Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Rediscovering Husserl: Perspectives on the Epoché and the Reductions

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Rediscovering Husserl: Perspectives on the Epoché and the Reductions

Article excerpt

This paper is motivated by the sense that transcendental phenomenology offers a depth of possibilities for describing lived experiences (Reeder, 2010). When I began the practice of research, I was confronted with the challenges of understanding the intricacies of what unique individuals reported to me about their perceptions. I became drawn towards transcendental phenomenology as a means to understand those perceptions, because the differences in how people construct meaning is so attractive to me. My practical challenge was to let the experience of the participant stand as he or she intended it to be understood, but my tendency was to filter their experiences through my own eyes, through my own experiences. As an aid to hearing the voice of my participants, phenomenology, as explained in the various writings of its founder, Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), became the perfect method within which I could begin to understand how the perceptions of others helped them to understand their world.

Phenomenology provides a means to observe individual and personal epistemological realities as they arise from their unique perceptions (Pietersma, 2006). The opportunity to understand the subjective perceptions of participants is in itself a compelling draw to phenomenology as a method, yet the orientation seems difficult to fully grasp, particularly in understanding the evolution of Husserl's thinking. Reeder, (2010), as an example of this difficulty, explains that Husserl's writings "need to be read and reread" so that we become aware of how Husserl's "later explorations of consciousness correct and amplify earlier ones" (p. 158). It is not uncommon, even as it was in my past experience as a doctoral student, to be exposed only to a cursory look at phenomenology and its various constructs. This established for me a need to engage in a personal exploration of Husserl's writing so that I could begin to understand some of the many complexities which exist in the method. The orientation I received as a student exposed the difficulties inherent to the method on an intellectual level, but those challenges became real only after beginning to implement the method. A particular difficulty exists in the task of intentionally engaging with what Husserl called the "epoché" (Sousa, 2014, p. 31), and the associated processes of "reduction" and "bracketing" (Chan, Yuen-ling, & Wai-tong, 2013, p. 1). The terms are used so frequently and with so much seeming familiarity that my initial tendency was to falsely embrace an external, superficial examination of the context and meaning within phenomenology. It was only after reading through Husserl's writings that I realized the extraordinary personal investment Husserl asks of the aspiring phenomenologist (Husserl, 1982).

What I intend in this paper is to provide a perspective, acknowledging that there are many such perspectives, with which to understand the epoché and associated concepts in research as they exist in Husserl's transcendental phenomenology. Additionally, the sense that the epoché and the reductions occur on multiple planes simultaneously is an inherent conclusion. As I write above, the aspiring phenomenologist must make an intentional personal investment in the process of phenomenology, in actually doing something within the phenomenological method, but what is often overlooked is the transformational effect doing phenomenology ultimately has on the researcher (see Jacobs, 2013).

What I do not attempt to do is to provide a philosophical examination of these terms. Others are far better suited to that task, and I leave it to them happily. This paper is therefore centered on discussing the epoché and the reductions as a fundamental part of transcendental phenomenological researcher.

In the phenomenological sense epoché indicates, as Taminiaux (2004) suggests, a suspension of what "blocks the way to the phenomena" (p. 9). In practice this requires an intentional disruption of one's tendency to overlay personal assumptions on interpretations of the experiences and perceptions of others. …

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