The Essentials of the Phenomenological Method

  • Herbert Spiegelberg
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 5/6)


The preceding account of the Phenomenological Movement could easily have given the impression that all there is to phenomenology is its history as expressed in the multifarious and fluid ideas of sundry phenomenologists. Such an impression contains even a considerable amount of truth. Phenomenology’ not only shows vast differences in its manifestations, but it has served as a tool for extremely divergent enterprises. Besides, this impression may be highly salutary in counteracting the widespread tendency to treat phenomenology as a closeknit school and to judge it by the deeds, or more frequently misdeeds, of some of its more peripheral figures. But this situation offers no excuse for dodging the persistent question of the more systematically-minded reader: What, after all this, is phenomenology? While our long story contains plenty of reasons why a meaningful answer cannot be given in one brief sentence, it calls all the more for a determined effort to satisfy a legitimate and even welcome demand for enlightenment and clarification. Even if there were as many phénoménologies as phenomenologists, there should be at least a common core in all of them to justify the use of the common label.


General Essence Phenomenological Analysis Phenomenological Method Phenomenological Reduction Hermeneutic Phenomenology 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Max Sender’s posthumous papers include a suggestive phenomenological study on effecting (wirken) in his fragment on “Phänomenologie und Kausalerkenntnis”; G. W. X, 475–92. Considerable groundwork for a phenomenological approach is available in works that do not use the label, such asGoogle Scholar
  2. 1a.
    C. D. Broad, Scientific Thought. London: Kegan Paul, 1927, pp. 162–6.Google Scholar
  3. 1b.
    G. F. Stout, Mind and Matter. New York: Macmillan, 1931, pp. 15–20 and Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume XIV (1935), 54–58.Google Scholar
  4. 1d.
    A. C. Benjamin, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. New York: Macmillan, 1937, pp. 323–331.Google Scholar
  5. 1e.
    Wolfgang Köhler, whose The Place of Value in a World of Facts (New York: Liveright, 1938) is based upon a partial phenomenology, gives elements of a “phenomenology of force” under this very name (pp. 341 ff.).Google Scholar
  6. 2.
    On the historical misunderstandings of this principle see W. M. Thorburn, “The Myth of Occam’s Razor” in Mind XXVII (1918), 345–353.Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    For an original and perceptive phenomenological study of the cause-effect relation see Maurice Mandelbaum, The Anatomy of Historical Knowledge. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977, Part II.Google Scholar
  8. 5.
    See, e.g., his account in Carl Murchison, ed., History of Psychology in Autobiography IV (Clark University Press, 1940), pp. 228 ff. and La Perception de la causalité, Louvain, Publications Universitaires, 1946Google Scholar
  9. 5a.
    also Jean Piaget’s “The Child’s Idea of Force” (for whom force is defined as “alive, efficient, substantial”) in The Child’s Conception of Physical Causality (1930), Chapter V.Google Scholar
  10. 6.
    For a discussion of the epistemological problems connected with the “Subjectivity” of phenomenology, see my paper “How Subjective is Phenomenology?”, Doing Phenomenology, pp. 72–79.Google Scholar
  11. 7.
    “By analysis they (the analytic philosophers) meant something which, whatever precise description of it they chose, at least involved the attempt to rewrite in different and in some way more appropriate terms those statements which they found philosophically puzzling” (J. O. Urmson, Philosophical Analysis. Oxford: Clarendon, 1956, p. vii).Google Scholar
  12. 8.
    Ibid., pp. 146–162.Google Scholar
  13. 9.
    “The Puzzle of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ‘Phänomenologie’ (1929-?)” (1968), now, with Supplement 1979, in The Context of the Phenomenological Movement, pp. 202–228.Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    “A Plea for Excuses”, Philosophical Papers, 1961, p. 130.Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    See Harold Durfee, ed.,Linguistic Analysis and Phenomenology. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1976.Google Scholar
  16. 13.
    Of particular interest is J. S. Mill’s chapter in his System of Logic Book IV Ch. 1 (Of Observation and Description). See also E. Husserl, Ideas, §§ 73–75, and S. H. Toulmin and K. Baier, “On Describing,” Mind 61 (1952), 13–38.Google Scholar
  17. 14.
    Scientific Thought, p. 163 f.Google Scholar
  18. 15.
    Mind and Matter, Chapter II.Google Scholar
  19. 16.
    An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, Section VII, Part II.Google Scholar
  20. 17.
    “De primae philosophiae emendatione” (Opera, ed. Gerhardt IV, 649). - His continuation, however (“It includes effort and thus passes into operation of itself, requiring no aids, but only the removal of hindrance”), is phenomenologically much more dubious.Google Scholar
  21. 18.
    W. E. Johnson’s substantially identical conception of “intuitive induction” (Logic, Part II, Chapter VIII) was not made public until 1922.Google Scholar
  22. 19.
    See my “Epoche und Reduktion bei Pfänder und Husserl” in Pfänder-Studien, ed. H. Spiegelberg und E. Ave-Lallemant. English version as “Is the Phenomenological Reduction indispensable? Husserl’s and Pfändern Replies” (1973), now, with Supplement 1979, in The Context of the Phenomenological Movement, pp. 62–82.Google Scholar
  23. 20.
    For a lucid critical discussion see Harald Delius, “Descriptive Interpretation,” PPR XIII (1953), 305–323.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Herbert Spiegelberg

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations