In Praise of Phenomenology


  • Maxine Sheets-Johnstone





A critical assessment of Merleau-Ponty’s conception of phenomenology highlights singular differences between Husserl’s phenomenological methodology and existential analysis, between epistemology and ontology, and between essential and individualistic perspectives. When we duly follow the rigorous phenomenological methodology described by Husserl, we are confronted with the challenge of making the familiar strange and with the challenge of languaging experience. In making the familiar strange, we do not immediately have words to describe what is present, but must let the experience of the strange resonate for some time, and even then, must return to it many times over to pinpoint its aspects, character, or quality in descriptively exacting ways.  Moreover as Husserl points out, language can seduce us into thinking we know when we do not know. The methodology thus highlights the import of being true to the truths of experience, and in doing so, authenticates the basic value of a phenomenological methodology to the human sciences.