Medical Definition of PHENOMENOLOGY : the way in which one perceives and interprets events and one’s relationship to them in contrast both to one’s objective responses to stimuli and to any inferred unconscious motivation for one’s behavior; also : a psychology based on the theory that phenomenology determines behavior —phe·nom·e·no·log·i·cal Philosophical discipline originated by Edmund Husserl. Husserl developed the phenomenological method to make possible “a descriptive account of the essential structures of the directly given.” Phenomenology emphasizes the immediacy of experience, the attempt to isolate it and set it off from all assumptions of existence or causal influence and lay bare its essential structure. Phenomenology restricts the philosopher’s attention to the pure data of consciousness, uncontaminated by metaphysical theories or scientific assumptions. Husserl’s concept of the life-world—as the individual’s personal world as directly experienced—expressed this same idea of immediacy. With the appearance of the Annual for Philosophical and Phenomenological Research (1913–30), under Husserl’s editorship, his personal philosophizing flowered into an international movement. Its most notable adherents were Max Scheler and Martin Heidegger. Phenomenology of Religion Phenomenology of Religion From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The phenomenology of religion concerns the experiential aspect of religion, describing religious phenomena in terms consistent with the orientation of the worshippers. It views religion as being made up of different components, and studies these components across religious traditions so that an understanding of them can be gained. The phenomenological approach to the study of religion owes its conceptualization and development to Pierre Daniël Chantepie de la Saussaye, William Brede Kristensen and Gerardus van der Leeuw. Chantepie de la Saussaye The first explicit use of the phrase “phenomenology of religion” occurs in the Lehrbuch der Religionsgeschichte (Handbook of the History of Religions), written by Pierre Daniël Chantepie de la Saussaye in 1887, wherein he articulates the task of the science of religion and gives an “Outline of the phenomenology of religion”. Employing the terminology of Hegel, Chantepie divides his science of religion into two areas of investigation, essence and manifestations, which are approached through investigations in philosophy and history, respectively. However, Chantepie’s phenomenology “belongs neither to the history nor the philosophy of religion as Hegel envisioned them”. For Chantepie, it is the task of phenomenology to prepare historical data for philosophical analysis through “a collection, a grouping, an arrangement, and a classifying of the principal groups of religious conceptions”. This sense of phenomenology as a grouping of manifestations is similar to the conception of phenomenology articulated by Robison and the British; however, insofar as Chantepie conceives of phenomenology as a preparation for the philosophical elucidation of essences, his phenomenology is not completely opposed to that of Hegel. Kristensen Chantepie’s Lehrbuch was highly influential, and many researchers began similar efforts after its publication and its subsequent translation into English and French. One such researcher was William Brede Kristensen. In 1901, Kristensen was appointed the first professorship relating to the phenomenology of religion at the University of Leiden. Some of the material from Kristensen’s lectures on the phenomenology of religion was edited posthumously, and the English translation was published in 1960 as The Meaning of Religion. James notes that Kristensen’s phenomenology “adopts many of the features of Chantepie’s grouping of religious phenomena,” and penetrates further into the intricacies of Chantepie’s phenomenological approach. For Chantepie, phenomenology is affected by the philosophy and history of religion, but for Kristensen, it is also the medium whereby the philosophy and history of religion interact with and affect one another. In this sense, Kristensen’s account of the relationship between historical manifestations and philosophy is more similar to that of Hegel than it is to Chantepie. In defining the religious essence of which he explores historical manifestations, Kristensen appropriates Rudolf Otto’s conception of das Heilige (“the holy” or “the sacred”). Otto describes das Heilige with the expression “mysterium tremendum”—a numinous power revealed in a moment of “awe” that admits of both the horrible shuddering of “religious dread” (tremendum) and fascinating wonder (fascinans) with the overpowering majesty (majestas) of the ineffable, “wholly other” mystery (mysterium). Like Chantepie, Kristensen argues that phenomenology seeks the “meaning” of religious phenomena. Kristensen clarifies this supposition by defining the meaning that his phenomenology is seeking as “the meaning that the religious phenomena have for the believers themselves”. Furthermore, Kristensen argues that phenomenology is not complete in grouping or classifying the phenomena according to their meaning, but in the act of understanding. “Phenomenology has as its objects to come as far as possible into contact with and to understand the extremely varied and divergent religious data”. Being a phenomenologist, Kristensen was less interested in philosophical presuppositions than in his concrete depth-research in the incidental religious phenomena. These subjects concerned mythological material (such as Creation, the Flood etc.) as well as human action (such as baptism, Olympic Games etc.), and objects of nature and handicrafts. In all of this he only made use of the authentic sources: writings and images by the believers themselves. This procedure compelled him to reduce the field of his research – he had to profoundly master all relating languages and writings in order to be able to understand his sources in a way as they would have wanted to be understood themselves. Consequently he reduced his field of research to the phenomena in religions living around the origin of Christianity: during the millennia before and the centuries after Christ, in Iran (Avesta), Babylonia and Assyria, Israel, Egypt, Greece and Rome. The required knowledge of speeches, also, is one of the causes that only few (Van der Leeuw, Bleeker) of his pupils did carry on in his line, although many scholars showed interests in the results of his research. Apart from his synopsis The Meaning of Religion, and a just simple Introduction in History of Religion, his publications are mostly restricted to the results of his incidental partial researches, published in the shape of a Communication of the Royal Academy of the Netherlands. van der Leeuw The phenomenological approach to religion developed in Gerardus van der Leeuw’s Phänomenologie der Religion (1933) follows Kristensen in many respects, while also appropriating the phenomenology of Martin Heidegger and the hermeneutics of Wilhelm Dilthey. For van der Leeuw, understanding is the subjective aspect of phenomena, which is inherently intertwined with the objectivity of that which is manifest. Van der Leeuw articulates the relation of understanding to understood phenomena according to the schema outlined in Dilthey’s definition of the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften) as sciences that are “based on the relations between experience, expression and understanding” (“Verhältnis von Erlebnis, Ausdruck, und Verstehen”). Van der Leeuw correlates subjective experience, expression, and understanding with three objective levels of appearing—relative concealment (Verborgenheit), relative transparency (Durchsichtigkeit), and gradually becoming manifest or revealed (Offenbarwerden), wherein the understanding of what is becoming revealed is the primordial level of appearing from which the experienced concealment and expressed transparency of appearing are derived. Because van der Leeuw, like Kristensen, appropriates Otto’s concept of das Heilige in defining the essential category of religion, the transcendence becoming revealed in all human understanding can be further described as sacred — an overpowering “wholly other,” which becomes revealed in astonishing moments of dreadful awe (Scheu) and wonderful fascination. Van der Leeuw argues that this concept of religious dread is also present in Kierkegaard’s work on Angst and in Heidegger’s statement that “what arouses dread is ‘being in the world’ itself”. Moreover, van der Leeuw recognizes that, although dreadful, Being-in-the-world is fundamentally characterized as care (Sorge), the existential structure whereby Dasein is concerned with meaningful relationships in the world alongside other beings. Because all experiences disclose concealed (wholly other) transcendence to the understanding, all experiences of Being-in-the-world are ultimately religious experiences of the sacred, whether explicitly recognized as such or not. Human being as such is homo religiosus, the opposite of homo negligens. It is the task of the phenomenology of religion to interpret the various ways in which the sacred appears to human beings in the world, the ways in which humans understand and care for that which is revealed to them, for that which is ultimately wholly other mystery. Among other great phenomenologists who worked and influenced phenomenology of religion are Kristensen, Henry Corbin, Mahmoud Khatami, Ninian Smart, de la saussaye, Mircea Eliade.
Phenomenology – Defined
1: the study of the development of human consciousness and self-awareness as a preface to or a part of philosophy2a (1): a philosophical movement that describes the formal structure of the objects of awareness and of awareness itself in abstraction from any claims concerning existence (2): the typological classification of a class of phenomena <the phenomenology of religion>b: an analysis produced by phenomenological investigation
noun \fi-ˌnäm-ə-ˈnäl-ə-jē\ (Medical Dictionary)plural ; phe·nom·e·nol·o·gies
Phenomenology is “arguably the most influential approach to the study of religion in the twentieth century.” (Partridge) The term is first found in the title of the work of the influential philosopher of German Idealism, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, entitled The Phenomenology of Spirit. Phenomenology had been practiced long before its being made explicit as a philosophical method by Edmund Husserl, who is considered to be its founder. In the context of Phenomenology of religion however, the term was first used by Pierre Daniel Chantepie de la Saussaye in his work “Lehrbuch der Religiongeschichte” (1887). Chantepie’s phenomenology catalogued observable characteristics of religion much like a zoologist would categorize animals or an entomologist would categorize insects.
In part due to Husserl’s influence, “phenomenology” came to “refer to a method which is more complex and claims rather more for itself than did Chantepie’s mere cataloguing of facts.” (Partridge) Husserl argued that the foundation of knowledge is consciousness. He recognized “how easy it is for prior beliefs and interpretations to unconsciously influence one’s thinking, Husserl’s phenomenological method sought to shelve all these presuppositions and interpretations.” (Partridge) Husserl introduced the term “eidetic vision” to describe the ability to observe without “prior beliefs and interpretations” influencing understanding and perception.
His other main conceptual contribution is the idea of the epoche: setting aside metaphysical questions and observing phenomena in and of themselves, without any bias or commitments on the part of the investigator. The epoche, also known as phenomenological reduction or bracketing, involves approaching a phenomenon or phenomena from a neutral standpoint, instead of with our own particular attitudes. In performing this reduction, whatever phenomenon or phenomena we approach are understood in themselves, rather than from our own perspectives. In the field of religious studies, a contemporary advocate of the phenomenological method is Ninian Smart. He suggests that we should perform the epoche as a means to engage in cross-cultural studies. In doing so, we can take the beliefs, symbols, rituals etc. of the other from within their own perspective, rather than imposing ours on them. Another earlier scholar who employs the phenomenological method for studying religion is Gerardus van der Leeuw. In his Religion in Essence and Manifestation (1933), he outlines what a phenomenology of religion should look like:
- Firstly, argues van der Leeuw, the student of religion needs to classify the religious phenomena into distinct categories: e.g. sacrifice, sacrament, sacred space, sacred time, sacred word, festivals, and myth.
- Secondly, scholars then need to interpolate the phenomena into the their own lives. That is to say, they need to empathetically (Einfühlung) try and understand the religion from within….The life examined by the religious studies scholar, insists van der Leeuw, needs to “acquire its place in the life of the student himself who should understand it out of his inner self.”
- Thirdly, van der Leeuw stresses perhaps the fundamental phenomenological principle, namely epoch, the suspension of value-judgements and the adoption of a neutral stance.
- Fourthly, scholars needs to clarify any apparent structural relationships and make sense of the information. In so doing, they move towards a holistic understanding of how the various aspects of a religion relate and function together.
- Fifthly, this leads naturally to a stage at which “all these activities, undertaken together and simultaneously, constitute genuine understanding [Verstehen]: the chaotic and obstinate ‘reality’ thus becomes a manifestation, a revelation” (eidetic vision).
- Sixthly, having thus attained this general grasp, there is a continual need to make sure that it tallies with the up-to-date research of other disciplines, such as archaeology, history, philology etc. For van der Leeuw, as for other phenomenologists, the continual checking of one’s results is crucial to the maintenance of scholarly objectivity. In order to avoid degeneration into fantasy, phenomenology must always feed on facts.
- Finally, having gone through the above six stages, the phenomenologist should be as close as anyone can be to an understanding of the ‘meaning’ of the religious phenomena studied and be in a position to relate his understanding to others.
The subjectivity inherent to the phenomenological study of religion makes complete and comprehensive understanding highly difficult. However, phenomenologists aim to separate their formal study of religion from their own theological worldview and to eliminate, as far as possible, any personal biases (e.g., a Christian phenomenologist would avoid studying Hinduism through the lens of Christianity).
There are a number of both theoretical and methodological attitudes common among phenomenologists: source
- Phenomenologists tend to oppose the acceptance of unobservable matters and grand systems erected in speculative thinking;
- Phenomenologists tend to oppose naturalism (also called objectivism and positivism), which is the worldview growing from modern natural science and technology that has been spreading from Northern Europe since the Renaissance;
- Positively speaking, phenomenologists tend to justify cognition (and some also evaluation and action) with reference to what Edmund Husserl called Evidenz, which is awareness of a matter itself as disclosed in the most clear, distinct, and adequate way for something of its kind;
- Phenomenologists tend to believe that not only objects in the natural and cultural worlds, but also ideal objects, such as numbers, and even conscious life itself can be made evident and thus known;
- Phenomenologists tend to hold that inquiry ought to focus upon what might be called “encountering” as it is directed at objects and, correlatively, upon “objects as they are encountered” (this terminology is not widely shared, but the emphasis on a dual problematics and the reflective approach it requires is);
- Phenomenologists tend to recognize the role of description in universal, a priori, or “eidetic” terms as prior to explanation by means of causes, purposes, or grounds; and
- Phenomenologists tend to debate whether or not what Husserl calls the transcendental phenomenological epochê and reduction is useful or even possible.
Functionalism, in regard to religious studies, is the analysis of religions and their various communities of adherents using the functions of particular religious phenomena to interpret the structure of religious communities and their beliefs. A major criticism of functionalism is that it lends itself to teleological explanations. An example of a functionalist approach is understanding the dietary restrictions contained in the Pentateuch as having the function of promoting health or providing social identity (i.e. a sense of belonging though common practice).
A group of scholars have criticized religious studies beginning in the 1990s as a theological project which actually imposes views onto the people it aims to survey. Prominent voices in this critical view include Robert A. Orsi, Timothy Fitzgerald, Talal Asad, Tomoko Masuzawa, G.A. Oddie, Richard King, Russell T. McCutcheon, and Daniel Dubuisson. Their areas of research overlap heavily with postcolonial studies.