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Phenomenology is a way of thinking about ourselves. Instead of asking about what we really are, it focuses on phenomena. These are experiences that we get from the senses - what we see, taste, smell, touch, hear, and feel. Phenomenology does not ask if what we are seeing is actually there: for example it is not where we see an object (whether in real life, a dream or a hallucination) that is important, but it is the significance of the object that is important to the phenomenologist. It also does not ask if we are missing something, or if we have all the facts. Instead, phenomenologists (those who do phenomenology) believe we should look at the world just as it appears to us.

Martin Heidegger, a famous phenomenologist, said that philosophers should be looking at how we live in our "average everydayness." [1] In his book Being and Time, he uses many examples of how people live in their normal lives. Jean-Paul Sartre did the same in his book Being and Nothingness. For example, he writes about meeting a friend at a cafe. However, the friend, named Pierre, never shows up. Sartre writes that he can feel the absence of Pierre in the cafe. Because of this, he says that non-Pierre (or the lack of Pierre) is something that exists, at least for him. It exists because he can feel it.[2]


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  1. Inwood, 31
  2. Sartre, 9-26
  • Inwood, Michael (2002-07-11). Heidegger: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 0192854100.
  • Sartre, Jean-Paul; Jean-Paul Sartre (1969). Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology. Routledge.