Phenomenology is the philosophical study of the structure of experience and consciousness. Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) founded phenomenology as a philosophical movement in the early 20th century. His followers later spread it at the University of Göttingen and the University of Munich in Germany. Following this, phenomenology spread to France, the United States, and elsewhere, often in a context far from Husserl’s early work. According to Husserl’s concept, phenomenology is primarily concerned with the systematic reflection and investigation of the structure of consciousness and the phenomena that occur in the act of consciousness. Phenomenology is distinguishable from Cartesian analysis methods that view the world as objects, sets of objects, and objects that act and react with one another.
Characteristics of phenomenology
The following are the major characteristics of phenomenology:
It explains the meaning of the experience of a person or more people living in relation to a particular concept.
It’s not about the explanation but the essential aspects of the experience.
It tries to explain what underlies the way people usually describe their own experiences.
Researchers and informants are generally taken as secondary stakeholders.
The truth about reality is based on people’s experiences.
It tries to understand how people build the meaning of things.
It focuses on an eidetic reduction and has a transcendental reduction.
It examines the lifelong experiences of those who experience them and the implications they give them.
Types of Phenomenology
Phenomenology is believed to have two main approaches: a descriptive approach and an interpretive approach. Husserl developed descriptive phenomenology, while Martin Heidegger developed interpretive phenomenology. Various types of phenomenology are described below:
Husserl’s early formulation was based on the first edition of his logical study, which analysed the intentional structure of mental behaviour. This is the recommended version of the University of Munich in the early 20th century, led by Johannes Daubert, Adolf Reinach, Alexander Pfänder, Max Scheler and Roman Ingarden.
This is a later formulation based on Husserl’s 1913 idea, where he begins with an intuitive experience of the phenomenon and tries to extract the generalised features of his experience. Aside from questions about our relationship with the natural world that surrounds us, we try to extract the essence of what we have experienced.
It is an extended formulation of Heidegger, as explained in Being and Time in 1927, stating that the observer cannot separate himself from the world. Therefore, it is important to understand a man in his existential world.
It derives mainly from the method that human existence is interpretive, as shown in Heidegger’s [Being and Time]. The subject matter dealt with in hermeneutics phenomenology includes everything put on the agenda in previous trends and stages. The emphasis on hermeneutics or the method of interpretation is different. This tendency consists of a lot of research on the history of philosophy and greatly influences humanity.
Importance of Phenomenology
It is important because it examines the reality that its nature and structure can only be grasped by the inside of the individual experiencing it. It ends with these rigorous and decisive truths, giving way to possibilities and speculations, investigations, doubts, approximations, and reconsideration of given phenomena. It is a way to enable scientific methods in all areas of knowledge and truth.
Phenomenology in sociology (also known as phenomenological sociology) is the study of the formal structure of concrete social beings that becomes available in and through the analytical description of conscious behaviour. The subject of such analysis is the meaningful world of everyday life. Phenomenological sociology’s mission is to subjectively explain a given subject of study’s formal structure as an object constructed in consciousness. Phenomenological methods distinguish such statements from the “naive” subjective statements of men and traditional social scientists who are on the streets working in the natural environment of everyday life.
Social phenomenologists are all about the social construction of reality. They see social order as the creation of everyday interactions and often turn to conversations to determine how people use it to maintain social relationships.
The representative of phenomenological sociology was Alfred Schutz (1899–1959). Schutz wanted to critically and philosophically support Max Weber’s understanding of sociology by applying methods and insights from Husserl’s phenomenological philosophy to the study of sociology. This bridge between Husserl’s phenomenology and Weber’s sociology serves as the starting point for the sociology of modern phenomenology.
Husserl’s work aimed to establish a formal structure of intentionality, and Schutz was interested in establishing a formal structure of what he called the lifeworld. While Husserl’s work was labelled as a transcendental phenomenology of consciousness, Schutz’s work was marked as a mediocre phenomenology of the social world.
Ultimately, these two different phenomenological projects should be considered complementary, and the structure of the latter relies on the structure of the former. This means a valid phenomenological description of the lifeworld’s formal structure must be in perfect agreement with the description of the formal structure of intentionality. The former derives its validity, testability, and truth value from the latter. This is in line with Husserl’s “first philosophy” of phenomenology, a view as the foundation of both philosophy and all sciences.
Phenomenology studies the structure of consciousness experienced from a first-person perspective. The central structure of experience is its intention and direction because it’s an object or an experience with a thing. The experience is directed at the object based on its content or meaning (represented by the object), along with the appropriate conditions.