Husserl’s Phenomenology

Edmund Husserl was born in Prossnitz in 1859. He studied Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy and Philosophy and his teaching activity (Philosophy) was carried out in the cities of Halle from 1887, Götingen from 1901 and Freiburg from 1916 until he retired in the year 1928. He died on April 26, 1938 and left many unpublished writings.

In 1901, for the first time, Husserl presented his method of analysis, which he called phenomenological, in his Logical Investigations. And in 1913, he published his best known work: Ideas for a Pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy.

What is Phenomenology?

Phenomenology is a philosophical method developed by Husserl that consists of describing phenomena as they appear to consciousness. Phenomenology seeks to find the essence of these phenomena, which is why Husserl also defines it as the universal doctrine of essences.

One of the goals of phenomenology is to turn philosophy away from all abstract metaphysical speculation and its pseudo-problems, to get in touch with the things themselves, with concrete living experience.

Phenomenologists stressed the need for a philosophical renewal, proposing that it should not be bound to any philosophical tradition, without dogmatism or a priori metaphysical premises.

Husserl’s phenomenology never established a set of dogmas or built a unitary system. It is a radical way of doing philosophy, a practice, rather than a system. It is better understood as a radical, antitraditional style of philosophizing, which emphasizes the intention to reach truth and describe phenomena.

The main concepts of Husserl’s Phenomenology

We can highlight some key concepts of the phenomenological method:

  • Consciousness and intentionality;
  • Phenomenon;
  • Essence;
  • Epoché;
  • Eidetic reduction;

Consciousness and intentionality

In Husserl’s phenomenology, intentionality simply means that all consciousness is consciousness of something, it is always directed toward an object. When someone imagines, thinks, perceives, remembers, she always imagines, thinks, or perceives something.

According to Sokolowski:

The emphasis on intentionality (consciousness is always consciousness of something) serves to contrast with the Cartesian, Hobbesian, and Lockian tradition that taught that we were only conscious of ourselves or our ideas. Consciousness, in this sense, is like a closed box, which prevents us from knowing things “outside.” [Hence the importance of insisting that consciousness is always consciousness of something.

The consciousness, in its act of knowing, must pay attention to the “phenomenon in itself”, to what really appears and the way it appears, without interference. Hence the author affirms the need for epoché, or phenomenological reduction.

What is Phenomenon?

The term phenomenon comes from the Greek word phainomenon which means “that which appears”, “that which shows itself”.

Phenomenon does not mean something apparent, or that which conceals the thing itself. There is not something behind the phenomenon, as Metaphysics claims. Phenomenology does not seek something beyond what is shown.

The phenomenologist can investigate for example religious phenomena, moral phenomena, the phenomena of anger, sympathy, imagination, fear, art, etc.

What is epoché?

Husserl proposed for his method the suspension of judgment (epoché, in Greek), or the bracketing of the natural attitude and of all intentional acts of world positioning, which assumes the existence of the world, until the philosopher enters the domain of pure transcendental subjectivity.

That is, the philosopher needs to leave his natural attitude, which is the attitude we all find ourselves in in everyday life, and enter the phenomenological attitude to apprehend the phenomenon as it appears to consciousness, as it really is, without caring about opinions about it. In this sense, epoché is the first step for philosophy.

Epoché is very important for phenomenology to become a rigorous science, turning to things as they originally are. Such a path means suspending the judgment of the knowing subject; all tastes, conceptions, imaginations, and beliefs (whether from philosophy, science, or common sense) must be bracketed in order to arrive at the phenomenon in its purity.

The concept of epoché does not mean that the philosopher will doubt everything (as in the Cartesian method), but rather that he will provisionally suspend judgment.

For Husserl, the only thing that cannot be bracketed, because it is precisely indubitable, an evident and absolute reality, is consciousness.

What is eidetic reduction?

The eidetic reduction consists of reducing the phenomena given to the consciousness to their objective essences (eidos).

After suspending judgment and all preconceptions (epoché), the philosopher will perform this eidetic reduction, which is properly the description of the phenomenon as it is given to the consciousness. It is a hermeneutic exercise, of interpretation, in order to grasp the essence of the investigated phenomenon.

Phenomenology is not a science focused on facts, but rather on essences. When phenomenology investigates the religious phenomenon, for example, it will seek the essence of this phenomenon, that is, what makes this phenomenon be considered religious and not something else.

What are essences?

Essences are the object of study of the researcher, who, in his research, cannot interfere in the moment of knowing them. He must behave in front of them as an impartial spectator.

Only logic presents evident truths, because its laws refer to ideal processes, seeking ideal and timeless essences: they are the contents freed from their contingency.

The essence is the typical mode of appearance of phenomena; these, in turn, are the particular cases of the idea. Thus, essences are not real, but ideal, concepts, which are captured only by intuition.

For Husserl, the way to know the essences is the so-called eidetic intuition, which occurs in an immediate manner; the intuition of an essence is what allows us to speak of universal and necessary propositions.

Logic in Husserl’s thought

Husserl comes to the idea that philosophy can be understood as exact knowledge, as a rigorous science; for this, a theory should be erected from undeniable concrete data, which are evident and stable. And Husserl finds in logic the foundation on which philosophy could achieve the status of a rigorous science.

Logic, for Husserl, is not a static knowledge, but a dynamic and living knowledge that offers foundations for correct reasoning, for the true apprehension of things; logic is not normative, even though it offers bases for normative sciences.

For Husserl, it is necessary to know what something is in order to then arrive at it; “to know what something is” means to know its truth, and what is true must be absolutely true in itself.

In this sense, psychologism and empiricism err by relating truth to human contingency: the psychic empiric does not reach the exactness of logic. From this idea about logic, the path to understanding the core of Husserl’s phenomenology is opened: the science of essences.

Cite This Work

Vieira, S. (2021, August 22). Husserl’s Phenomenology. Filosofia do Início. Retrieved from

Vieira, Sadoque. “Husserl’s Phenomenology.” Filosofia do Início, August 22, 2021.

Vieira, Sadoque. “Husserl’s Phenomenology.” Filosofia do Início, 22 Aug. 2021,


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