Phenomenology in Its Original Sense

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In this article, I try to think through the question, “What distinguishes phenomenology in its original sense?” My intent is to focus on the project and methodology of phenomenology in a manner that is not overly technical and that may help others to further elaborate on or question the singular features that make phenomenology into a unique qualitative form of inquiry. I pay special attention to the notion of “lived” in the phenomenological term “lived experience” to demonstrate its critical role and significance for understanding phenomenological reflection, meaning, analysis, and insights. I also attend to the kind of experiential material that is needed to focus on a genuine phenomenological question that should guide any specific research project. Heidegger, van den Berg, and Marion provide some poignant exemplars of the use of narrative “examples” in phenomenological explorations of the phenomena of “boredom,” “conversation,” and “the meaningful look in eye-contact.” Only what is given or what gives itself in lived experience (or conscious awareness) are proper phenomenological “data” or “givens,” but these givens are not to be confused with data material that can be coded, sorted, abstracted, and accordingly analyzed in some “systematic” manner. The latter approach to experiential research may be appropriate and worthwhile for various types of qualitative inquiry but not for phenomenology in its original sense. Finally, I use the mythical figure of Kairos to show that the famous phenomenological couplet of the epoché-reduction aims for phenomenological insights that require experiential analysis and attentive (but serendipitous) methodical inquiry practices.

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