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(1) A description of the givens of immediate experience.

(2) An attempt to capture experience in process as lived, through descriptive analysis. It studies how things appear to consciousness or are given in experience, and not how they are in themselves, even if it is known that the given contains more than or is different from what is presented. (For instance, assault victims may experience fear for months or years after the assault, even when no apparent danger exists. What does this fear mean? Where does it come from? How is it experienced? The answers bring us closer to the phenomenon that is lived).

(3) A method of knowing that "begins with the things themselves, that tries to find a 'first opening' on the world free of our perceptions and interpretations, together with a methodology for reducing the interference of our preconceptions.

(4) A method of learning about another person by listening to their descriptions of what their subjective world is like for them, together with an attempt to understand this in their own terms as fully as possible, free of our preconceptions and interferences.

In ordinary life, we "capture" and conceptualize everything, using our preconceptions to turn everything into something other than it actually is, one or two steps removed from direct unfiltered experience. Phenomenology strives to clarify our receiving abilities and rediscover the actuality of what is.


Phenomenology came into its own with Husserl, much as epistemology came into its own with Descartes, and ontology or metaphysics came into its own with Aristotle on the heels of Plato. Yet phenomenology has been practiced, with or without the name, for many centuries. When Hindu and Buddhist philosophers reflected on states of consciousness achieved in a variety of meditative states, they were practicing phenomenology. When Descartes, Hume, and Kant characterized states of...

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