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Consciousness, phenomenology of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD102-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 19, 2024, from

Article Summary

Phenomenology is an approach to consciousness that originates at the beginning of the twentieth century in the work of Edmund Husserl. A phenomenological account of consciousness begins from a first-person reflection on consciousness that puts out of play our everyday or natural-scientific preconceptions about consciousness and the world and describes the structural features of our consciousness of the world. This project is carried on in the phenomenological works of authors such as Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, albeit with sometimes quite different emphases and aims.

Insofar as phenomenology describes the structures of consciousness by virtue of which there is a world for us, phenomenology is a form of transcendental philosophy. Specifically, phenomenologists describe how the structures of intentionality, self-awareness, temporality, attention, embodiment, and intersubjectivity make possible our consciousness of worldly things, situations, and events. According to them, the world is not just an objective nature comprised of spatiotemporally extended and causally connected things; it is also always an intersubjectively accessible world that is shot through with values and organized in light of practical projects, due to which the world appears with a significance that is variable across time and space.

Husserl maintains that phenomenological descriptions of the essential structures of consciousness that make possible the experience and knowledge of the world—that is, of transcendental consciousness—can also be taken as psychological descriptions of consciousness conceived as a natural event in the world. In this way, a number of contemporary philosophers draw on specific descriptive insights from the phenomenological tradition to address issues in contemporary philosophy of mind and drive the empirical investigation of consciousness forward (such as Gallagher and Schmicking 2010; Dahlstrom et al. 2015; Petitot et al. 1999; Thompson 2007; Zahavi and Gallagher 2012; Zahavi 2012). Alternatively, both Sartre and Merleau-Ponty explicitly draw on insights from psychology and psychopathology to inform their phenomenology of consciousness, which is a strategy that has also been employed by some contemporary phenomenologists (see Zahavi 2000).

Citing this article:
Jacobs, Hanne. Consciousness, phenomenology of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD102-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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