It's all about understanding

Interpreting the meaning of others


Bengtsson (2013) suggested that it is essential to be explicit in a research project about why one has chosen a particular direction of phenomenology.


Descriptive phenomenology (Husserl 1913/1962) and hermeneutic phenomenology (Heidegger 1927/1962) are two different philosophical perspectives. While both focus on the human experience of the 'lifeworld' (Brooks, 2015; Finlay, 2011), there are key differences.


  • Husserl's approach to phenomenology is epistemological: he asks, ‘How do we know what we know?’ For him, what is shared is the essence of the conscious mind, and its meaning is unaffected by the interpreter's view of the world (Koch, 1995). Husserl believed in the notion of reduction as a rigorous method of examining human experience, bracketing or putting aside all presuppositions, theories, and ideas about the phenomenon in question, in order to be completely open to it as it appears (Bullington, 2006).


  • Heidegger’s approach to hermeneutic phenomenology, in contrast, is ontological. He asks, ‘What is the meaning of being?’ and believed bracketing presuppositions to be impossible.


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