Phenomenological movement

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD075-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 21, 2024, from

Article Summary

The phenomenological movement is a century-old international movement in philosophy that has penetrated most of the cultural disciplines, especially psychiatry and sociology. It began in Germany with the early work of Edmund Husserl, and spread to the rest of Europe, the Americas and Asia. In contrast with a school, a movement does not have a body of doctrine to which all participants agree; rather, there is a broad approach that tends to be shared. The phenomenological approach has at least four components.

First, phenomenologists tend to oppose naturalism. Naturalism includes behaviourism in psychology and positivism in social sciences and philosophy, and is a worldview based on the methods of the natural sciences. In contrast, phenomenologists tend to focus on the socio-historical or cultural lifeworld and to oppose all kinds of reductionism. Second, they tend to oppose speculative thinking and preoccupation with language, urging instead knowledge based on ‘intuiting’ or the ‘seeing’ of the matters themselves that thought is about. Third, they urge a technique of reflecting on processes within conscious life (or human existence) that emphasizes how such processes are directed at (or ‘intentive to’) objects and, correlatively, upon these objects as they present themselves or, in other words, as they are intended to. And fourth, phenomenologists tend to use analysis or explication as well as the seeing of the matters reflected upon to produce descriptions or interpretations both in particular and in universal or ‘eidetic’ terms. In addition, phenomenologists also tend to debate the feasibility of Husserl’s procedure of transcendental epoché or ‘bracketing’ and the project of transcendental first philosophy it serves, most phenomenology not being transcendental.

Beyond these widely shared components of method, phenomenologists tend to belong to one or another of four intercommunicating and sometimes overlapping tendencies. These tendencies are ‘realistic phenomenology’, which emphasizes the seeing and describing of universal essences; ‘constitutive phenomenology’, which emphasizes accounting for objects in terms of the consciousness of them; ‘existential phenomenology’, which emphasizes aspects of human existence within the world; and ‘hermeneutical phenomenology’, which emphasizes the role of interpretation in all spheres of life. All tendencies go back to the early work of Husserl, but the existential and hermeneutical tendencies are also deeply influenced by the early work of Martin Heidegger. Other leading figures are Nicolai Hartmann, Roman Ingarden, Adolf Reinach and Max Scheler in realistic phenomenology, Dorion Cairns, Aron Gurwitsch and Alfred Schutz in constitutive phenomenology, Hannah Arendt, Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Simone de Beauvoir in existential phenomenology, and Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur in hermeneutical phenomenology.

    Citing this article:
    Embree, Lester. Phenomenological movement, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD075-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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