Phenomenological method: reflection, introspection, and skepticism

David R. Cerbone

in The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Phenomenology

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199594900
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Phenomenological method: reflection, introspection, and skepticism

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  • Philosophy of Mind
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Scepticism about phenomenology typically begins with worries concerning the reliability of introspection. Such worries concern the accuracy or fidelity of descriptions of experience to the experience itself, although if pressed, such worries ultimately call into question the very idea of the experience itself. This chapter considers scepticism in both its epistemological and ontological varieties and questions whether either form genuinely engages phenomenological method, properly understood. Starting from the problematic identification of phenomenology with introspection and drawing upon considerations from the work of Edmund Husserl, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the chapter argues that phenomenological reflection, in its concern for essential structures, is largely unaffected by worries concerning how best to capture the details of particular episodes of experience. Moreover, many of the sceptical challenges phenomenology is alleged to face presuppose an overly objective understanding of experience that phenomenology typically rejects. The chapter concludes with a consideration of the underlying motives for phenomenological scepticism. These motives have little if anything to do with worries about introspection and the like, but instead involve scepticism about the viability of transcendental philosophy. The real challenge phenomenology confronts is one of establishing the legitimacy – and authority – of its distinctive methods in opposition to naturalism.

Keywords: phenomenology; principal methods; Edmund Husserl; scepticism; objective thought; phenomenological reflection; introspection

Article.  9236 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind ; Epistemology

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