edith Stein.

Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) criticized Husserl's theory of phenomenology as he attempted to develop a theory of ontology that led him to his original theory of Dasein, the non-dualistic human being.

Alfred Schutz (1899-1959) developed a phenomenology of the social world on the basis of everyday experience which has influenced major sociologists such as Harold Garfinkel, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann.

Later usage is mostly based on or (critically) related to Husserl's introduction and use of the term. This branch of philosophy
phenomena (objects), because physical phenomena lack intentionality altogether. Intentionality is the key concept by means of which phenomenological philosophy attempts to overcome the subject/object dichotomy prevalent in modern philosophy.

Precursors and influences

Skepticism (for the concept of the epoché)
Descartes (Methodological doubt, cogito)
British empiricism (Locke, Hume, Berkeley, Mill)
Immanuel Kant and neokantianism (for Husserl's transcendental turn)
Franz Brentano (for the concept of intentionality and the method of descriptive psychology)
Carl Stumpf (psychological analysis, influenced Husserl's early works)

Husserl's Logische Untersuchungen (1900/1901)
In the Logical Investigations, his first major work (still under the influence of Brentano), Husserl still conceives of phenomenology as descriptive psychology. Husserl analyzes the intentional structures of mental acts and how they are directed at both real and ideal objects. The Logical Investigations begin with a devastating critique of psychologism, i.e., the attempt to subsume the a priori validity of the laws of logic into psychology. Husserl establishes a separate field for research in logic, philosophy and phenomenology, independently from the empirical sciences.

Transcendental phenomenology after the Ideen (1913)
Some years after the publication of the Logical Investigations, Husserl made some key elaborations which led him to the distinction between the act of consciousness (noesis) and the phenomena at which it is directed (the noemata).

"noetic" refers to the intentional act of consciousness (believing, willing, hating and loving ...)
"noematic" refers to the object or content (noema) which appears in the noetic acts (respectively the believed, wanted, hated and loved ...).

What we observe is not the object as it is in itself, but how and inasmuch it is given in the intentional acts. Knowledge of essences would only be possible by "bracketing" all assumptions about the existence of an external world and the inessential (subjective) aspects of how the object is concretely given to us. This procedure Husserl called epoché.

Husserl in a later period concentrated more on the ideal, essential structures of consciousness. As he wanted to exclude any hypothesis on the existence of external objects, he introduced the method of phenomenological reduction to eliminate them. What was left over was the pure transcendental ego, as opposed to the concrete empirical ego. Now (transcendental) phenomenology is the study of the essential structures that are left in pure consciousness: this amounts in practice to the study of the noemata and the relations among them. The philosopher Theodor Adorno criticised Husserl's concept of phenomenological epistemology in his metacritique "Against Epistemology", which is anti-foundationalist in its stance.

Transcendental phenomenologists include: Oskar Becker, Aron Gurwitsch and Alfred Schutz.

Realist phenomenology

After Husserl's publication of the Ideen in 1913, many phenomenologists took a critical stance towards his new theories. Especially the members of the Munich group distanced themselves from his new transcendental phenomenology and preferred the earlier realist phenomenology of the first edition of the Logical Investigations.

Realist phenomenologists include: Adolf Reinach, Alexander Pfänder, Johannnes Daubert, Max Scheler, Roman Ingarden, Nicolai Hartmann, and Hans Köchler.

Existential phenomenology

Existential phenomenology differs from transcendental phenomenology by its rejection of the transcendental ego. Merleau-Ponty objects to the ego's transcendence of the world, which for Husserl leaves the world spread out and completely transparent before the conscious. Heidegger thinks of conscious being as always already in the world. Transcendence is maintained in existential phenomenology to the extent that the method of phenomenology must take a presuppositionless starting point - transcending claims about the world arising from, for example, natural or scientific attitudes or theories of the ontological nature of the world.

While Husserl thought philosophy to be a scientific discipline that had to be founded on a phenomenology understood as epistemology, Heidegger held a radically different view. Heidegger himself phrases their differences this way:

For Husserl, the phenomenological reduction is the method of leading phenomenological vision from the natural attitude of the human being whose life is involved in the world of things and persons back to the transcendental life of consciousness and its noetic-noematic experiences, in which objects are constituted as correlates of consciousness. For us, phenomenological reduction means leading phenomenological vision back from the apprehension of a being, whatever may be the character of that apprehension, to the understanding of the Being of this being (projecting upon the way it is unconcealed).

According to Heidegger, philosophy was not at all a scientific discipline, but more fundamental than science itself. According to him science is only one way of knowing the world with no specialized access to truth. Furthermore, the scientific mindset itself is built on a much more "primordial" foundation of practical, everyday knowledge. Husserl was skeptical of this approach, which he regarded as quasi-mystical, and it contributed to the divergence in their thinking.

Instead of taking phenomenology as prima philosophia or a foundational discipline, Heidegger took it as a metaphysical ontology: "being is the proper and sole theme of philosophy". Yet to confuse phenomenology and ontology is an obvious error. Phenomena are not the foundation or Ground of Being. Neither are they appearances, for as Heidegger argues in Being and Time, an appearance is "that which shows itself in something else," while a phenomenon is "that which shows itself in itself."

While for Husserl, in the epochè, being appeared only as a correlate of consciousness, for Heidegger being is the starting point. While for Husserl we would have to abstract from all concrete determinations of our empirical ego, to be able to turn to the field of pure consciousness, Heidegger claims that: "the possibilities and destinies of philosophy are bound up with man's existence, and thus with temporality and with historicality".

However, ontological being and existential being are different categories, so Heidegger's conflation of these categories is, according to Husserl's view, the root of Heidegger's error. Husserl charged Heidegger with raising the question of ontology but failing to answer it, instead switching the topic to the Dasein, the only being for whom Being is an issue.[clarify] That is neither ontology nor phenomenology, according to Husserl, but merely abstract anthropology.

Existential phenomenologists include: Martin Heidegger (1889 – 1976), Hannah Arendt (1906 – 1975), Emmanuel Levinas (1906 – 1995), Gabriel Marcel (1889 – 1973), Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 – 1980), Paul Ricoeur (1913 - 2005), and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1907 – 1960).

Criticisms of phenomenology

Daniel Dennett has criticized phenomenology on the basis that its explicitly first-person approach is incompatible with the scientific third-person approach, going so far as to coin the term "autophenomenology" to emphasize this aspect and to contrast it with his own alternative, which he calls heterophenomenology. Dennett's criticism reflects a more general attitude among analytic philosophers of mind. Phenomenologists, however, are often quick to point out that the relationship between phenomenological and natural scientific methods has been a major theme in phenomenology since at least Husserl [see The Crisis of the European Sciences], though Dennett makes no real attempt to engage with the work of phenomenologists on this issue. Many proponents of phenomenology argue that natural science can make sense only as a human activity, i.e., an activity which presupposes the fundamental structures of the 'first-person perspective.' While not hostile to the natural sciences per se, many thinkers in the phenomenological tradition would regard criticisms such as Dennett's metaphysical rather than purely scientific claims, and thus susceptible to the usual criticisms directed at metaphysical theories of all kinds [see anything by Heidegger]. Powerful defenses of the phenomenological approach against science-inspired reductive naturalism have been made by Hubert Dreyfus and Charles Taylor among others.

Phenomenology in architecture

Beginning in the 1970s, phenomenology, with a strong influence from the writings of Martin Heidegger, began to have a major impact on architectural thinking. Christian Norberg-Schulz was an important figure in this movement. A Norwegian, he graduated from the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule ETH in Zurich in 1949 and eventualy became Dean of the Oslo School of Architecture. His most important writings were Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture (New York: Rizzoli, 1980) and Intentions in Architecture (1963). These books were widely read in architectural schools the 1960s and 1970s. Another architect associated with the phenomenology movement was Charles Willard Moore, who was Dean of the School of Architecture at Yale from 1965 to 1970. Though interest in phenomenology has waned in recent times, several architects, such as Steven Holl and Peter Zumthor, claim to be phenomenologists. Alberto Pérez-Gómez, professor of architectural history at McGill University, is also known as a defender of phenomenology.

Phenomenology of religion

The phenomenology of religion concerns the experiential aspect of religion, describing religious phenomena in terms consistent with the orientation of the worshippers. It views religion as being made up of different components, and studies these components across religious traditions so that an understanding of them can be gained. The phenomenological approach to the study of religion owes its conceptualization and development, in a large part, to the following three scholars.

Chantepie de la Saussaye

The first explicit use of the phrase "phenomenology of religion" occurs in the Lehrbuch der Religionsgeschichte (Handbook of the History of Religions), written by Pierre Daniël Chantepie de la Saussaye in 1887, wherein he articulates the task of the science of religion and gives an "Outline of the phenomenology of religion". Employing the terminology of Hegel, Chantepie divides his science of religion into two areas of investigation, essence and manifestations, which are approached through investigations in philosophy and history respectively. However, Chantepie’s phenomenology "belongs neither to the history nor the philosophy of religion as Hegel envisioned them". For Chantepie, it is the task of phenomenology to prepare historical data for philosophical analysis through "a collection, a grouping, an arrangement, and a classifying of the principal groups of religious conceptions".

This sense of phenomenology as a grouping of manifestations is similar to the conception of phenomenology articulated by Robison and the British; however, insofar as Chantepie conceives of phenomenology as a preparation for the philosophical elucidation of essences, his phenomenology is not completely opposed to that of Hegel.


Chantepie’s Lehrbuch was highly influential, and many researchers began similar efforts after its publication and its subsequent translation into English and French. One such researcher was William Brede Kristensen. In 1901, Kristensen was appointed the first professorship relating to the phenomenology of religion at the University of Leiden. Some of the material from Kristensen’s lectures on the phenomenology of religion was edited posthumously, and the English translation was published in 1960 as The Meaning of Religion. James notes that Kristensen’s phenomenology "adopts many of the features of Chantepie’s grouping of religious phenomena," and penetrates further into the intricacies of Chantepie’s phenomenological approach.

For Chantepie, phenomenology is affected by the philosophy and history of religions, but for Kristensen, it is also the medium whereby the philosophy and history of religion interact with and affect one another. In this sense, Kristensen’s account of the relationship between historical manifestations and philosophy is more similar to that of Hegel than it is to Chantepie. In defining the religious essence of which he explores historical manifestations, Kristensen appropriates Rudolf Otto’s conception of das Heilige ("the holy" or "the sacred"). Otto describes das Heilige with the expression "mysterium tremendum"—a numinous power revealed in a moment of "awe" that admits of both the horrible shuddering of "religious dread" (tremendum) and fascinating wonder (fascinans) with the overpowering majesty (majestas) of the ineffable, "wholly other" mystery (mysterium).

Like Chantepie, Kristensen argues that phenomenology seeks the “meaning” of religious phenomena. Kristensen clarifies this supposition by defining the meaning that his phenomenology is seeking as “the meaning that the religious phenomena have for the believers themselves”. Furthermore, Kristensen argues that phenomenology is not complete in grouping or classifying the phenomena according to their meaning, but in the act of understanding. “Phenomenology has as its objects to come as far as possible into contact with and to understand the extremely varied and divergent religious data”.

Being a phenomenologist, Kristensen was less interested in philosophical presuppositions than in his concrete depth-research in the incidental religious phenomena. These subjects concerned mythological material (such as Creation, the Flood etc.) as well as human action (such as baptism, Olympic Games etc.), and objects of nature and handicrafts. In all of this he only made use of the authentic sources: writings and images by the believers themselves. This procedure compelled him to reduce the field of his research - he had to profoundly master all relating languages and writings in order to be able to understand his sources in a way as they would have wanted to be understood themselves. Consequently he reduced his field of research to the phenomena in religions living around the origin of Christianity: during the millennia before and the centuries after Christ, in Iran (Avesta), Babylonia and Assyria, Israel, Egypt, Greece and Rome. The required knowledge of speeches undoubtedly also is one of the causes that only few (Van der Leeuw, Bleeker) of his pupils did carry on in his line, although many scholars showed interests in the results of his research. Apart from his synopsis The Meaning of Religion, and a just simple Introduction in History of Religion, his publications are mostly restricted to the results of his incidental partial researches, published in the shape of a Communication of the Royal Academy of the Netherlands. At Leiden University he was a popular teacher - even the later Queen Juliana followed his lectures - but it was his greatest pride when a pupil told him that by his lectures he had learned Respect for History.

Van Der Leeuw
The phenomenological approach to religion developed in Gerardus van der Leeuw’s Phänomenologie der Religion (1933) follows Kristensen in many respects, while also appropriating the phenomenology of Martin Heidegger and the hermeneutics of Wilhelm Dilthey.

For van der Leeuw, understanding is the subjective aspect of phenomena, which is inherently intertwined with the objectivity of that which is manifest. Van der Leeuw articulates the relation of understanding to understood phenomena according to the schema outlined in Dilthey’s definition of the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften) as sciences that are “based on the relations between experience, expression and understanding” (“Verhältnis von Erlebnis, Ausdruck, und Verstehen”). Van der Leeuw correlates subjective experience, expression, and understanding with three objective levels of appearing—relative concealment (Verborgenheit), relative transparency (Durchsichtigkeit), and gradually becoming manifest or revealed (Offenbarwerden)—wherein the understanding of what is becoming revealed is the primordial level of appearing from which the experienced concealment and expressed transparency of appearing are derived.

Because van der Leeuw, like Kristensen, appropriates Otto’s concept of das Heilige in defining the essential category of religion, the transcendence becoming revealed in all human understanding can be further described as sacred—an overpowering “wholly other,” which becomes revealed in astonishing moments of dreadful awe (Scheu) and wonderful fascination. Van der Leeuw argues that this concept of religious dread is also present in Kierkegaard’s work on Angst and in Heidegger’s statement that “what arouses dread is ‘being in the world’ itself”. Moreover, van der Leeuw recognizes that, although dreadful, Being-in-the-world is fundamentally characterized as care (Sorge), the existential structure whereby Dasein is concerned with meaningful relationships in the world alongside other beings.

Because all experiences disclose concealed (wholly other) transcendence to the understanding, all experiences of Being-in-the-world are ultimately religious experiences of the sacred, whether explicitly recognized as such or not. Human being as such is homo religiosus, the opposite of homo negligens.

It is the task of the phenomenology of religion to interpret the various ways in which the sacred appears to human beings in the world, the ways in which humans understand and care for that which is revealed to them, for that which is ultimately wholly other mystery.