Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out



									Marc Applebaum, PhD
International Human Science Research Conference
Université du Québec à Montréal
June 27, 2012
    Phenomenology and hermeneutics
For Husserl, “being given and being interpreted are
descriptions of the same situation from two
different levels of discourse. Hermeneutics and
phenomenology coexist in his thought.”

“Intentional consciousness is meaning bestowing,
and therefore interpreting...but at the same time
Husserl insisted that we do perceive things that are
nevertheless given.”
                        (Mohanty, 1984, p. 117)
          Implied complementarity
The implication of J. N. Mohanty’s observation is
that description and interpretation coexist within
Husserl’s phenomenological philosophy.

The challenge is how to work out what this means
for psychological research praxis? Moving from
philosophy to psychology requires an adaptation,
since their praxes are different.
Numerous qualitative researchers assert that
description and interpretation can be

But this complementarity and its implications have not
been carefully worked through by psychologists
     Why is this a problem for us?
If all knowing is framed as interpretive in an
overly reductive way, then a descriptive attitude
is nullified
If the issue is not clarified, the epistemological
foundation of our research will be incomplete
If description and interpretation represent
different attitudes, and we do not clarify the
difference, we risk muddying the waters for our
   “Interpretation” and “description”
         are not univocal terms

Next I will specify what I mean by description and
interpretation in the context of this talk
  Two modes of interpreting (Giorgi)
A. Adopting a chosen perspective from
   which to regard the given
B. Introducing non-given theoretical or
   quasi-theoretical ideas into one’s
   reflection upon the data in order to
   develop the meaning beyond what’s
   given in the data
   Description can be defined as…
Using language to articulate the intentional
contents of consciousness (Mohanty, Giorgi)
By bracketing prior knowledge about the
phenomenon and then articulating the
psychological meanings that are present for us in
the participants’ words, within the limits with
which these meanings are present (Giorgi, based
on Husserl)
  Implicit meanings are also present
Example: the American idiom, “the
elephant in the room”

Descriptive researchers claim to be able to
recognize and explicate not only explicit
psychological meanings, but implicit ones as
In descriptive phenomenological research there
are both interpretive and descriptive moments:
   Descriptive researchers constitute the research
   situation with “high-level” interpretive choices
   Having done so, they are free to adopt a
   descriptive method
   And having arrived at findings, we can expand
   upon them interpretively
Adopting a psychological attitude
Asking a specific research question, focused on
a particular phenomenon
Formulating one’s question within an
identifiable hermeneutic community: for
example, the community of qualitative
Similarly, in a descriptive study, one’s question
is offered to a describable intersubjective
community as well
Putting one’s prior theoretical and personal
knowledge about the phenomenon out of play
Employing the epoché
Explicating what is present in the data, from
this chosen research perspective, with respect
to the phenomenon that is the focus of our
study, using free imaginative variation.
Seeking a least variant psychological structure
for the given context
                                (Giorgi, 2009)
Eidetic intuition is a discovery process and not a
mechanical one
No method can guarantee one’s success in
discovering a structure and expressing it
To describe means, in a certain way, putting
oneself at the service of what’s present and
seeking to act as a vehicle for the expression of
what’s present by engaging with it, but not
adding to it
“To translate into disposable significations a
meaning first held captive in the thing and in the
world itself” (Merleau-Ponty, 1968, p. 36).
Often seems to be heard and is perhaps
intended as a prompt to students to adopt a
constructive attitude toward data as a text,
viewed in a way as the raw material from which
the interpreter is meant to create something
Using both meanings of interpretation (A) and
(B) referred to earlier…
To “move the meaning forward”
But they imply different attitudes, and this matters
for our research
Giorgi, A. (2009). The descriptive phenomenological
   method in psychology: A modified Husserlian
   approach. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.
Merleau-Ponty, M. (1968). The visible and the invisible (A.
   Lingis, Trans.). Evanston: Northwestern University
Mohanty, J. N. (1984). Transcendental philosophy and the
   hermeneutic critique of consciousness. In G. Shapiro &
   A. Sica (Eds.), Hermeneutics: Questions and prospects
   (pp. 96-120). Amherst: The University of
   Massachusetts Press.
Mohanty, J. N. (1987). Philosophical description and
   descriptive philosophy. In Phenomenology: Descriptive
   or hermeneutic? (pp. 40-61). The First Annual
   Symposium of the Simon Silverman Phenomenology
   Center, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA.

To top