Phenomenological Reviews

Series | Book | Chapter


Two interpretative positions in phenomenology

Ian R Owen

pp. 33-49


This chapter introduces the case for a method of theory-making and idealism about meaning in Husserl's two approaches for understanding how consciousness makes sense through its mental processes. The two types of phenomenology are transcendental phenomenology and pure psychology. It is the case that: "Psychology as an empirical science naturally concerns human beings as they actually, empirically are", (XXIV, 146–147). But pure theoretical psychology is "not a factual science of the facts of this sphere of inner intuition but is a science of the essence, i.e., one which investigates the invariant, properly essential structures of a soul or of a community of psychic life", (V, 144). The aim is creating an ideal understanding of consciousness as the fundamental way to grasp instances and universals of meaningful experience. The chapter explains the two approaches to consciousness in overview. Below, it is shown how these two versions of phenomenology differ in their theory-producing method and stance. The chapter regards both forms of phenomenology as types of making sense in working from instances towards universals, which is a way of structuring an argument for increased self-reflexivity in the natural scientific and other disciplines. The sequence of topics below starts with a note on the commonality between Husserl and Kant and notes hermeneutics as a ubiquitous term for sense-making so that reductions are regarded as serving the function of overthrowing the deadwood of received wisdom and re-invigorating professional discourses about their experiential referents. Second, experiential hermeneutics is explained in relation to its traditional meaning in the history of philosophy and with respect to the type of critique made in Philosophy as Rigorous Science. The third and fourth sections also employ hermeneutics in the sense of contextualisation to explain the two types of phenomenology. The difference between pure psychology in the world and transcendental phenomenology, allegedly outside of it, is explained. This study endorses pure psychology as intentional analysis of intentional implication and modifications of forms of being aware and intersubjective intentional implication. Intentional analysis operates within a theoretical context that is contemporarily called biopsychosocial that Husserl called "psychophysical", (IX, 279, 305), where all is understood as intentional processes. Husserl's perspective goes past the Cartesian opposition between spirit and nature, consciousness and biological substrate, to include three foci as they appear to consciousness. The consequence for pure psychology is the possibility of being able to work with contemporary empirical disciplines because all viewpoints are relative to consciousness in intersubjectivity. If psychology did become more qualitatively focused on understanding meaning then it would ensure its connection to making an impact on everyday experience.

Publication details

Published in:

Owen Ian R (2015) Phenomenology in action in psychotherapy: on pure psychology and its applications in psychotherapy and mental health care. Dordrecht, Springer.

Pages: 33-49

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-13605-9_3

Full citation:

Owen Ian R (2015) Two interpretative positions in phenomenology, In: Phenomenology in action in psychotherapy, Dordrecht, Springer, 33–49.