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What Is Phenomenology?

Feelosofi –  Phenomenology is a school or approach in philosophy that focuses on observing and understanding individual subjective experiences. This term was first introduced by German philosopher Edmund Husserl in the early 20th century. Phenomenology seeks to explain reality as perceived and experienced by individuals without judgment or prejudice.

The phenomenological approach emphasizes the importance of direct research into mental phenomena and human experience. Phenomenological philosophy attempts to understand what lies beyond the physical world, such as meaning, consciousness, and individuals’ interpretations of their experiences.

One of the key concepts in phenomenology is “ epoche ” or “temporary suspension of judgment.” This means that in understanding phenomena, we must suspend previous judgments and beliefs to see things as they really are, before interpreting them. Thus, phenomenology creates a space for understanding individual subjectivity and variation in experience.

Since its introduction by Husserl, the concept of phenomenology has developed and influenced various fields, including psychology, literature, sociology, and other social sciences. Philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre , and Maurice Merleau-Ponty are some of those who developed and applied phenomenological ideas in their respective contexts.

History Of Phenomenology

The history of phenomenology begins in the early 20th century with the important contributions of the German philosopher Edmund Husserl. Here are the main developments in the history of phenomenology:

  • Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) : Husserl was the founder of modern phenomenology. In 1900, he published a book entitled “ Logisch-Philosophische Untersuchungen ” ( Logico-Philosophical Investigations ), in which he introduced his early ideas about phenomenology. He emphasized the importance of direct observation of subjective experience without prejudice. Husserl also developed the method of phenomenological reduction to explore the essence of human experience.
  • Early Development : After his first work, Husserl continued to develop and formulate his ideas in books such as “ Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie ” ( Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology ) in 1913. He also introduced the concept of “epoche ” or temporary suspension of assessment.
  • Developments Outside Germany : Phenomenology quickly spread outside Germany, especially to France. French philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty adopted the ideas of phenomenology into their own thinking, creating what is known as phenomenological existentialism .
  • Influence in Various Fields : Phenomenology has influenced not only philosophy , but also fields such as psychology (experimental phenomenology), sociology, and literature. In the field of psychology, phenomenology helps in understanding human subjective experiences and influences the development of therapies such as gestalt therapy.
  • Later Developments : After Husserl’s death, many other philosophers developed the concepts of phenomenology further. Martin Heidegger combined the ideas of phenomenology with his existentialist thinking, while philosophers such as Jean-Luc Marion and Emmanuel Levinas created unique variations of phenomenology.

Phenomenology has continued to develop over time and remains an important school in philosophy and social science. This approach emphasizes the importance of deeply understanding subjective experiences and understanding individual meanings and interpretations in various contexts.

Important Figures In Phenomenology

Phenomenology is a philosophical school that has given birth to many important figures. Here are some famous figures in phenomenology:

  • Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) : As the founder of modern phenomenology, Husserl was the most influential figure in this school. He developed the ideas of epoche, phenomenological reduction, and descriptive methods for understanding subjective experience.
  • Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) : Heidegger developed phenomenological thinking into what is known as phenomenological existentialism . His famous work, “ Sein und Zeit ” ( Being and Time ), discusses human existence and meaning in the context of phenomenology.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) : Sartre was a famous existentialist philosopher who combined elements of phenomenology in his thinking. His famous work, “ L’Être et le Néant ” ( Being and Nothingness ), discusses freedom, responsibility, and meaning in human life.
  • Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) : Merleau-Ponty was a French philosopher who developed the ideas of phenomenology, especially in the context of perception and the human body. He emphasized the importance of the body in understanding subjective experience.
  • Jean-Luc Marion : Marion is a contemporary philosopher who develops phenomenology in the context of religion and theology. He introduced the concept of ” givenness ” which discusses how objects and meaning are present in experience.
  • Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) : Levinas was a philosopher who combined phenomenology with ethics . He developed the ideas of “ alterity ” and the “face of the other” as fundamental to ethics .
  • Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) : Although better known as a political philosopher , Arendt also influenced phenomenology. He incorporates phenomenological thinking in his analysis of action, freedom, and politics.
  • Alfred Schutz (1899-1959) : Schutz was an Austrian philosopher and sociologist who developed phenomenology in a social context. He discusses the concept of social construction of reality in society.

These figures have made valuable contributions to the development and understanding of phenomenology, as well as applying it in various fields such as philosophy , psychology, sociology, and theology.

Key Principles Of Phenomenology


Intersubjectivity is one of the main principles in phenomenology that emphasizes the importance of the relationship between individuals and shared experiences. In phenomenology, intersubjectivity refers to the way individuals encounter and interact with each other in the context of subjective experience. Some of the main principles related to intersubjectivity in phenomenology are as follows:

  • Social Constitution of Meaning : Intersubjectivity emphasizes that meaning is not only understood individually, but is also constructed jointly through interactions between individuals. This means that the meaning of an experience can change or develop through social interaction. Edmund Husserl said that we share the same social world and understand objects or phenomena through “shared meaning.”
  • Inter-subjective Horizon : The concept of inter-subjective horizon refers to the idea that individuals have a shared horizon of experience that allows them to perceive reality simultaneously. These horizons are the result of social interactions and influence how individuals understand phenomena.
  • Empathy ( Einfühlung ) : Empathy is the ability to feel or understand another individual’s subjective experience. This is an important part of intersubjectivity because it allows individuals to experience the perspectives and experiences of others, thus facilitating better communication and understanding.
  • Shared Living World : Martin Heidegger developed the idea of ​​a shared living world (Mitwelt) which includes relationships between individuals in a shared world. This shared living world includes social norms, rules, and culture that influence individual experiences.
  • Socialization and Identity : Intersubjectivity also includes the influence of socialization and social interaction on the formation of individual identity. Socialization is the process through which individuals understand themselves as members of a particular society and culture.

Intersubjectivity in phenomenology emphasizes that individual experiences are not isolated, but are always related to experiences and interactions with other people in the shared world. This provides a basis for understanding how we make sense of the world, meaning, and reality collectively in the context of our society and culture.

Phenomenological Description And Reduction

In phenomenology, “description” and “reduction” are two key concepts used to understand and examine subjective phenomena or experiences. The following is an explanation of these two concepts:

  • Phenomenological Description : Description in phenomenology refers to attempts to describe or explain subjective experiences as accurately as possible. It involves careful observation and systematic explanation of how the object or phenomenon appears to the individual. Basically, the goal of phenomenological description is to achieve a deep understanding of subjective experience and distance oneself from previous judgments or assumptions. In the context of phenomenological description, the philosopher Edmund Husserl developed a very systematic descriptive method. He emphasized the need to explain phenomena as they are, with full awareness of all aspects of the experience, including individual meanings, feelings, and interpretations.
  • Phenomenological Reduction : Reduction, also known as “ epoche ” or “temporary suspension of judgment,” is an important principle in phenomenology that instructs the researcher to suspend or suspend all previous judgments, beliefs, or prejudices about an object or experience. The goal is to achieve objective observations and avoid bias or subjective interpretation. Reduction is carried out by reflecting on experiences without relating them to context, history, or previous judgments. In practical use, this means ignoring previous knowledge about the object and focusing on the experience itself, trying to understand how the object appeared in our consciousness.

By using description and reduction, phenomenology creates a foundation for understanding subjective experience more deeply and objectively. This approach allows researchers or individuals to investigate the meaning, structure, and relationships between phenomena, without getting entangled in previous judgments or assumptions that could influence the understanding of those objects.

Epoche In Phenomenology

Epoche is an important concept in phenomenology that refers to a “temporary suspension of judgment” or the suspension of previous judgments and beliefs about an object or experience. This concept was introduced by Edmund Husserl, the founder of modern phenomenology, as one of the main principles in his method.

With epoche , the individual or phenomenological researcher is asked to ignore or suspend any prior knowledge, prejudices, beliefs, and assumptions about the object or phenomenon being studied. The goal is to achieve objective and in-depth observation of subjective experiences without being influenced by previous influences or judgments.

Epoche allows individuals to “clear” their minds of preconceived notions or judgments and see objects or phenomena as they really are in consciousness. This is a key step in understanding how the object appears in subjective experience and allows a more thorough analysis of the structure and meaning of that experience.

In addition to the use of epoche in phenomenological research methods, this concept also plays an important role in the development of understanding of phenomena in philosophy and social sciences. Epoche helps researchers and philosophers to deconstruct previous judgments or assumptions that may limit the understanding and interpretation of objects or phenomena, thereby enabling a deeper understanding free from bias.

Branches Of Phenomenology

Phenomenology is a philosophical school that has produced various branches or approaches that differ according to their development and emphasis. Some well-known branches of phenomenology include:

  • Husserlian Phenomenology : This is the basic form of phenomenology developed by Edmund Husserl. The main focus is on the description and analysis of subjective experience, as well as the method of epoche and phenomenological reduction. Husserlian phenomenology seeks to achieve a deep understanding of how objects or phenomena appear in consciousness.
  • Phenomenological Existentialism : This school combines elements of phenomenology with existentialist thinking . Philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger developed phenomenological existentialism , which emphasized freedom, responsibility, meaning in life, and human existence.
  • Hermeneutic Phenomenology : Under the influence of philosophers such as Hans-Georg Gadamer, this branch of phenomenology emphasizes understanding, interpretation, and meaning. Phenomenological hermeneutics considers the process of understanding culture and language in the context of history and tradition.
  • Social Phenomenology : Phenomenology has been used in the context of sociology and social sciences. The focus is on understanding individual experiences in society, social structures, and culture. Alfred Schutz is one of the philosophers who influenced social phenomenology.
  • Psychological Phenomenology : Phenomenology is also used in psychology. Psychological phenomenology seeks to understand individuals’ subjective experiences within the context of psychology, and is often used in therapies such as gestalt therapy.
  • Phenomenology of Religion : Several phenomenological philosophers such as Jean-Luc Marion have applied phenomenology in understanding religion and religious experience. They consider how individuals experience religious meaning and transcendence.
  • Feminist Phenomenology : This branch combines phenomenology with feminist perspectives to understand women’s experiences and gender issues. Figures such as Simone de Beauvoir and Luce Irigaray have contributed to the development of feminist phenomenology.

Each branch of phenomenology has its own emphasis and applies phenomenological principles in different contexts. However, they all share the same roots of phenomenological thought, namely an emphasis on a deep understanding of subjective experiences and individual interpretations of the world.


Phenomenology is a philosophical school that has an important role in understanding subjective experiences and objects in our world. The conclusions from the phenomenological approach can be described as follows:

First, phenomenology views subjective experience as the main focus. This illustrates how important it is to understand reality as perceived by the individual, without prior judgment or assumptions. This approach allows us to dig deeper into the meaning and structure of personal experience, as well as talk about how people interact with the world around them.

Second, the concepts of epoche and reduction are central principles of phenomenology that help us understand experience objectively. By pausing judgments and prior knowledge, we can deconstruct biases and interpretations that may limit our understanding. This leads to more careful observation and a deeper understanding of the phenomenon.

Third, phenomenology has many branches that have been applied in various scientific disciplines and contexts, such as philosophy , psychology, sociology, and religion. This shows the flexibility and relevance of phenomenology in various aspects of human life and understanding.

In conclusion, phenomenology is a school of philosophy that provides a powerful framework for understanding the world through the lens of subjective experience. With a focus on description, reduction, and in-depth observation, phenomenology allows us to explore and analyze deep aspects of human reality that are often overlooked.


What Is Phenomenology?

Phenomenology is a philosophical school that emphasizes observation and understanding of individuals’ subjective experiences, with an emphasis on description, reduction, and in-depth understanding of reality as perceived by individuals.

What Is The Role Of Epoche In Phenomenology?

Epoche is an important principle in phenomenology that involves a “temporary suspension of judgment” or suspension of previous prejudices. This helps achieve a more objective understanding of objects or phenomena in subjective experience.

How Does Phenomenology Differ From Existentialism?

Existentialism is a school that uses phenomenological elements in its thinking, but places more emphasis on aspects such as freedom, responsibility and meaning in human life. Phenomenology focuses more on the description and analysis of subjective experience.

What Are The Famous Branches Of Phenomenology?

Some well-known branches of phenomenology include phenomenological existentialism , hermeneutic phenomenology, social phenomenology, psychological phenomenology, and religious phenomenology. Each branch has a different emphasis in applying phenomenological principles in different contexts.

How Has Phenomenology Influenced Disciplines Other Than Philosophy?

Phenomenology has influenced various disciplines, including psychology, sociology, literature, and theology. In psychology, for example, phenomenology is used to understand individuals’ subjective experiences. In sociology, phenomenology helps in understanding social and cultural interactions. Thus, phenomenology has wide applications beyond philosophy .


  • Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology” – Edmund Husserl (1913)
  • Being and Time” – Martin Heidegger (1927)
  • Being and Nothingness” – Jean-Paul Sartre (1943)
  • The Phenomenology of Perception” – Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1945)
  • Truth and Method” – Hans-Georg Gadamer (1960)
  • The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology” – Edmund Husserl (1936)
  • The Phenomenology of the Social World” – Alfred Schutz (1932)
  • Totality and Infinity” – Emmanuel Levinas (1961)
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” – Thomas S. Kuhn (1962)
  • Phenomenology of Spirit” – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1807)

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Raymond Kelvin Nando
Writer, Researcher, & Philosophy Enthusiast