Phenomenological Reviews

Series | Book | Chapter


The pure psychology of meaning

Ian R Owen

pp. 143-160


This chapter makes pure psychology show one of its empirical consequences in what is contemporarily called a dual-process theory of consciousness that includes both automatic, non-egoic processes and egoic effortful processes of agency, choice, attentive concentration and complex rule-following rationalisation and behaviour (Stanovich and West, 2000; Kahneman 2011; Osman 2014). The remarks below are preparatory for how such ideal findings can be used. However, for any approach for justifying an empirical psychology, there are a number of problems to be addressed. Pure psychology focuses on the object, consciousness in psychophysicality in general. Natural psychological science only focuses on consciousness in an unclear manner on mixed biological and meaningful objects that are connected to evolutionary genetics, culture and history. A future project of a Husserl-inspired empirical psychology would translate its theoretical concerns into a set of skills and practices that can be shared within the community of psychologists and others who want to understand consciousness. One primary problem is that naturalistic received wisdom must be held in abeyance in order to justify the complementary abstraction of the intentionality view. The sequence below starts with the ubiquity of concepts referring to meaningful referents as necessary conditions of possibility of meaningfulness. This Kantian and Husserlian stipulation justifies the intentional analysis of pre-reflexive and reflective meta-awareness. For these to be understood, the right evidence needs to be identified in consciousness and interpreted in the right way. It might be the case that some people lack self-awareness or are not used to becoming aware of noetic-noematic evidence of the most fundamental atoms or building blocks on which nonverbal and verbal sense is made in intersubjective contexts. However, with practice it is possible to become aware of such material and this is the microscope of clarification that Husserl offered in his methods of reflection, intentional analysis and eidetic imaginative variation. The chapter ends with the consequences of identifying sensation (hyle, qualia, sensa) as these are "below' meaning itself. But by specifying them Husserl showed that he had teased apart a gestalt of meaning to see how it works. Accordingly, it becomes difficult to identify the boundaries between the natural attitude studies of ontology, semantics, hermeneutics and semiotics as these are all within the scope of the intentional analysis of constitution, a mereology of parts and wholes in a formal morphology of noetic-noematic dependent moments of sense.

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: 143-160

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-13605-9_8

Full citation:

Owen Ian R (2015) The pure psychology of meaning, In: Phenomenology in action in psychotherapy, Dordrecht, Springer, 143–160.