• balrāj

What is Phenomenology? (Part 2: Doing Phenomenology)

In the first part of this heuristic introduction to phenomenology, we defined phenomenology.


 

“Without doing phenomenology, it may be practically impossible to understand phenomenology.” “…without entering into the doing, the basic thrust and import of phenomenology is likely to be misunderstood at the least or missed at most”.

- Don Ihde, Experimental Phenomenology (3, 4).

“…phenomenological method grows and changes due to the progress made precisely with its help into the subjects under investigation. [It] is never a technique. As soon as it becomes one it has fallen away from its own proper nature”.

- Martin Heidegger, The Basic Problems of Phenomenology (21).


Phenomenology requires participation; one cannot simply look on indifferently, but must participate in either/both of producing one’s own descriptions or in being led by the descriptions of others.


Many of the insights in these articles on phenomenology can only be gained through a kind of participation. While it is entirely possible to appreciate intellectually the arguments presented in this chapter, the novelty—the phenomenological insights—of the ideas in this article will only be seen through active participation, for it is only through active participation that one can actually do phenomenology (and so fully appreciate what one reads about it).


In this light, the language of phenomenological description does not aim for factual correctness in picking out features of experiences—there is no ‘correct’ way to describe some experiencing—but rather aims to invoke an experience, and so to call the reader to (a) turn her or his attention to her or his own experience and; (b) notice therein something new (and transformatively new). In so doing, phenomenology employs language in a way that is different again from the usual use of designation to pick out already established facts.


What follows is a not a formal/theoretical discussion of the important concepts of phenomenological method. Instead, what follows is a discussion of the experience of doing phenomenology—a phenomenology of doing phenomenology.



PHENOMENOLOGICAL METHOD: AN INTRODUCTION

Phenomenology requires a stance toward one’s experience that is not our ‘natural’ or ‘common sense’ stance. The process of adopting the stance required by phenomenology has been described by one or more of the phrases ‘reduction’ or ‘epoché’ or ‘reduction proper’.


Generally speaking, these terms describe the process of reorienting oneself toward one’s experience. More specifically, they describe something like ‘stepping out’ of our ‘natural attitude’ towards the world, which amounts to something like ‘leaving aside’ our natural way of interpreting our experience. Our natural way of interpreting our experience is predicated on certain terms into which we translate the way(s) in which we experience or ‘live’ the ‘world’ (and reflectively describe it).


One of the ways in which we can see our own ‘understandings’ is in noticing our immediate reaction to a phenomenological description. Take, for instance, the experience of being objectified in Sartre’s description of being caught peering through the keyhole. Do we find ourselves reaching for or offering some explanation? “That’s just basic evolutionary psychology”, we might say, or “that can be explained by a basic understanding of neurology”. Strictly speaking, any of these ‘explanations’ are not what phenomenology wants. To be sure, there may be sufficient evidence to prove that a particular experience was caused by a particular something, but this does nothing to add to our account of the lived experience itself. Understanding the wiring and firing of synapses in my brain is helpful for other purposes, including diagnostics or prognostics, but this is not the function of phenomenology. Whatever our theoretical loyalties, phenomenology asks that we actively (and continually) abandon them and stay with experience as experienced.


Phenomenology does not found theories or theoretical systems that contain/explain experiences. In fact, this is what phenomenology attempts to avoid: systems that replace the need to contact directly experience itself. The ‘reduction’ requires that one avoid or suspend one’s automatic reliance on (or search for) explanation from any existing framework (especially those that we have come to favour, because these are likely most influencing our interpretation of experience, and so most likely interfering with direct contact therewith). This disavowal of explanatory frameworks is what is meant in calling phenomenology a method without presuppositions.


Phenomenology cannot be called a “method” in any traditional sense of the term. While it may be employed in the service of, or in order to test, other theories, phenomenology itself is not committed to any particular theory or set of theories. And precisely because phenomenology is aimed at describing—in principle—an infinite number of experiences, it cannot begin with the kind of commitments found in traditional methodologies.


Take our example in Part 1 of this article of Sartre being caught peering through a keyhole (347-9). In phenomenology, completing this task is not a matter of employing some procedure that help us access lived experience, but rather of abandoning concepts in order to do so. It is not a matter of seeing or comparing lived experience to the content of some existing theory, but rather of letting description conform to the experiencing itself. This means, most importantly, that the ‘method’ not be fixed, which is one of the reasons we choose to not call it a method at all. In short, no particular procedure will necessarily produce access to lived experience, because technical procedures do not comprehend the particularities of situations or, rather, they tend to ignore them.


For this reason, results are not necessarily repeatable in doing phenomenology. I may read a phenomenological description that is successful at reanimating the lived sense of some phenomenon, but it is not necessarily the case that my own phenomenology of the same phenomenon will produce the same result. A phenomenology of, say, falling asleep, could produce multiple different descriptions, all of which I might be able to recognize. ‘Seeing’ the truth of any one of these descriptions is not the result of a ‘method’, but is rather the result of participating in the description of the lived experience of some phenomenon.


The process of following the directives of a phenomenologist, therefore, is not one of learning a set of rules. This ‘process’ does not follow a linear development of applying rules that will then produce insights. The insight—the moment of seeing—is not guaranteed by any technical rule or tactic; in fact, the insight is not guaranteed at all. Instead, the process of being able to see phenomenologically is best described by something like assuming a different stance toward one’s experience—or, in other words, adopting what we could call a phenomenological ‘attitude’. The word ‘attitude’ is also good because it can convey that one must be open to seeing something new (without allowing habitual interpretations to impinge on one’s openness). But even “attitude” is not quite right.


In any discussion of phenomenological method, it is important to remember that the process of adopting the phenomenological attitude and of seeing phenomenologically is itself an experiencing, itself a livedness, and so attempting to ‘codify’ it in some technical or repeatable procedure would necessarily fail to capture the process as process. In this light, we might even say that the process is really just a kind of internal repositioning done in order to see how one experiences something. This process is the experience of continuously and rigorously avoiding the impressions of any explanatory framework in order to contact and then remain in contact with the livedness itself: indeed, it is not the case that once contact is made it maintains itself. In this sense, then, the gestures intended to reposition oneself vis-a-vis the phenomenon cannot be ‘defined’, but must respond to the experience being explored itself. A technical set of procedures or some kind of methodological framework would really miss the point.


Surely I could attempt to employ the directives of a particular phenomenologist and so see/experience what they ‘saw’. This would allow me to—in a sense—continue the projects of these phenomenologists. I could continue to see (with their eyes, so to speak) things they never looked at or did/could not see. This would amount to something like building upon an existing kind of contact with experience. That said, any general ‘method’—as we’ve said—would never provide something like a final word.



PHENOMENOLOGICAL METHOD: THE PHENOMENOLOGICAL REDUCTION

The phenomenological ‘method’ is thus better described as kind of a stance toward experience than a ‘method’. What is really being described in discussing phenomenological ‘method’ is the living sense of adopting a stance that allows us to see the living sense of some experiencing: a phenomenology of doing phenomenology. Here we will discuss the lived dimension of—i.e., the texture of the active participation involved in—engaging in phenomenological description.


We will discuss various kinds of unhelpful intellectual gestures that one might be inclined to make in the process of doing phenomenology, and explain why these gestures may be unhelpful in one’s project to describe experience.


Edmund Husserl had named the method of phenomenology the ‘reduction’, one that is discussed as containing two ‘moves’, namely, the ‘epoché’ and the ‘reduction proper’ (though not all phenomenologists adopt this language). The intent of these moves—collectively—is to reanimate the living sense of some experiencing. So, it is not the case that one does ‘move 1’ and then ‘move 2’, and then offers up a description, and then one is doing or has done phenomenology. Rather, this description (of the two ‘moves’ and of description) is a retroactive and reflective one. Further, the term ‘reduction’ is somewhat misleading, as it suggests a ‘reducing’—i.e., a diminution—of some kind. Instead, this term comes from the Latin reducere: re- [‘back, again’] + ducere [‘bring, lead’], meaning ‘bring back’. The phenomenological reduction, then, is not an attempt to slim down or abstract or even to find some kind of common denominator, but is rather intended to restore or reanimate—bring back—some livedness.



PHENOMENOLOGICAL METHOD I: THE EPOCHÉ

The first of these ‘moves’ is called the epoché, which in Greek (Sceptic) philosophy is a “suspension (of judgment)”; etymologically, it means something like ‘a holding on to’ or ‘a stopping at’ or ‘cessation’. As Dermot Moran tells us in his Introduction to Phenomenology (147):


Husserl characterized the practice of the epoché in many different ways: ‘abstention’… ‘dislocation’ from, or ‘unplugging’ or ‘exclusion’ of the positing of the world and our normal unquestioning faith in the reality of what we expense. He speaks of ‘withholding’, ’disregarding’, ‘abandoning’, ‘parenthesizing’… ‘putting out of action’…, and ‘putting out of play’… all judgements… But the essential feature is always to affect an alteration or ‘change of attitude’….

The epoché experience describes the experience of putting aside anything that does not allow me to see the ’how’ of some experiencing. This stance is certainly not an ‘easy’ stance to adopt, but the difficulty is more in combatting (what has become) ‘common sense’ or our ‘pre-understandings’ rather than trying to understand technical vocabularies or procedures. In other words, the difficulty is more in stepping out of our most natural way of dealing with things (i.e., the way of dealing with things in our everyday lived experience)—what Husserl called the “natural attitude”—so that we can look at precisely the texture or quality of dealing with them. In the epoché we attempt to remove one’s own already-prejudicial involvedness.


To be sure, it is not possible to completely ignore these pre-understandings (and so to arrive at a view from everywhere/nowhere). In fact, by paying close attention to lived experience, phenomenological description brings precisely these ‘layers’ of situatedness to light (in untheorized form no less). As more layers of situatedness are ‘seen’, the epoché (as an experience, not as a concept) does not remain the same, and neither does experiencing itself: as more layers are ‘identified’—i.e., as more experiencings are ‘named’—there may be more to ‘bracket’ (if one holds to any one ‘concept’ and uses said concept to interpret the remainder of the experiencing). Alternatively, the uncovering of these layers—especially in moments that are transformatively new—one notices that the lived experiencing begins to say itself differently. Nonetheless, these identified layers of situatedness are themselves descriptions of phenomena: ‘preunderstandings’, ‘corporeality’, ‘patriarchy’, ‘culture’, ‘race’, ‘class’, ‘the social-historical’, et cetera. As names, they certainly respond to experiential motivations, but remaining tied to the phenomena themselves remains paramount.


At the same time, however, one must be wary of the risk that one comes to view one’s phenomenological inquiry as something like the ‘most basic’ or the ‘origin’ of other kinds of experiences—rather than simply as ‘part’ or as an ‘aspect’ of the (single) fabric of lived experience. Exploring the lived experience of, say, spatiality (by exploring various experiences and how spatiality is experienced within each) allows one to ‘see’ something essential about the experience of spatiality that was hitherto unnoticed or taken for granted. Phenomenologically, space as such does not exist; there is no experience of space as such. Instead, there are various different ways in which we experience the world spatially. Space as such is an abstraction; it is a reality we posit as existing absolutely and independently of our experience, based upon our concrete experiences which are themselves always perspectival and varied in how they construe space. The same can be said about something like ‘embodiment’ or ‘race’. These topics are complex and topics deserving of more treatment than as examples, but the point is simply to warn against the living of any one category as a sort of metaphysical point of departure (outside of individual investigations), which may lead one to conduct other phenomenologies (however unwittingly) through space/embodiment/race, precisely because one has come to privilege space/embodiment/race as foundational. In each case, we should not presume that we begin with some reality ‘as such’ and then we develop perspectives upon it; on the contrary, what we begin with—and all we ever have—are various perspectives, and the putative “absolute” realities of space/embodiment/race, and so on, are all projections from our actual experiences.


In the same vein, part of this process of the epoché is abandoning any presumed hierarchies within experiences, be they about more or less ‘fundamental’ aspects of the experience (as in “it’s obvious that in listening to music the experience of ‘hearing’ or ‘sound’ is most fundamental”), or even about particular qualitative judgements about the content of said experience (as in “it’s obvious that Schubert’s second symphony is more ‘meaningful’ than anything by Drake or Kenny Chesney”). Again, one’s experience of god is not necessarily ‘richer’ than one’s experience of a tree. And while it is certainly possible to possible to discover hierarchies in experience, the point is that we cannot assume them in advance. The point of the epoché is to abandon any assumptions whatsoever that do not allow one to trace a livedness (as) directly (as possible). And this abandoning is a doing, not something one should simply acknowledge intellectually. It requires active participation.


Finally, the experience of the epoché can be described as something like sustaining a state of ‘wonder’ or ‘openness’. Once one has decided to explore the experience of a tree or of hate or of god or of being a ‘man’, one does something like ‘open’ oneself up to the ‘how’ of experiences of trees or hate or god or manhood. In the ‘opening’, one recalls an experience and explores the texture of the ‘how’ of this experiencing, adding to the richness of one’s description with each recalling. One remains ‘open’ (in a state of wonder) about how some particular experience is had and—at least in the case of the very rich phenomenological descriptions—returns time and again to such experiencings, varying the circumstances of the experiencing in order to do something like ‘isolate’ it. I may wonder about my experience of my gender (another immensely complex topic) at a nightclub, or at a school, a gay bar, or in the retail store, La Vie en Rose, or as a teaching assistant teaching a course called, ‘Women and Society’, or while with my father, with my niece, my female boss, my male boss, watching the television series, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (or ‘Sons of Anarchy’), watching these series with my partner, and so on. The resulting description is, of course, not a commentary on the ‘essential reality’ of my gender or of gender itself, but simply a reflection of particular havings that may or may not change as one (or if one) continues to trace the experience itself. To be sure, the ‘objective’ of one’s returning to the experience is not to add to the description I already have but to describe the livedness itself. To be sure, one would likely be doing both, but the approach would resemble the latter, not the former.



PHENOMENOLOGICAL METHOD II: THE REDUCTION PROPER

In the epoché, we step out of our everyday relationship with something. In the ‘reduction proper’—the second ‘move’ of the phenomenological reduction—we allow the thing to show itself in its happening and notice something about the general ‘structure’ of said experiencing. It is not lived as an orientation actively looking for something else, but is rather lived as more of a receptivity. The activity is in maintaining the receptivity, and then in ‘listening’ to the experience so that it can say itself; the ‘reduction’ is an attitude/stance that must be maintained and so is itself a process.


There are, of course, many ways to describe what it’s like to have an insight. If we were to describe—phenomenologically—what this is like, it might resemble something like making ‘contact’ with the livedness itself in order to ‘see’ some inner working of the experience; it is something like seeing ‘into’ a phenomenon. It would perhaps be more accurate to describe the experience as a ‘seeing-into’ (an experience) unto a kind of ‘world’ contained in the phenomenon itself.


We can also see now how the term ‘structure’ seems appropriate, since in the experiencing some specific thing will show itself that is unique about the thing being experience. There is something like an ‘essence’ involved in our different experiences, in that we do regularly recognize deeper ‘types’ or ‘structures’ that define the parameters of our experience. We need to remember, though, that these defining parameters—space, embodiment, race, remembering, etc.—are not metaphysical essences to which we have independent access. And this is why anything like a ‘complete’ reduction would be impossible, because we—the investigator—is always already in the midst of an unstoppable, uncontrollable experiencing—the single, given tissue of experience that we cannot turn off with our will. Such a thing—a complete reduction—would amount to being given the unmoving, in-itself (eternal) essence of a particular thing, a particular thing as such, outside of experience.


At the same time, we can also see how the term ‘structure’ is inappropriate, insofar as our understanding of the term is of a fixed, organized arrangement that ‘does’ a particular thing. What lies ‘beneath’ or ‘within’ everyday experience is hardly fixed, but the terms we use to represent the prereflective movement are necessarily so. The names we give to these experiencings are themselves descriptions of what we find given in experience, and, further, an honest description of these ‘essences’ shows them to be more complex and dynamic than our ‘metaphysical’ presumptions allow us to recognize.



PHENOMENOLOGICAL METHOD III: DESCRIPTION

The phenomenologist is often confronted with the challenge of finding the words to capture the ‘how’ of their experiencing. It is common in phenomenology to see how the terms we have inherited (and into which we commonly translate our experiencing) prove to be inadequate to capture accurately the form of our experiencing, never appearing in the way that our reflective awareness might suggest. The experience of doing phenomenology has the affect of loosening the grip that our existing terms have on our interpretation of experiencing.


The purpose of phenomenological description is to produce an account of lived experiencing capable of being experienced by another: not the ‘exact’ experience, but the general shape of some experiencing. For example, we can see from Sartre’s example above something of being objectified or being ‘caught’—this is the experience under investigation—and so our description is of those elements we recognize to be pertinent to getting caught (and not other things intended to re-create the ‘exact’ experience). But in doing this—in going into our phenomenological investigation with some idea about what counts as being pertinent to the experience of getting caught—we can also become aware of our own commitments, commitments that we may very well have never considered to be ‘commitments’ at all. The experience we want to re-animate is an experience lifted out of the flow, relived, and then described, not the moment of happening in its absolute singularity, in the moment—in all its fullness—that will never again return.


Phenomenology does not claim to provide anything like a complete view of anything; a description will always be of a specific time/place and orientation. It will always be in a language that I didn’t invent (but had to learn), as part of a culture/history/family I didn’t choose (but to which I had to attune myself to become a participating member of society), as a body with its own inheritances and drives, and so on. The words I choose are themselves reflective of a kind of attunement to a cultural and historical norm rather than re-presenting a ‘natural’ relationship between essential kinds. These terms, ‘cultural’ and ‘historical’ are, to be sure, descriptions that I have inherited—terms in which I see—that I am using to describe different ways in which I’ve learned to ‘gather up’ phenomena to make sense of the world.


Phenomenology asks only that we keep in touch with experience itself, and this entails leaving behind—just temporarily and to the best of our ability—the ways in which we’ve come to interpret experience. In doing this, we open ourselves up to seeing habitual ways in which we are employing terms to represent some phenomenon. This can reveal, among (many) other things, any number of (implicit) privilegings of certain categories and terms over others (as more fundamental, as more ‘true’/‘good’/‘correct’, etc.). In loosening the grip that some of these words have on our experiencings, this makes it possible to see something new/anew, perhaps replacing previous motivations (to re-present said experiencings in a particular way) with new ones.


At the beginning of this thesis, we defined logos as ‘gathering up and letting be seen or experienced’. An essential contribution of phenomenology is not simply that ‘gathering up is never a pure gathering’—this much is recognized by phenomenology; a pure vantage point or the ‘view from nowhere’ is not possible—but rather that the way in which we live these terms in our everyday experiencing suggests a ‘natural’ or ‘proper’ or ‘metaphysically essential’ relationship between terms and things, and this essential relationship is taken for granted, tucked or folded into our experiencing. Seeing lived experience through these concepts has the effect of encouraging us to live these concepts as essential realities in and of themselves (and not simply as descriptions of livednesses, of positions, committments).


This is made clearer when we consider what phenomenologists have recognized as a function of language that does not simply—we could say—‘react’ to (and with) inherited meanings, but instead ‘precedes’ these inheritances. In other words, it is not that we have some experience and then return to some neutral place from which we select the appropriate word(s) to capture the objective experience. Rather, the (sense we have of some) experience is already contained in some language/gesture; the experience shows up pre-understood or already-interpreted as language. We already understand and our understanding—which is already an expression of committments, and so on—is already encoded in language/gesture; it already gives itself in and as language. Merleau-Ponty offers an example of this in his Phenomenology of Perception (190). Consider anger: in lived experiencing, “The gesture does not make me think of anger, it is the anger itself”. He writes (187),


speech is not the ‘sign’ of thought, if by this we understand a phenomenon that announces another as smoke announces fire. Speech and thought would only admit of this external relation if they were both thematically [reflectively] given; in fact, they are enveloped in each other; sense is caught in speech, and speech is the external existence of sense.

Phenomenological description is not a reflective attempt looking to ‘capture’ an experiencing but is closer to something like a letting-speak or something like—Merleau-Ponty writes (189)—fulfilling “a certain lack that seeks to be fulfilled”, and this doesn’t always produce descriptions that can/do conform to the logic of propositional discourse.


To be sure, the point is not that inherited terms are ‘wrong’ and/or ‘bad’ by virtue of being inherited. In fact, these terms—say, “emotional” or “familial” or whatever gesture we use to express “anger”—respond to experiential motivations; they provide the ‘tools’ with which we answer to ways in which we are ‘called’ in experience, offering a kind of response/resolution. In short, we talk about “emotion” or “families” because there is something in our experiencing that these names capture, and so there is not a ‘one-way’ relationship between language and meaning, as if language creates meaning in an absolute way. Instead, our everyday living of these names (and relationships between names—including but not limited to hierarchical structures) as natural/necessary names is problematic for phenomenology precisely because they may paper over the experiencing as lived, no longer naming a certain experience or no longer representing said experiencing universally. In other words, these categories do indeed have the power of giving voice to to realms of one’s experience previously unseen, but they also have the potential of becoming stale and leading to and/or containing misinterpretations of lived experience. The phenomenologist recognizes that these names—and these relationships between names—are themselves not outside of experiential motivation. They are not outside of experience. And so the project of phenomenology—of giving voice, of perpetually revisiting the experiencing to let it say itself—this critical project, is never (and can never be) complete.


Phenomenology continues to make us mindful to be critically and philosophically aware of how our lives (and our cognitive, emotional, embodied, and tacit understandings) are socially, culturally, politically, and existentially fashioned. But phenomenology also reminds us that these constructions themselves are always in danger of becoming imperatives, rationalities, epistemologies, and ontologies that need to be bracketed, deconstructed, and substituted with more reflective portrayals.

- Max van Manen, Phenomenology of Practice (13).



Further Reading

Regarding the notion of the ‘presuppositionless’ starting point, see in David Detmer’s Phenomenology Explained (114-115); in Moran’s Introduction to Phenomenology, 126-127; Joel Smith’s Experiencing Phenomenology, 24-26. Iso Kern’s article, ‘The Three Ways to the Transcendental Phenomenological Reduction in the Philosophy of Edmund Husserl’, discusses three different ways to understand the reduction. Also see Shaun Gallagher’s Phenomenology, 60. Don Ihde, in his Experimental Phenomenology, calls the epoché and the reduction-proper hermeneutic rules “since they provide the shape or focus of the inquiry. Hermeneutic in its broadest sense means interpretation, and rules give shape to an interpretation” (17). Ihde's explanation of the reduction is simple (18-22). Sebastian Luft's article, ‘Husserl’s Method of Reduction’ discussion of Ernst Tugendhat's 1971 interpretation suggests that the most general interpretation of the reduction would be something like accepting the “correlation of consciousness and world as the minimal common denominator of any definition of phenomenology” (252). This is a good basic description of the basic stance of phenomenology: awareness is always already situated.

On the topic of the ‘reduction’, the “reduction proper” was the ‘official’ title was given in the first book of Husserl’s Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to A Phenomenological Philosophy (hereafter Ideas I; see esp. Section 61). Although introductory texts on phenomenology generally contain a section dedicated to the two moves of the phenomenological reduction, it is not true that all figures in the history of phenomenological philosophy have explicitly discussed it. As a famous example, Heidegger, in his Being and Time, refrained from using Husserl’s central names; Moran writes in Introduction to Phenomenology: “[Heidegger] does not refer to the natural attitude, to the epoché and reduction, to the notion of constitution.” Moran’s discussion of the epoché in the same book is instructive (148-152). Sebastian Luft, in his article, ‘Husserl’s Method of Reduction’, notes that Husserl himself had “developed several ‘ways’ into he reduction; in fact, a larger portion of research manuscripts consists in working out these different ways, the number of which remains open to debate” (247). Husserl, in his Ideas I refers at one point to phenomenological reductions (Section 56). Iso Kern’s article, ‘The Three Ways to the Transcendental Phenomenological Reduction in the Philosophy of Edmund Husserl’, highlights (what Kern identifies as) three of these ways. Anthony Steinbock in Phenomenology and Mysticism notes: “…Husserl did not propound one single intellectual activity accomplished once and for all under the rubric of the reduction but practiced a philosophical activity, sometimes with more clarity, sometimes with more obscurity, that he took up over and over and over again according tot he circumstances and intellectual bearing” (4-5). See Sebastian Luft’s article, ‘Husserl’s Method of Reduction’, for a concise discussion of Husserl’s different “paths into the reduction” (especially 247-250). See David Cerbone’s article, ‘Methods in Phenomenology after Husserl’ for Heidegger’s appropriation of Husserl’s ‘method’ (278-282).

On the topic of ‘motivation’ in Husserl, see Dermot Moran’s article, ‘Edmund Husserl’, 32. In Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, see 47-51. Merleau-Ponty describes motivation in the following way: “One phenomenon triggers another, not through some objective causality, such as the one linking together the events of nature, but rather through the sense it offers—there is a sort of operative reason, or a raison d’être that orients the flow of phenomena without being explicitly posited in any of them” (51, emphasis added).

On the topic of ‘language’ in phenomenology, see Merleau-Ponty’s discussion of “authentic speech” in his Phenomenology of Perception (200, 202-3, 183n6).



Works Cited

This article is a revised extraction of the first chapter of “Doing Phenomenology”, a thesis written by Balraj. This thesis was submitted to the University of Guelph (Canada) and published in 2016.


Cerbone, David. 2012. ‘Methods in Phenomenology after Husserl’, in The Routledge Companion to Phenomenology (eds. Luft & Overgaard). Routledge. 276-286.

Detmer, David. 2013. Phenomenology Explained. Open Court.

Gallagher, Shaun. 2012. Phenomenology. Palgrave.

Heidegger, Martin. 1982 [1975]. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. [Trans. De.: Hofstadter, 1982]. Indiana.

Husserl, Edmund. 1983 [1913]. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to A Phenomenological Philosophy. First Book: General Introduction to A Pure Phenomenology. [Trans. De.: Kersten]. Martinus Nijhoff.

Ihde, Don. 2012 [1977]. Experimental Phenomenology. Second Edition: Multistabilities. SUNY.

Kern, Iso. 1977. ‘The Three Ways to the Transcendental Phenomenological Reduction in the Philosophy of Edmund Husserl’, in Husserl: Expositions and Appraisals (eds. Elliston & McCormick)). Notre Dame. 126-149.

Luft, Sebastian. 2012. ‘Husserl’s Method of Reduction’, in The Routledge Companion to Phenomenology (eds. Luft & Overgaard). Routledge. 243-253.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 2012 [1945]. Phenomenology of Perception. [Trans., Fr.: Landes, D., 2012]. Routledge.

Moran, Dermot. 2012. ‘Edmund Husserl’, in The Routledge Companion to Phenomenology (eds. Luft & Overgaard). Routledge. 28-39.

———. 2002. Introduction to Phenomenology. Routledge.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1956 [1943]. Being & Nothingness. [Trans., Fr.: Barnes, 1956.] Washington Square Press.

Smith, Joel. 2016. Experiencing Phenomenology. An Introduction. Routledge.

Steinbock, Anthony. 2007. Phenomenology & Mysticism. Indiana.

van Manen, Max. 2014. Phenomenology of Practice: Meaning-Giving Methods in Phenomenological Research & Writing. Left Coast Press.