Aletheia :Aletheia is the early Greek term for truth. In the human sciences truth is better seen as something that must be uncovered or as something that reveals itself into unconcealment. "Nature loves to hide," said the pre-socratic philosopher Herakleitos (Herakleitos and Diogenes, 1979, p. 14). This notion of truth contrasts with the more positivistic concepts of truth as a proposition corresponding to some state of affairs in the real world.
Being :Being is the most universal concept of Heidegger's hermeneutic phenomenology (1962). Being does not describe an entity or ultimate ground but rather it may be seen as Heidegger's fundamental term for his ontological analytic. "Being is always the Being of an entity" (p. 29), and so to ask for the Being of something is to inquire into the nature or meaning of that phenomenon.
bracketing :Bracketing (see the term "reduction") describes the act of suspending one's various beliefs in the reality of the natural world in order to study the essential structures of the world. The term "bracketing" was borrowed from mathematics by Husserl (1911/80), the father of phenomenology, who himself was a mathematician.
Commensurability: A frequently raised issue concerning (in)commensurability has to do with the relation between culture studies and phenomenology. Of course, it goes without saying that experience is personal and influenced by factors such as gender, culture, etc. For example, is the phenomenological attitude compatible with the feminist one? The best answer is probably both yes and noَsince there is not one kind of feminism and not a singular phenomenological method. Some feminists have pointed out that certain themesَsuch as the idea of essence in philosophy, the epoché in the early Husserl, the objectifying look of Sartre, or the notion of embodiment in Merleau-Pontyَhave been rather insensitive to contextual factors of culture, gender, and language in the constitution of meaning. But on balance one could probably argue that there are many important epistemological and ontological themes that phenomenology and gender studies have in common: (a) there is Husserlيs critique of naturalism in the positive sciences which is reminiscent of the critique of the hegemony of scientific truth, objectivity and neutrality; (b) the phenomenological program of reclaiming lived experience is important for women who want to ask how the experiences of women or young girls may differ from those of men or boys; (c) the phenomenological method of radically questioning oneيs assumptions is compatible with the reflective unravelling of male prejudice in language and in the institutions and practices of everyday life; (d) the phenomenological emphasis on suspending theoretic biases also may serve to make us aware of the patriarchal roots of many theoretic concepts, linguistic structures, and methods in sciences such as medicine, psychoanalysis, and education; (e) both phenomenology and gender studies entail turning to experience as we live it rather than as we represent it in abstract theory and in binary oppositions like thinking and feeling, cognition and emotion, action and reflection; (f) both attempt to find modes of discourse, voice, and expression that can reveal felt meaning that goes beyond the prevailing paradigm of logic, cognition, prediction, and control. In this sense hermeneutic phenomenology seems to be quite amenable to feminine forms of knowing, inquiring, and writing.
corporeality :The term "corporeality" refers to the notion of the lived body or embodiment.
critical theory :Critical theory is now usually identified with the past work of representatives of the Institut fur Socialforschung at Frankfurt (often called the Frankfurt School), and especially with the work of Jurgen Habermas (Arato and Gebhardt, 1978). Critical theory has identified itself with the Marxist legacy of attempting to forge a dialectical synthesis of philosophy and a scientific understanding of society. Some features of this synthesis are:
an appeal to a widened notion of rationality,
a resistance to all forms of domination,
an orientation to praxis, and
the centrality of the concept of emancipation.
In his book Knowledge and Human Interests, Habermas (1971) has distinguished among three forms of knowledge and associated cognitive interests: the technical, the practical, and the emancipatory. Each of these knowledge interests are seen to be rooted in primordial human activities: work, symbolic interaction, and power.
It is the empirical-analytic sciences which Habermas identifies as expressing the technical interest; the practical interest is seen to be incorporated in hermeneutics or the human sciences; and the emancipatory interest is served by the critically oriented sciences. Habermas thus places modern empirical-analytic social science in a more limited position of influence. And his critique of modern society becomes a critique of instrumental reason which is seen to govern dominant social science through which society understands itself and by way of which it legitimates its oppressive economic, political and social practices.
In education, research which has a critical theory thrust aims at promoting critical consciousness, and struggles to break down the institutional structures and arrangements which reproduce oppressive ideologies and the social inequalities that are sustained and produced by these social structures and ideologies.
epochéa :"bracketing" of the "natural attitude" so that one can attend to a phenomenon as it shows itself.
Erfahrung: Erfahrung is the German word for "life experience." This is the more general term. For example, we may say that a person has had many experiences (Erfahrungen) in life. Life experiences (Lebenserfahrungen) are more inclusive than lived experiences (Erlebnisse). Life experiences are the accumulation of lived experiences and the understandings and sense we may have made of these experiences. Gadamer showed that certain Erfahrungen, for example in the case of aesthetic truth experiences, can have a transformative effect on our being. And thus we can speak of an "experienced" person when referring to his or her mature wisdom, as a result of life's accumulated experiences, Erfahrungen.
Erlebnis: Erlebnis is the German word for lived experience--experience as we live through it and recognize it as a particular type of experience. Dilthey (1985) used this term to show that there is a pattern of meaning and a certain unity to experience. Our language can be seen as an immense linguistic map that names the possibilities of human lived experiences.
Essence:The term "essence" derives from the Greek ousia, which means the inner essental nature of a thing, the true being of a thing. The Latin essentia, from esse means "to be." Essence is that what makes a thing what it is (and without which it would not be what it is); that what makes a thing what it is rather than its being or becoming something else. In Plato's thought essence is the grasp of the very nature of something, of which any particular instance is only an imperfect example or imitation. Eidos is Plato's alternative term for Idea or Form which Husserl utilized to designate universal essences. With Aristotle the notion of essence is that something which some thing is to be in its final completed state; the essential nature (internal principle) of a thing. In Husserl's writings "essence" often refers to the whatness of things, as opposed to their thatness (i.e., their existence). Some phenomenologists make a distinction between Grundwesen (basic or fundamental essence) and empirisches Wesen (empirical essence). In this Husserlian distinction basic or ideal essence is accessible to phenomenological intuiting. However, these simplistic definitions easily mislead us into positivistic and foundationalist judgements. First, we may ask: Do things have essences? Can we speak of the specific whatness of something? For example, is it correct to speak of the essence of humanness, the essence of language, the essence of thinking, the essence of music, the essence of a flower? the essence of poetry? Is it not simplistic to think that things have essences? This is an important question because "essence" and "essentialism" have become the ugly words of qualitative research, especially amongst poststructuralists. But why? What is so bad about the notion of essence? It would seem that the danger of the concept essence lies primarily in the moral significance that is attached to it.
When we speak about the essence of poetry, for example, all we mean to say is that in some respects poetry has certain qualities or properties that make it distinguishable from other literary forms such as novels, plays, or essays. In other words, without these qualities or properties poetry would no longer be experienced as poetry. And this is true for almost anything. And so we can ask what properties belong to flowers such that a flower would no longer be a flower if one would take these properties away.
On the one hand, someone who argues that there are no essences seems to be taking an extremist position. A poem differs from a short story, a flower differs from a tree, pain differs from comfort, trust differs from distrust. There is little controversy about this way of speaking about essences. This is not to deny that the line between poetry and prose sometimes is difficult to draw; or that a poetic text sometimes is indistinguishable from prose text. The essence of things depends precisely on the play between difference and sameness, and Wittgenstein has shown that these shifts of meaning are reflective of our forms of life and family resemblances of meaning. As Eagleton points out, "For something to display certain essential properties does not necessarily mean that we always know for sure where it ends and another object begins. A field with uncertain boundaries can still be a field."
On the other hand, phenomenologists know that the notion of essence is highly complex and that the early Husserlian view tended toward simplying the search for essences in some of his followers. Essence is not a single, fixed property by which we know something; rather, it is meaning constituted by a complex array of aspects, properties and qualities—some of which are incidental and some of which are more critical to the being of things. The term essence derives from the verb to be—by definition a profoundly existential notion. It asks what something "is" for the one who asks the question. For the being of something. Essence asks for what something is, and without which it would no longer be what it is. And it asks this question while being aware of context, (inter)subjectivity, language, and so forth. It is for this reason that human science is such a fascinating project: every interpretation can be called into question; every inquiry we can begin anew; every hermeneutic phenomenological conversation is unending.
Anti-essentialists have provided an important service. By arguing that essences are illusory, they have drawn attention to the danger of confusing culture with nature, and of reification in the humanities and the social and human sciences. Anti-essentialists have criticized philosophical and cultural outlooks that define, for example, the nature of womanhood, childhood, or ethnicity, and that subsequently draw moral conclusions from these definitions: for instance, the notion that women are inherently weak and therefore ill-suited for leadership, or that children are by nature sinful and therefore must be rid of their inborn inclination towards evil, or that certain ethnic groups possess innate properties from which cultures or nations must be cleansed. Anti-essentialists have shown that there are essentialist perspectives that reduce social phenomena to immutable categories and social groups to fixed types. Essentialism of this categorial variety shares with positivism that it reifies experiential phenomena into external objects. Categorial essentialism is dangerous in that it tends to see things in absolute terms and from these fixed properties one derives moral convictions. Finally, all the above distinctions are actually somewhat misleading since they still assume that it is appropriate to speak of "the essence of something" and of things possessing meaning and boundaries. However, essence never refers simply to the "whatness" of a phenomenon, as if we were describing its properties.
Phenomenologically speaking essence is a complex notion that alludes to the ever questionable ways of the being of being, to the ways that a phenomenon reveals itself in thinking, to the ways that we encounter something, and to the ways that we ourselves are constantly put into question by the being of the things of our world. The term essence does not describe the whatness of a phenomenon but it describes the meaning relations that we maintain with the world. Essence is a relational term that refers to the intentionalities of our world, to possible ways of encountering and relating to the things of our world before ànd while we understand or think them in language and poetic and conceptual thought.
ethnography:Ethnography studies the culturally shared, common sense perceptions of everyday experiences. Ethnography is the task of describing a particular culture, for example the form of life of an urban junior high-school class, the culture of school administrators in a certain school system, a particular day-care environment, or a certain ward in a hospital, and so forth. Ethnographers use an informant or participant-observation approach to study cultural "scenes" or cultural settings. They ask, "What do people do here? What kind of people are here?" Social situations are seen as places where human beings recurrently interact in particular ways (staff room, locker room, library desk, principal's office, etc.) and where people hold certain kinds of knowledge, ways of doing things, and perceptions that belong to those places. So the ethnographer wants to understand what one has to know, as a member of a particular group, to behave competently as a member of that group. A "good" ethnography describes a cultural reality in such a way that a non-member of the culture could "pass as an insider" if he or she had internalized the cultural features of the particular setting. To a certain extent ethnographers are interested in taxonomizing or categorizing the cultural perceptions in the ethnographic account. Thus, the lived-through or existential quality of personal experiences are sacrificed for the cultural, social, or scenic focus. Thick Description may be seen as a methodological variation of ethnographic research. The term "thick description" borrows from the work of the anthropologist Malinowski and has been made popular by Geertz. Ethnographic studies that aim for thick description tend to provide accounts not only that present and organize the "stories" as the informant(s) related them, but also that explore deeper meaning structures which the members of the social group may not be able to confirm or validate. In other words, thick description is more interpretive and analytic than mainstream ethnographic work.
ethnomethodology:Ethnomethodology studies the "methods" that people employ to accomplish or constitute a sense of objective or social reality. The purpose is to elucidate how taken-for-granted or seen-but-unnoticed "rules" lie at the basis of everyday communications and interactions among social actors. Garfinkel who coined the notion of ethnomethodology took certain ideas from the phenomenological sociology of Schutz and tied them in with certain structuralist interests and linguistic (semiotic) approaches. Ethnomethodologists show how people produce the facticity of the common sense reality of the social world and then experience it as independent of their own production. For example, Mehan has shown how interpretive skills on the part of children are crucial but unrecognized requirements for the normal conduct of classroom lessons. Ethnomethodologists are able to show how teachers "unknowingly" make certain normative demands on their students, implicitly assuming that certain communicative competencies on the part of the pupils are being employed in standard classroom procedures such as questioning, lecturing, testing, reading and achievement evaluation. For example, sometimes the level of sophistication students need and are able to show when they are required to handle a formal test situation is greater than the difficulty of the test material on which they may be "failing." The central topic for ethnomethodology is the rational accountability of practical actions as ongoing, practical accomplishments. It focuses on the structuring activities of people in social situations and on the background expectancies and "rule use" or "members' methods" for making these social and structuring activities "visibly rational and reportable for all practical purposes."
Analytic Theory, as formulated by Blum and McHugh, is not interested in describing (reporting), such as ethnography and ethnomethodology, but in analyzing (displaying). Analytic theory is a radical, less positivistic variation of ethnomethodology. The analytic theorist feels that there is no pressing need to do empirical data gathering or observational description (e.g., in using video-tape or audio-tape recording for analysis). They argue that life-topics for analysis are ready at hand in our own speech. Analytic theorists use a method of collaborative analysis in order to remind the conversational partner of that which he or she has to forget in order to speak (or write). To do research on a topic of concern (such as children's toys, special education, fatherhood, and so forth) the theorist formulates his or her interest as a problem and then develops a Socratic dialogue with this problem (and directly or indirectly with those who already have developed an approach to the problem). There are early Greek (neo-Platonic) and Heideggerian elements in the analytic approach. The theorist is interested in the reflexive character of his or her own inquiry. To theorize means that one orients oneself to that what makes it possible to be so oriented in the first place. Thus, theorizing is a kind of moral education: the theorist must show how any theorizing is an example of its own orientation to the Good, the good of theorizing.
experience and language:The theme of language. The person who begins a hermeneutic phenomenological study soon discovers that this form of inquiry is not a closed system. There are many paradoxes that mark the routes of a human science journey. As one develops a focus on the phenomena of lived experience, it soon appears that these phenomena are highly elusive and problematic. If I focus on an experience that strikes me as particularly interesting but that is not easily captured in language, then I may wonder: what word(s) do I use to describe this experience? Sometimes a story may help: "Has something like this … ever happened to you?" Sometimes a scene from a movie or a few lines from a poem may help to communicate the topic of our inquiry. And yet, experience is always more immediate, more enigmatic, more complex, more ambiguous than any description can do justice to. The human science researcher is a scholar-author who must be able to maintain an almost unreasonable faith in the power of language to make intelligible and understandable what always seems to lie beyond language. I am moved by an evocative musical passage. I feel strengthened by an encouraging hand on my shoulder. I recall a frightful childhood experience. I am struck by the loveliness of someone I meet. I wistfully reminisce on a holiday adventure. I exchange a meaningful glance with someone. How do we capture and interpret the possible meanings of such experiences? The things we are trying to describe or interpret are not really things at all—our actual experiences are literally "nothing." And yet, we seem to create some-thing when we use language in human science inquiry. What then is the relation between language and experience? It seems that with words we create some-thing (concepts, insights, feelings) out of no-thing (lived experience), yet these words forever will fall short of our aims. Perhaps this is because language tends to intellectualize our awareness—language is a cognitive apparatus. What we try to do in phenomenological research is to evoke understandings through language that in a curious way seem to be non-cognitive. This matter is important because many professions (such as pedagogy, nursing, healing, counselling) seem to require not only trainable skills and specialized bodies of knowledge but also abilities that have to do with discretionary, intuitive, pathic, and tactful capacities. It seems that in these directions lie the relevant contributions of hermeneutic phenomenology for the epistemology of professional practice. Here, I have only been able to address a couple of issues and these thoughts are necessarily abbreviated to fit this limited space.
hermeneutic phenomenology: Hermeneutic phenomenology tries to be attentive to both terms of its methodology: it is a descriptive (phenomenological) methodology because it wants to be attentive to how things appear, it wants to let things speak for themselves; it is an interpretive (hermeneutic) methodology because it claims that there are no such things us uninterpreted phenomena. The implied contradiction may be resolved if one acknowledges that the (phenomenological) "facts" of lived experience are always already meaningfully (hermeneutically) experienced. Moreover, even the "facts" of lived experience need to be captured in language (the human science text) and this is inevitably an interpretive process.
hermeneutics:Hermeneutics is the theory and practice of interpretation. The word derives from the Greek god, Hermes, whose task it was to communicate messages from the gods to the ordinary mortals. Hermeneutics is necessary when there is possibility for misunderstanding, said Schleiermacher. He opened up the idea of hermeneutics as a theory or "technology" of interpretation, especially with respect to the study of sacred (biblical) and classical texts. Schleiermacher's program was critical (as the struggle against misunderstanding) and romantic (in the desire to recover the particularity, or the animating genius or notion of an author's thoughts). His aim was to understand an author as well or even better than he or she understands himself or herself.
The emphasis for Dilthey was not the fundamental thought of the other person but the world itself, the "lived experience," which is expressed by the author's text. Dilthey's hermeneutic formula was lived experience: the starting point and focus of human science; expression: the text or artifact as objectification of lived experience; and understanding: not a cognitive act but the moment when "life understands itself." Heidegger, in turn, more radically de-psychologized the notion of understanding. The notion of hermeneutic understanding for Heidegger was not aimed at re-experiencing another's experience but rather the power to grasp one's own possibilities for being in the world in certain ways. To interpret a text is to come to understand the possibilities of being revealed by the text. Heidegger's hermeneutics has been described as an interpretive phenomenology. Gadamer adds that in interpreting a text we cannot separate ourselves from the meaning of a text. The reader belongs to the text that she or he is reading. Understanding is always an interpretation, and an interpretation is always specific, an application. For Gadamer the problem of understanding involves interpretive dialogue which includes taking up the tradition in which one finds oneself. Texts that come to us from different traditions or conversational relations may be read as possible answers to questions. To conduct a conversation, says Gadamer, means to allow oneself to be animated by the question or notion to which the partners in the conversational relation are directed. Hirsch provides a more positivistic (and Diltheyan) explanation of hermeneutics. For him text interpretation aims at reconstructing the author's intended meanings. Understanding is a dialectical process between the reader and writer. And Hirsch argues that the validity of any particular textual interpretation is increased by knowing something about the person who wrote it. Ricoeur broadened the notion of textuality to any human action or situation. To interpret a social situation is to treat the situation as text and then to look for the metaphor that may be seen to govern the text. Ricoeur, in response to Heidegger and Gadamer, returns hermeneutics from ontology (understanding as a mode of being) to the question of epistemology (understanding as human science method). For example, Ricoeur tries to articulate a methodological relationship between explanation and understanding in terms of the problem of distanciation and participation.
human science: "Human science" is a name that collects a variety of approaches and orientations to research. The term "human science" derives from Wilhelm Dilthey's notion of Geisteswissenschaften. Dilthey argued that human (mental, social, historical) phenomena differ from natural (physical, chemical, behavioral) phenomena in that human phenomena require interpretation and understanding whereas natural science involves for the most part external observation and explanation. "We explain nature, humans we must understand," said Dilthey. Dilthey sought to develop in hermeneutics a methodological basis for the human sciences. According to Dilthey we can grasp the fullness of lived experience by reconstructing or reproducing the meanings of life's expressions found in the products of human effort, work and creativity.
Hermeneutics and phenomenology are seen to be involved in all the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences that interpret meaningful expressions of the active inner, cognitive, or spiritual life of human beings in social, historical or political contexts. To say it differently, human science is the study of meaning: descriptive-interpretive studies of patterns, structures and levels of experiential and/or textual meanings. Human science research is the activity of explicating meaning. In this respect the fundamental research orientation of all human science is more closely aligned with the critical-hermeneutic rationality of the humanities and philosophy than with the more positivist rationality of empirical-analytic or behavioral cognitive science. This explains the interest of human scientists in the philosophic thoughts of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, for example. And of special interest for human science are the works of the more explicitly oriented phenomenological philosophers such as Husserl, Scheler, Marcel, Levinas, Ricoeur, Edie, Gusdorf, Strasser, Ihde, and so forth.
In education various human science approaches are practised in fields of study which include curriculum, teaching, administration, psychology, policy studies, sociology and philosophy of education, counselling, therapy, teacher education, nursing education, etc.
intentionalityThe term "intentionality" indicates the inseparable connectedness of the human being to the world. Brentano, and later Husserl, argued that the fundamental structure of consciousness is intentional (Spiegelberg, 1982). And every conscious experience is bi-polar: there is an object that presents itself to a subject or ego. This means that all thinking (imagining, perceiving, remembering, etc.) is always thinking about something. The same is true for actions: grasping is grasping for something, hearing is hearing something, pointing is pointing at something. All human activity is always oriented activity, directed by that which orients it. In this way we discover a person's world or landscape. We are not reflexively conscious of our intentional relation to the world. Intentionality is only retrospectively available to consciousness. Or as Merleau-Ponty said, the world is revealed to us as ready-made and already "there".
lifeworld: The idea of the lifeworld (Lebenswelt), as the world of lived experience, derives from Husserl's last and largely posthumously published text The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology .He described the lifeworld as the "world of immediate experience," the world as "already there," "pregiven," the world as experienced in the "natural, primordial attitude," that of "original natural life." Husserl makes a critical historical and phenomenological distinction between (1) our theoretical attitude to life, borrowed from the Greeks, and (2) our natural pre-theoretical attitude to life on which all theorizing is based and from which all theorizing is ultimately derived. Husserl uses the term "natural" for what is original and naive, prior to critical or theoretical reflection.
The theoretical attitude that western intellectual and scientific culture borrowed from the Greeks must be recognized as a new (historically speaking) and distinct style of life. In contrast, the natural attitude of the lifeworld is always "pragmatic," always directed at the world "toward this or that, being directed toward it as an end or as a means, as relevant or irrelevant, toward the private or public, toward what is daily required or obtrusively new." Plato and Aristotle attributed the origin of the desire to know (philosophy) to simple wonder at things being the way they are. But while wonder is a natural occurrence in everyday life, the modern theoretical attitude tends to turn us into non-participating spectators, surveyors of the world. And even more importantly (or ironically) the theoretical attitude in its modern scientific sense often silences or kills our sense of wonder--a wonder which Merleau-Ponty described as the demand for a certain awareness, a certain kind of attentiveness and will to seize the meaning of the world.
According to Husserl each lifeworld shows certain pervading structures or styles which need to be studied. Schutz and Luckmann elaborated this notion in a sociological direction in their book Structures of the Life-world. And Heidegger gave the idea of lifeworld structures a more worldly, existential thrust by speaking of phenomenology as the study of Being, the study of our modes-of-being or ways-of-being-in-the-world. Wittgenstein's notion of "form of life" and "language games" can be understood as a more linguistic approach to the idea of lifeworld. And more recent formulations associated with the project of phenomenology also seem to have turned toward more semiotic directions.
lived meaning: Lived meaning refers to the way that a person experiences and understands his or her world as real and meaningful. Lived meanings describe those aspects of a situation as experienced by the person in it. For example, a teacher wants to understand how a child meaningfully experiences or lives a certain situation even though the child is not explicitly aware of these lived meanings.
noema: Noema (noematic) denotes that to which we orient ourselves; it is the object referent of noesis, the noetic act.
noesis: Noesis is the interpretive act directed to an intentional object, the noema (or the noematic object).
ontic: Ontic inquiry is concerned with the things or entities of the world.
ontological: Ontological inquiry is concerned with what it means to be, with the Being of things or entities. Heidegger (1962) calls ontology the phenomenology of being.
phenomenology: Phenomenology is the study of phenomena, the way things appear to us in experience or consciousness. Kant already used the term to distinguish between the study of objects and events (phenomena) as they appear in our experience and objects and events as they are in themselves (noumena). Hegel used the term "phenomenology" to desribe the science in which we come to know mind as it is in itself through the study of the ways in which it appears to us. However, only with Husserl phenomenology became a fullfledged descriptive method as well as a human science movement based on modes of reflection at the heart of philosophic and human science thought.
For Husserl phenomenology is a discipline that endeavors to describe how the world is constituted and experienced through conscious acts. His phrase Zu den Sachen means both "to the things themselves" and "let's get down to what matters!" Phenomenology must describe what is given to us in immediate experience without being obstructed (mediated) by pre-conceptions and theoretical notions. Husserl developed a transcendental or constitutive phenomenology. But in his last major work The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, he formulated the notion of the Lebenswelt, the lifeworld, the everyday world in which we live in the natural, taken-for-granted attitude. This notion of the lifeworld has become programmatic in the development of a more existentially oriented phenomenology. Existential phenomenology (not to be confused with the life philosophy of existentialism) aims at describing how phenomena present themselves in lived experience, in human existence. Thus, for Heidegger phenomenology is ontology--a study of the modes of "being in the world" of human being. Heidegger's professed aim is to let the things of the world speak for themselves. He asks: What is the nature (Being) of this being? What lets this being be what it is?
Phenomenology differs from the various human science approaches such as ethnography, symbolic interactionism, and ethnomethodology in that phenomenology makes a distinction between appearance and essence. "Phenomenology is the study of essences," says Merleau-Ponty. This means that phenomenology always asks the question of what is the nature or meaning of something. In the "Preface" to his Phenomenology of Perception Merleau-Ponty points out that the work of phenomenology is as painstaking as the work of artists such as Balzac, Proust, Valery, or Cezanne. Phenomenology demands of us re-learning to look at the world as we meet it in immediate experience. And it requires of us "the same demand for awareness and the same will to seize the meaning of the world as that meaning comes into being." In other words, phenomenology does not produce empirical or theoretical observations or accounts. Instead, it offers accounts of experienced space, time, body, and human relation as we live them. In the various disciplines phenomenology has been mobilized to produce a phenomenological sociology (Schutz), phenomenological psycho-therapy or psychiatry (Van den Berg), phenomenological psychology (Merleau-Ponty), etc. In education, phenomenology has been especially productive in the phenomenological pedagogy of Langeveld, Beets, Beekman in the Netherlands, and in the more philosophy of education oriented writings of Greene and Vandenberg in North America.
reduction: It is impossible to practice phenomenological method without understanding the meaning and significance of the reduction. "Reduction" is the technical term that describes the phenomenological device which permits us to discover what Merleau-Ponty calls "the spontaneous surge of the lifeworld." The aim of the reduction is to reachieve a direct and primitive contact with the world as we experience it rather than as we conceptualize it. (The term reduction derives from re-ducere, to lead back.) But the discovery of the prereflective lifeworld by means of the reduction always transcends the lifeworld. The "direct and primitive contact" of which Merleau-Ponty speaks, is experienced as a moment of lived meaning, meaningfulness. So the method of the reduction is meant to bring the aspects of meaning that belong to the phenomena of our lifeworld into nearness. In particular it aims to bring into focus the uniqueness of the particular phenomenon to which we are oriented. It would be a mistake to see the reduction as a certain kind of procedure that we should apply to the phenomenon that is being researched. The practise of human science is never simply a matter of procedure. Rather the reduction refers to a certain attentiveness. To come to an understanding of the unique meaning and significance of something we need to reflect on it by practising a thoughtful attentiveness. The term "reduction" can be misleading since reduction—the ambition to make reflection emulate the unreflective life of consciousness—is ironically a protest against reductionism if it is understood as abbreviating, shortening, abstracting. So how then is reflection supposed to emulate lived experience? Of course, the emulator is language, and the process of emulating is performed through writing. The intent of writing is to produce textual portrayals that resonate the kinds of meanings that we seem to recognize in prereflective experience. Complete reduction is impossible because the meaning structures of reflective experience can never fully imitate lived experience from which they were reduced. Nevertheless, the techniques of phenomenological reflection aim to bring about a state or condition of phenomenological "seeing" or understanding that is as much an experience of meaningfulness or sense as it is a form of knowledge. So the reduction is a certain reflective attentiveness that must be practised for phenomenological insight to occur. Therefore, the reduction is not only a research method, it is also the phenomenological attitude that must be adopted by anyone who wishes to participate in the questions that a certain project pursues. In other words, phenomenological meaning and understanding has to be produced constantly anew by the writers and the readers of phenomenological texts. The literature contains many philosophical investigations and explications that can make the precise meanings of the epoché and reduction complex and confusing. And that is not surprising in view of the fact that the project of phenomenology can be understood in a variety of ways. For the purpose of simplification some common distinctions may be made. Five levels of the epoché (bracketing or suspension of belief) and the reduction (reflection) can be distinguished for their eclectic value and methodological usefulness: wonder (heuristic reduction), openness (hermeneutic reduction), concreteness (phenomenological reduction), universality in contingency (eidetic reduction), and flexible rationality (methodological reduction). In the process of inquiry these methods are practised as if in concert. But we can also deal with them seperately while keeping the integrity of the larger phenomenological project in view.
relationality: Relationality refers to our lived relation to other human beings.
semiotics: Semiotics as the science of signs ("semiotics" in North America and "semiology" in France, Europe) is the application of structuralism to literary studies, semantic anthropology, etc. In The New Science, Vico (1725) suggested that humans create themselves and their world (mythically, poetically, symbolically) by structuring the world, society, institutions, etc., in accordance with the mental languages of the structures of mind. The true nature of things is seen to lie not in the things themselves but in the relationships which we construct and then perceive among them. The Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure advanced the notion that the meaning of a word (sign) does not depend upon some substantive correlate but rather that meaning, the signified, is an arbitrary relational quality of differences between signifiers (Ray, 1984).
Texts or signs and their structural relationships are the subject of study for semiotics. According to semiotics, there is no innocent, pure or pristine experience of a real external world. We "encode" our experience of the world in order that we may experience it; there is no neutral text. This encoding produces certain styles. Thus, Barthes has concluded that writing is all style, a highly conventionalized activity (Sontag, 1982). Barthes' critical readings and writings may be interpreted as deconstructive moves to expose, for example, how modern society codifies reality in its own image. And once this reality is thus produced one proceeds to believe that it is the only reality possible.
From a semiotic point of view any social behavior or practice signifies and may be read as a text, as a language. For example, nobody merely talks. Every speech-act displays a complex of messages through the "language" of gesture, accent, clothing, posture, perfume, hair-style, facial manner, social context, etc., above, behind, beneath, beside and even at odds with what words actually say. Similarly, everything around us systematically communicates something meaningful to us, and one can thus speak of "the world as a text." Derrida has provided an influential approach to the semiotics of writing. In his grammatology (science of writing) he argues that our logocentrism and our tendency to treat oral language as primary over written language commits us to a falsifying "metaphysics of presence" (1976). It is based on an illusion that we are able ultimately to come "face to face" with each other and with things. According to Derrida this belief in "presence" expresses a yearning hope that in spite of our always fragmentary and incomplete experience there is reason to insist on the existence of a redeeming and justifying wholeness, an ultimate notion of one-ness, essence, ground, or a faith in objective reality. As reader-interpreter Derrida practises a deconstructive analysis of the text: a double reading which has the effect of showing the ways in which, for example, the argument of a text calls its own premises into question.
spatiality: The term "spatiality" refers to lived space.
temporality:The term "temporality" refers to lived time.