Phenomenology, Part 2

The reading of this week was A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated by Thomas Groenewald. To write this blog, I  also search some information about phenomenology in Vietnam articles. Then I figured out that Husserl drew many important concepts central to phenomenology from the writings and lectures of his teachers, philosophers and psychologists Franz Brentano and Carl Stumpf. An important element of phenomenology that Husserl borrowed from Brentano is intentionality, the notion that consciousness is always something which is consciousness. The objects of consciousness are called intentional objects, and this object is established for consciousness in a variety of ways, though, for example, perception, memory, retention and protention, meaning, etc. Throughout these different intentionalities, although they have different structures and different ways of being “about” the object, an object is still constituted as an identical object; consciousness is directed at the same intentional object in direct perception as it is immediately after the maintenance of this object and its ultimate remembering.

Although many phenomenological methods involve various reductions, reduction is merely a tool to better understand and describe the workings of consciousness and does not reduce any phenomena to these descriptions by its nature. In other words, when a reference is made to the nature or idea of a thing, or when the constitution of an identically combined thing is specified by describing what one “really” just is aspects, these surfaces, it does not mean that the one and only thing is what is described here: the ultimate goal of these cuts is to understand how these aspects. This difference is constituted into reality as the person experiences it. Phenomenology was a direct reaction to the psychology and physicalism of Husserl’s time.

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Something Like A Phenomenon

Giphy Prefender

UGH! . . . I didn’t think I would find myself under the weather again this week. But I am. The weather has no doubt taken a toll on my fragile body. Nonetheless, the show must go on. Thus, these are my brief takeaways aligned with last week’s class discussion: A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated by Thomas Groenewald and yet focused on my Research Proposal.

In the context of this ideological crisis, the German philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859 – 1938) “sought to develop a new philosophical method which would lend absolute certainty to a disintegrating civilization.” That is such an interesting advantage point for this German philosopher to believe that another philosophical method would lead researchers everywhere in the right direction. “Although the origins of phenomenology can be traced back to Kant and Hegel, Vandenberg regards Husserl as “the fountainhead of phenomenology in the twentieth century.” Well, now, although Edmund Husserl was the principal founder of phenomenology—and thus one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century, making important contributions to almost all areas of philosophy and anticipated central ideas of its neighboring disciplines such as linguistics, sociology and cognitive psychology; it seems like we have some, maybe at least two good founding philosophers who brought this intriguing method to the forefront as well. But then, what do I know?

Husserl rejected the belief that objects in the external world exist independently and that the information about objects is reliable. He argued that people can be certain about how things appear in, or present themselves to, their consciousness. Such as the following list:

1. Life and work

2. Pure logic, meaning, intuitive fulfillment and intentionality

3. Indexicality and propositional content

4. Singularity, consciousness and horizon-intentionality

5. The phenomenological epoché

6. Epoché, perceptual noema, hýle, time-consciousness and phenomenological reduction

7. Passivity vs. activity

8. Communication, sociality, personhood and personal values

9. Empathy, intersubjectivity and lifeworld; ethics and value theory

10. The intersubjective constitution of objectivity and the case for “transcendental idealism”

I like this knowledge to the degree that “To arrive at certainty, anything outside immediate experience must be ignored, and in this way, the external world is reduced to the contents of personal consciousness. Realities are thus treated as pure ‘phenomena’ and the only absolute data from where to begin. Husserl named his philosophical method ‘phenomenology, ‘the science of pure ‘phenomena.’ However, what does it all mean? The text says, “The aim of phenomenology is the return to the concrete, captured by the slogan ‘Back to the things themselves!'”. (Introduction). Moreover, I surely need a bit more clarity as I wait patiently for the next lead discussion to impart additional knowledge on the matter.

Hmm. . . I guess after further reading (reading on) addresses my concerns like “However, by 1970, phenomenology “had not yet established itself as a viable alternative to the traditional natural scientific approach in psychological research.” The reason, according to Giorgi (as cited in Stones), was that a phenomenological praxis, a systematic and sustained way, had not yet been developed. In this regard, it was remarked that after phenomenology flourished, “during the first twenty years after the Second World War, this approach was forgotten for a while.” However, in the 1970s, phenomenological psychologists established a praxis, which is a methodological realization of the phenomenological philosophical attitude.” Okay, I think I can follow a little the knowledge here a bit more. Conversely, I still cannot wait to receive more clarity.

I, too, find this passage to be a good rule of thumb for researchers to follow: “A good research undertaking starts with the selection of the topic, problem or area of interest, as well as the paradigm. Stanage (1987) traced ‘paradigm’ back to its Greek (paradeigma) and Latin origins (paradigma), meaning pattern, model, for example. A paradigm is the patterning of the thinking of a person; it is a principal example among examples, an exemplar or model to follow according to which design actions are taken. Differently stated, a paradigm is an action of submitting to a view. This view is supported by Denzin and Lincoln, who define a research paradigm as “a basic set of beliefs that guide action,” dealing with first principles, ‘ultimates’ or the researcher’s worldviews.” I bet it might be mentioned in the lead discussion. At least, I hope so. Moving on to the last few takeaways, it also provides great design insight for some of us novice researchers.

[Write down your viewpoint, perspectives or feelings about the program you are undergoing or have completed. You need not give your name. You need not concern yourself with grammar or spelling. If possible, compare this program with others you may have done which are not offered through a collaboration between an employer and an educational institution (or compare this program with pure academic programs known to you from talking to other students). The three data-gathering methods—unstructured in-depth phenomenological interviews, memoing, and essays—will be explained first, followed by the data storage.]

In conclusion, there is not more I can add to the validity and truthfulness other than what has been concluded: The composite summary above only reflects the themes that are common to most or all of the interviews. However, individual variations or unique themes are just as important as commonalities with regard to the phenomenon researched. The study undertaken reveals that the logistical organization and coordination of joint ventures between educational institutions and enterprises are very important factors in growing talent. That is it. That is all for now. 😊

“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” ~U2

This week’s article was “A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated” by Groenewald. Even though I am not inclined to pursue phenomenology as my research method, I still took something valuable away from this week’s article. I had never before considered some of the logistical challenges that a researcher could face, and several were outlined in this article. It seems like a researcher can’t just focus on lofty goals like furthering knowledge in a field but must also play the role of project manager, dealing with logistical concerns that, if executed poorly, could invalidate the research. For example, Groenewald says that the researcher needs to make sure that everything needed to “ensure that recording equipment functions well,” including back-ups of “batteries, tapes, and so on,” is handy (48). Also, in a research scenario where people are being interviewed and a lot of weight is being placed on their words, it is important to conduct interviews away from “background noise and interruptions” (Groenewald 48) and have the subjects review “a copy of the text to validate that it reflect[s] their perspectives regarding the phenomenon that was studied” (Groenewald 51). Although some of these considerations may seem obvious, I can see how some of these requirements could easily be overlooked when designing one’s research approach. The logistical stuff interests me more than Groenewald’s explanation of phenomenological research methods. After reading Groenewald’s article, I can’t imagine taking all of this on as a solo researcher on a phenomenological study. (But can I be a research project manager? Is that a thing? Just in case, I’m going to start stocking up on batteries and scouting quiet interview locations!)This blog post is shorter than my other ones, but I’ve read about half of next week’s reading already and I believe I’ll have more to say about discourse analysis in next week’s post. Just like my classmates, I am trying to figure out how to approach the research proposal. Each week, as I read a newly assigned article, I think maybe this will be the one, maybe the research method I’ll use is in this article, yet each week I end up thinking that it’s not quite right. This week continued that trend, but I have a flicker of hope in my heart that discourse analysis might be what I’ve been searching for.

An Exploration of Phenomenology as a Research Method

“A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated” by Thomas Groenewald really got me thinking about the benefits and drawbacks of phenomenology as a research method and opened my eyes to the state of science and philosophy in modern times. Phenomenology is a very complex methodology and I appreciate the fact that this paper attempted to both justify its existence and explain its origins and inner workings.

Perhaps the first thing that jumped out at me from this paper was the excerpt Groenewald included from a book titled Literary Theory: An Introduction by Terry Eagleton: “The social order of European capitalism had been shaken to its roots by the carnage of the war and its turbulent aftermath. The ideologies on which that order had customarily depended, the cultural values by which it ruled, were also in deep turmoil. Science seemed to have dwindled to a sterile positivism, a myopic obsession with the categorizing of facts; philosophy appeared torn between such a positivism on the one hand, and an indefensible subjectivism on the other; forms of relativism and irrationalism were rampant, and art reflected this bewildering loss of bearings” (qtd. in Groenewald). This quote, I believe sums up the emergence of phenomenology as a research method and the current tumultuous state of the world in a few short sentences. According to Eagleton, following the First World War, the Western world had become disillusioned (the bright hopes that many had for the future–specifically in regard to technological progress–were shattered) and spiraled into nihilism and uncertainty. Scientists developed a positivistic view of the world (meaning that they viewed the world as a series of causes and effects with no room for subjectivity or theism) while philosophers divided into two camps: the positivistic and the subjective (those who do not believe in external truths). A German philosopher named Edmund Husserl, however, aimed to put an end to the identity crisis the world was facing via the creation of phenomenology. Husserl essentially combined positivism and subjectivity with this new methodology by asserting that concrete truths do exist within the consciousness of individuals. As an example, my enjoyment of apples is a concrete truth that can be studied as a phenomenon (obviously this is not the best example, but we’ll go with it anyhow). While my liking of apples could be defined as subjective (it is a choice isn’t it?) it is really not given the fact my conscious experience already inclines me to enjoy apples. I can argue with a stranger on the street about what the best fruit in the world is, but I cannot argue with my own thoughts, feelings, and senses. If one were to study this phenomenon–perhaps through a series of interviews–that study would be phenomenological.

While this seems quite straight forward, I can certainly see complications with phenomenology, the primary concern being that it is, in essence, the study of consciousness, and a researcher cannot involve themself in a murkier field than that. With that said, I appreciate how it at least tries to account for the absurd complexity of our species rather than glossing it over entirely with numbers or mythology. All in all, I am intrigued by phenomenology and believe that it will continue to captivate the interest of researchers going into the future.


Blog Notes

  • Research Update
    • I’m going to the library tomorrow to meet with one of the research librarians named Linda to get help with searching the database for articles related to my topic which is poetry performance for now.
  • Reading Notes
    • From the opening paragraph of the intro, I feel comforted.
      • Groenewald is expecting us to be novice researchers so he understands the need to go slow and break things down.
    • Groenewald says that in order to pick the best methodology for a research study, you have to know a bunch of different methodologies.
      • This is why we are doing the buffet taste test of different methodologies in this class.
    • Groenewald talks about how he was having a hard time finding sources on how to employ phenomenological methodology in research so he wants others to use this paper as a guide.
      • That’s wholesome. He even says the article is not an authority. He’s just saying hey I could have used this when I was doing my research, now future generations of researchers have something to help them. 
    • The explanation of what phenomenology is is interesting. Basically the only things that we can be absolutely certain about are things we experience ourselves.
      • Immediate experience above all else.
      • Sounds like going straight to the source. 
      • If you didn’t see or experience the phenomenon directly, show me someone who did and I will use their account in my research.
      • An example would be if you are doing a research study on depression. You would want to study people who are experiencing depression rather than someone who has a family member experiencing depression.
    • An interesting part of the article is when Groenewald tells us how he selected the research participants.
      • This really is a how to guide on the behind the scenes parts of research. 
      • Groenewald knows that his audience is novice researchers and he is trying to explain things such as selecting participants and I wonder if this is something that he wished more articles would do since he wrote this based on his unhappiness with researches on how to conduct phenomenological research.
    • I appreciate the article’s use of plain language.
      • Groenewald knows we are wide eyed budding researchers and that overly complicated terms would not be helpful.
      • I think it goes to show that you don’t always have to use complicated research terms to sound smart. There is definitely a time and place for them, but they can become overwhelming for a novice researcher.

Phenomenology parte dos!

Phenomenology part 2! This week’s assigned reading was A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated by Thomas Groenewald. This one was pretty cool. The transition between the phenomenology I did for my presentation and this one is very interesting. We are introduced to the origins of phenomenology and basically its roots. I am grateful for getting an understanding of phenomenology first hand and now taking us back to sort of a prequal if I may. As a writer but most importantly, a poet, I admired Thomas Groenewald for breaking down phenomenology. He said that we are all basically phenomenologists. Poets, painters, and just creativity in general. Specifically he said “ Poets and painters among us, however, understand very well their task of sharing by means of word and image, their insights with others – an artfulness that is also laboriously practiced by the professional phenomenologists” ( 44). Overall, this reading enlightened me further into the research method of real human experience. Especially when mentioning the philosophical reasonings with the “creator” of Phenomenology. Reading this article, as well as all of the presentations done by my peers so far has got me thinking about my own research method. By that I mean, my research proposal and the method that I will be using. I’m not entirely sure about what I want to do but I know what path I would like to take. I am thinking about researching something that I can relate to heavily. These are the three I’m gravitating towards but I am not sure which one is going to be the strongest. I would like your help 🙂 But, the only thing that worries me is having to go out of my comfort zone and perhaps interview people. I am not the best at socializing or coming up with non-triggering questions that will lead to significant findings but I guess thats why we’re all here to learn from each other. 

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