The Phenomenological Approach in Social Science

The term “phenomenology” is today used in at least two undoubtedly different meanings—always disregarding Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Mind to which I have not devoted times sufficient for understanding it. One of the modern meanings of the term is the sense which it acquired in the work of the German philosopher Husserl; some application to social science has been undertaken by his school—not all with the master’s full approval. The same term “phenomenology”appears in such publications as Van der Leeuv’s Phenomenology of Religion. What is aimed at in this book, and in similar work, is to refrain from any causal explanations of the phenomena observed—to limit the observation to mere description. Here, I can only touch lightly on this type of empirical phenomenology as I may call it; my time will be mostly devoted to Husserl’s philosophical phenomenology.


The Antioch Review 20.2 (Dec 1959): 198-212