Understanding Phenomenology

Understanding Phenomenology

Understanding Phenomenology

Understanding Phenomenology


"Understanding Phenomenology" provides a guide to one of the most important schools of thought in modern philosophy. The book traces phenomenology's historical development, beginning with its founder, Edmund Husserl and his "pure" or "transcendental" phenomenology, and continuing with the later, "existential" phenomenology of Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The book also assesses later, critical responses to phenomenology - from Derrida to Dennett - as well as the continued significance of phenomenology for philosophy today. Written for anyone coming to phenomenology for the first time, the book guides the reader through the often bewildering array of technical concepts and jargon associated with phenomenology and provides clear explanations and helpful examples to encourage and enhance engagement with the primary texts.


Introducing a book on phenomenology, indeed introducing phenomenology, is no easy matter, in part because there are so many ways to begin and no one way is ideal. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that, as will become apparent in the chapters to follow, there is a great deal in the way of technical vocabulary and concepts associated with phenomenology, but to begin by making use of such terminology will only add to whatever confusions arise from reading the primary texts. Since phenomenology has a relatively well-defined history, commencing at the start of the twentieth century (with some nineteenth-century premonitions), along with a generally agreed on set of central figures, a book introducing phenomenology could begin historically, with a recitation of various names, dates and places. Lacking, however, would be any sense of why select just these names to the exclusion of others, and what it is that is holding them all together. The historical development of phenomenology will be one of the themes of this book, and so there will be ample opportunity for names and dates as we proceed.

There is, of course, the word “phenomenology” itself, but its meaning, the study or science of phenomena, only raises more questions: phenomena as opposed to what, and what does it mean to study, or have a “science” of, phenomena (whatever they turn out to be)? Equally unhelpful is attending to the history of the word, whose use extends back a few hundred years and has well-established uses in both philosophy (e.g. in the philosophy of Hegel) andr">


Postcolonialism is a broad and constantly changing movement that has aroused a good deal of both interest and controversy. Inaugurated in earnest during and after the fight for independence in the remaining British and French colonies around the 1950s and 1960s, it has developed rapidly to become today a major area of intellectual innovation and debate. While the term first became popular in North American university campuses, and in particular in literary departments, it is now widely used both inside and outside Western academic institutions and attracts ever-growing numbers of commentators as well as students. The term “postcolonialism” can generally be understood as the multiple political, economic, cultural and philosophical responses to colonialism from its inauguration to the present day, and is somewhat broad and sprawling in scope. While “anti-colonialism” names specific movements of resistance to colonialism, postcolonialism refers to the wider, multifaceted effects and implications of colonial rule. Postcolonialism frequently offers a challenge to colonialism, but does not constitute a single programme of resistance; indeed, it is considered consequently by some to be rather vague and panoptic in its ever more ambitious field of enquiry. This book will focus on the philosophical dimensions of postcolonialism, and will demonstrate the diversity of conceptual models and strategies used by postcolonial philosophers rather than by political thinkers or literary writers. Postcolonial philosophy will be shown to feed into these, but detailed discussion of the politics, economics and literature of postcolonialism is beyond the scope of this study.

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