What is Phenomenology Husserl’s Phenomenology Development Criticism and method


Phenomenology is the study of a set of phenomena and how they manifest themselves, whether across time or space . It is a subject that consists of studying the essence of things and how they are perceived in the world .

The word phenomenology comes from the Greek phainesthai , which means “that which is presented or shown”, and logos is a suffix that means “explanation” or “study”.

In psychology, phenomenology is based on a method that seeks to understand the experience of patients in the world they live in, in addition to understanding how these patients perceive the world around them.

The concept of phenomenology was created by the philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), who also worked as a mathematician, scientist, researcher and professor at the faculties of Göttingen and Freiburg im Breisgau, in Germany.

Husserl’s Phenomenology

According to Husserl’s phenomenology, all phenomena in the world must be thought of from the mental perceptions of each human being. The philosopher wanted philosophy to have the bases and conditions of a rigorous science. However, a scientific method is determined to be a “provisional truth”, that is, something that will be considered true until a new fact shows the opposite, creating a new reality.

In order for philosophy not to be considered a “provisional truth”, Husserl suggests that phenomenology should refer only to things as they are in the experience of consciousness, and that they should be studied for their essences, eliminating the assumptions of the real and empirical world of an object of science.

To exemplify Husserl’s phenomenological thinking, imagine a square as a geometric shape. That square, no matter how big or small it is, will always be a square in essence in an individual’s mind.

Development of Phenomenology

As a research program and a philosophical movement, phenomenology owes its origin to the work of Edmund Husserl. This thinker, initially trained in mathematics and logic, turned his interests to the philosophy of mind and the philosophical justification of psychology. He wrote such works as Logical Investigations (1900-1901); Formal and transcendental logic (1929); Cartesian Meditations (1931).

Husserl collaborated with Frege in the search for rigor in philosophy, but without reducing it to the methods of the natural sciences. Thus, phenomenology is the older sister of analytical philosophy and the predecessor of philosophical hermeneutics. By considering phenomena as the sum of thoughts (something positive) and intentionality, he avoided Pyrrhonism, relativism and “psychologism”, the reduction of all conceptual problems to psychological mechanics.

With difficult and confusing community was welcomed with affection by its members. To distinguish himself from the others, the neophyte wore white clothing. In Christian religious terminology, Husserl started transcendental phenomenology by criticizing the Cartesian (mind and body), Kantian (phenomenon and noumenon) and Hegelian (absolute and realizable) dualisms. The explanation of natural phenomena by science left many assumptions unexplained, including the subjects’ experiences. Instead, he sought phenomenological truth, rejecting that outside of individuals there is anything comprehensible. In this way, the individual concrete descriptions would pass to a transcendental level, although rejecting to locate the phenomena in pre-established categories.


Criticisms of phenomenology revolve around the paradox of being too empirical to be philosophical and too vague to be scientific.

In a critique of circularity, phenomenology presupposes a horizon in which identity and difference are manifested. Difference or alterity allows us to perceive things, for example, these letters are noticeable because they are in contrast and differ from a background of another color. As no phenomenon exists in a vacuum, differentiation itself appears to be a circular process: does it take place against what background?

In criticizing the scientific method, several phenomenologists make the mistake of opening undue space to fundamentalism, a post-modern nihilism and anti-science obscurantism when what was aimed, in fact, would be scientism.

The phenomenological method

During the research, the objective is to portray the conscious perception of the subjects and then describe the structures that emerge reduced into essences . As a qualitative research method, phenomenology is inductive, individualistic and analytical. Data collection techniques are generally those typical of qualitative methods, such as semi-structured interviews, in-depth interviews, diaries and focus group discussions. In the analysis phase, a distinctively phenomenological method is distinguished, including the application of the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis ( IPA ) or another structured method.

In view of the data, the researcher must suspend (bracketing) the individual biases by accepting the phenomena as reported. The epochê, the suspension of judgment, is a truce and the assumption of the plausibility of any phenomenon as perceived by its subjects.

This “naive understanding”, for example, an informant who says he dances every morning with a hippopotamus dressed in a tutu is the basis for the analysis. The fact of the phenomenon does not matter.

Then, the text transcribed from the data collection notes are separated into categories (coding), abstracted into themes. The resulting themes and categories are organized into a structure that best describes the phenomenon. This division into themes and categories allows comparison with other informants and the literature.

Another focus of the analysis can be on metaphors and analogies employed in the conceptualization of phenomena. It’s asking what reminds the taste of a fruit, what feeling a person evokes or what are the expectations when performing a public performance.

The focus can be on intentionality, on communication, on significant things for subjects, on noetic acts (intentionality of consciousness, as in beliefs and desires) and noematic objects (the results of noetic acts, as on what is believed and desired).

The synthesis integrates the essences studied. For each investigated phenomenon, it is possible that different ontologies emerge, but validated by a hermeneutic critique. The result is a rich description of phenomena, increased empathy and intersubjectivity, and entry into the lifeworld (Lebenswelt).

A way of conceptualizing this methodology was proposed by Gabriel Marcel. The phenomenological method proposes the acquisition of scientific knowledge in two stages. Initially, the primary reflection would be a breakdown of the unity of experience. The phenomena are perceived as a totality by the subject, for example, when listening to music or seeing a mosaic. Thus, in order to have a scientific understanding of the phenomenon, it is necessary to separate the subject from the world. Imagine yourself concentrating on the rhythm or timbre of a song or the pointillism of a painting. Finally, secondary reflection recovers the unity of the original experience. It’s a memory. It is looking at a painting or listening to a song already aware of its compositional elements.

The phenomenological method influenced and in part is similar to ethnography, ethnomethodology and grounded theory.

Phenomenology of the spirit

The ” Phenomenology of Spirit ” (” Phänomenologie des Geistes “, original title) is a work written by the German philosopher Gerog Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel , which addresses the process of formation of human consciousness.

According to Hegel, the conflicts of desires or with other consciences, modifies the way of thinking of an individual, from a set of social experiences.

According to the book, in order to reach the truth, the individual must assimilate the transformations of things and ideas that surround him.

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