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  Phenomenology (Greek, ‘study of what is perceived’) is both a method and a standpoint for phenomenological psychoanalists, psychiatrists and therapists. A psychology based on the understanding of phenomenology does not believe in the existence of the unconscious. The unconscious is replaced with untransformed experiences, of which we are unaware. The conscious ego is thought to hold all of actual and potential conscious life.

Phenomenology is a philosophy developed by Edmund Husserl at the turn of the century. Husserl\'s philosophical method employed a mental suspension of objects to enable him to take a natural standpoint of pure consciousness. By doing this he discovered that all consciousness was tied to objects, whether real or not. Husserl\'s philosophical method is echoed in the work of phenomenologists like R.D. Laing. Phenomenology is used by psychologists like Laing as a description of our core selves and applies to every conscious waking thought and experience.

It also assumes that we know about the outside world only through intensionality and intentional objects. The meaning of experience, from this viewpoint, cannot be located outside experience. Heidegger further developed notions of phenomenology and intensionality by using it to explore ways of describing human experience which avoided the dualism of the mind/body split. Existentialists also further explored Husserl and Heidegger\'s ideas, and this kind of approach to psychology is also known as an existential approach.

Using an intensional model based on phenomenology involves seeing the patient\'s experience as a complete mental and physical world, which can only be entered through a respect and understanding of its completeness. The analyst or therapist working with this standpoint will try to come to material without presupposition—as Husserl did in his method of appraisal of individual consciousness.

Laing, taking the intensional standpoint with his patients, saw the basis of disturbance as ontological insecurity and a loss of sense of being. This method was very different to the one he had learned in his training as a psychiatrist. He came to the conclusion, after studying schizophrenics, that mental disorders, like schizophrenia, are part of a personal world that includes the ‘social events’ of that person\'s family life. The social nexus in the family and the way it is incorporated into the personal mental space of the patient are responsible for the illness, but at the same time there is a belief in an essential self that has become distorted by the internal relationships created by the individual\'s family bonds. MJ

Further reading R.D. Laing, Self and Others.



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Phenomenological Sociology


Other Terms : Neo-Lamarckism | Natural Theology | Eugenics
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