Husserl's phenomenology a short introduction for psychologists


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This is the presentation I used to set the philosophical context for students in my graduate seminar in descriptive phenomenological psychological research--it is an outline of some central Husserlian concepts, and assumes no prior acquaintance with Husserl's work. Naturally, I supplemented the slides with many experiential examples!

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  • Thank you Paula--I'll be adding a second deck from the other seminar I gave this week, 'Themes in Phenomenological Psychology,' which addressed research by colleagues in areas like intimacy, forgiveness, trauma, and empathy.
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Husserl's phenomenology a short introduction for psychologists

  1. 1. Marc Applebaum, PhDFaculty of Psychology and Interdisciplinary InquiryAssociate Editor, Journal of Phenomenological PsychologyFounding Editor, PhenomenologyBlog
  2. 2. AcknowledgmentThis presentation is deeply indebted to the manylectures of Amedeo Giorgi’s I have been fortunate toattend over the years…
  3. 3. An attitude of open expectancyPhenomenology is not simply an approach tophilosophy, but more than that, as Giorgi has said, it is away of seeing.This course is an introduction to this way of seeing, aninvitation to what Gendlin (1982) might term a “feltsense” of phenomenology.
  4. 4. What is phenomenology?Introduction to some core concepts in Husserl’sphenomenological philosophy
  5. 5. Phainomenon + LogosΦαινόμενoν that which appears or is seenΛόγος a discourse or reasoned account
  6. 6. A provisional definition…Phenomenology is a practice of carefullydescribing and unfolding what is given to us inperception
  7. 7. Consciousness—our means of access tothe world For phenomenology, consciousness is privileged because it is the medium through which anything whatsoever is known Consciousness is not “thing-like;” it is that by means of which we encounter the world and others
  8. 8. For phenomenology…The fundamental attribute of consciousness isthat it presentsAttention to lived perception is the foundation ofphenomenological praxis
  9. 9. Perceptual presence Phenomenology offers a presentational theory of consciousness, not a representational theory For Husserl, we perceive the “things themselves,” not representations of things Of course, perception is fallible and always in the process of self-correcting…
  10. 10. “Intuition”—the presentational faculty ofconsciousness The German term for intuition, Anschauung, can also be translated as “perception” The Latin root of intuition is intueri, “looking upon” In philosophy this means that an object is present in perception for a subject
  11. 11. IntentionalityFor phenomenology, consciousness “reaches out”to an object—this quality of reaching out is calledthe intentionality of consciousnessThe Latin root of intend is intendere, “stretchingout toward”This stretching out is adistinctive activity ofconsciousness…
  12. 12. Objects of consciousnessAnything we can be conscious of is referred to asan “object of consciousness”We can distinguish between different types ofobjects--For example, there are objects that transcend theconscious acts that grasp themAnd there are objects thatare immanent in theconscious acts
  13. 13. Real and irreal objectsLikewise phenomenology distinguishes betweenreal and irreal objects—Real objects are located in space, time, andcausality—like this table, Abraham Lincoln, orChicagoIrreal objects lack one ormore of these attributes—aunicorn, a triangle, or theidea of justice
  14. 14. Real and irreal objectsThough they are different kinds of objects, bothare genuine objects for consciousness
  15. 15. The natural attitudeThe natural attitude is the way in which weencounter the world in everyday life—objectsare assumed to be real and the world isassumed to be the way we grasp it…The natural attitude is usually not recognized asan attitudeThis is contrasted to chosen, reflective attitudessuch as a scientific attitude
  16. 16. FacticityAn object’s factual attributes are those thatlocate it in space, time, and causalityPositivist philosophy seeks to ground science inonly these attributesPhenomenology rejects reducing humanphenomena to (only) their facticityBecause this would imply viewing humanphenomena as merely thing-like
  17. 17. To investigate a phenomenon, we adopt theattitude of the phenomenological reduction,which means— We bracket past knowledge of that phenomenon, and We withhold affirming existentially that that the phenomenon “is” as it appears, in order to carefully describe how it appears
  18. 18. The reduction--Is a shift in attitude that frees the researcher fromthe natural attitudeReduction means returning something to a moreprimordial modeWe set aside the facticity ofthe object, and describe it justas it appears to us, as apresence
  19. 19. In doing this we employ an epoché ἐποχή means suspending or “withholding from” We withhold from making the habitual existential affirmation regarding what we perceive By doing this, we become free to linger with and examine the perceptions themselves as presences instead of as facts
  20. 20. Review of methodical steps so far…1. We employ the reduction and epoché,2. We view the given as a phenomenal presence,3. We next seek to identify the essential structure of the phenomenon using imaginative variation
  21. 21. Free imaginative variation We use our imagination to change any aspect of the phenomenon we’re examining, in order to discover what’s essential and what isn’t The test for what’s essential is: if we remove an essential constituent, the phenomenon is no longer be recognizable as itself—
  22. 22. This methodical varying--- Demonstrates that for phenomenology, possibilities are as important as facts Husserl didn’t claim to be inventing this technique, he was relying upon and clarifying something consciousness does all the time…
  23. 23. The psychological research method We will be working with the research method developed by Giorgi (2009) As you will see, the descriptive method closely follows Husserl’s methodical steps for phenomenological inquiry
  24. 24. Gendlin, E. T. (1978). Focusing. (first edition). New York: Everest House.Giorgi, A. (2009). The descriptive phenomenological method in psychology: A modified Husserlian approach. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.Giorgi, A. (2000). Psychology as a human science revisited. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 40 (3): 56- 73.Mohanty, J. N. (1987). Philosophical description and descriptive philosophy. In Phenomenology: Descriptive or hermeneutic? (pp. 40-61). The First Annual Symposium of the Simon Silverman Phenomenology Center, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA.