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Hermeneutic Phenomenology

My research is conducted within a logic of inquiry, a methodology, of 'hermeneutic phenomenology.' That is to say, an interpretive investigation of the phenomena of everyday life. I have been influenced in part by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger.

Martin Heidegger seems to have been a thoroughly unpleasant person. He betrayed his mentor, Edmund Husserl, by ..., and his wife by having an affair with Hanah Arendt, his student. And of course he not only sympathized with the Nazi regime, he also refused to repudiate either the regime or his own actions after the second world war.

This raises the question of whether a person's work, whether it is philosophy or any other activity, should be judged in terms of how they live their life. In Heidegger's case the answer is surely yes. Heidegger's philosophy is a philosophy of existence--in a real sense it is precisely a philosophical exploration of how to live. When its author failed so conspiciously we must consider his philosophy with critical care.

Yet Heidegger was attempting something interesting and difficult. That he failed should perhaps not cause suprise, though certainly regret. His attempt was nothing less than turning philosophy on its head.... Rejecting the stance of detachment (or apparent detachement) that philosophers, along with other academicians, had sought since Descrates, arguably since the Greeks...

Architectonic of 'Being and Time'

Some years ago I sat down again with Heidegger's opus Being and Time to try to figure out its overall structure, its architectonic.  The result was Being and Time summarized on a single page!  I needed the other side of the page to explain the diagram (which uses the "ontological blueprint"), but that's still a single sheet of paper! 

In Being & Time, Heidegger moves repeatedly and iteratively through a particular kind of structure. A central task of Heidegger's analysis is to clarify the general (formal) character of our understanding of any phenomenon; once this has been done, hermeneutic phenomenology can be understood in terms of this formal structure, and Dasein (human being) can be articulated in its terms also.

The structure is one of three levels:

  • First, an entity or phenomenon is grasped globally and hence without detailed articulation
  • Second, the "being" of that entity, or the different possible ways in which it can show itself, is laid out;
  • Third, the "meaning" of that being, or the ground upon which the entity shows itself in those various ways, is lit up and described.

The two phases of any phenomenological inquiry take us progressively from the first to the second and third levels. They deal, respectively, with the being of the phenomenon and the meaning of the phenomenon.

In the diagrams this three-fold structure is represented in two different ways (for convenience): as a vertical set of terms separated by horizontal lines, and as a horizontal set of terms linked by a 'fork.' Let's illustrate this here by reiterating in diagrammatic form what what has just been said about phenomenology:

Viewed overall, the full-page diagram of Being & Time shows the three-fold structure of Dasein (human being):

  • first, a general sense of Dasein as a whole (Being-in-the-World);
  • second, Dasein's Being (care); and
  • third, the meaning of Dasein's being (Temporality).
Each of these elements is then analysed phenomenologically (and hermeneutically) into constituent aspects.

For example, Being-in-the-World turns out to be grasped globally and generally as a subject (the 'Who'), but the first phase of analysis articulates the way this subject finds its possibilities in absorbed, concerned involvement (the character of Being-in as such), and the second phase of analysis discloses worldhood (the 'in-the-world') as the ground upon which this subject is defined.

Logic of Inquiry - Suggested Additional Reading

Empiricism and Logical Positivism

Nagel, E. (1956). Logic without metaphysics. Glencoe: The Free Press.

Nagel, E. (1961). The structure of science. Harcourt, Brace Janovich: New York.

Dunn, J. (1984). Locke. Oxford University Press.

Mackenzie, B. D. (1977). Behaviorism and the limits of scientific method. New Jersey: Humanities Press.

Chomsky, N. (1959). Review of Verbal behavior by B. F. Skinner. Language, 35, 26-58.

Feigl, H. (1943). Logical empiricism. In D. Runes (Ed.), Twentieth Century Philosophy. NY: Philosophical Library.

Von Mises, R. (1956). Positivism: A study in human understanding. New York: George Braziller, Inc.

Joergensen, J. (1957). The development of Logical Empiricism. The International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, Vol II, No. 9. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bridgman, P. W. (1938). Operational analysis. Philosophy of Science, 5, 114-131.

Bridgman, P. W. (1945). Some general principles of operational analysis. Psychological Review, 52, 246-249, 281-284.

Taylor, C. (1964). The explanation of behavior. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Black, M. (1934). The principle of verifiability. Analysis, 2, 1-6.

Blackmore, J. T. (1972). Ernst Mach: his work, life, and influence. University of California Press.

Ayer, A. J. (Ed.). (1959). Logical positivism. New York: The Free Press.

Frisby, D. (1972). The Popper-Adorno controversy: The methodological dispute in German sociology. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 2, 105-119.

Hanfling, O. (Ed.). (1981). Essential readings in logical positivism. Oxford: Blackwell.

Heller, A. (1978). The positivism dispute as a turning point in German post-war theory. New German Critique, 15, 49-56.

Musil, R. (1908/1982). On Mach's theories. Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press.

Skinner, B. F. (1945). The operational analysis of psychological terms. Psychological Review, 52, 270-277, 291-294.

Skinner, B. F. (1987). Whatever happened to psychology as the science of behavior? American Psychologist, 42, 780-786.

Eisner, E. (1992). Are all causal claims positivist? A reply to Francis Schrag. Educaional Researcher, 21(5), 8-9.


Rationalism, Structuralism, Cognitive Psychology

Chomsky, N. (1957). Syntactic structures. Mouton: The Hague.

Chomsky, N. (1965). Aspects of the theory of syntax., Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Allison, H. E. (1983). Kant's transcendental idealism: An interpretation and defense. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Broughton, J. M. (1981). Piaget's structural developmental psychology. III. Function and the problem of knowledge. Human Development, 24, 257-285.

Williams, B. (1978). Descartes: The project of pure enquiry. Penguin Press.

Cicourel, A. V. (1973). Cognitive sociology: Language and meaning in social interaction. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin.

Harris, R. (1987). Reading Saussure: A critical commentary on the "Cours de linguistique g_n_rale". La Salle, IL: Open Court.

De Saussure, F. (1915/1959). Course in general linguistics (W. Baskin, Trans.). New York: Philosophical library.

Dreyfus, H. (1979). What computers can't do: The limits of Artificial Intelligence. Revised edition. London: Harper & Row.

Pettit, P. (1975). The concept of structuralism: A critical analysis. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Piaget, J. (1970). Structuralism. (C. Maschler, Trans.). New York: Harper & Row.

Reed, E. S. (1982). Descartes' corporeal ideas hypothesis and the origin of scientific psychology. Review of Metaphysics, 35, 731-752.

Bickhard, M. H. Cooper, R. G. & Mace, P. E. (1985). Vestiges of logical positivism: Critiques of stage explanations. Human Development, 28, 240-258.


Philosophy of Science

Bernstein, R. (1983). Beyond objectivism and relativism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Champion, R. (1985). The importance of Popper's theories to psychology. American Psychologist, 40, 1415-1416.

Hookway, C. & Pettit, P. (Eds.). (1978). Action and interpretation: Studies in the philosophy of the social sciences. Cambridge University Press.

Scriven, M. (1983). The evaluation taboo. In E. R. House (Ed.). Philosophy of Evaluation. New Directions for Program Evaluation, no. 19. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Dar, R. (1987). Another look at Meehl, Lakatos, and the scientific practices of psychologists. American Psychologist, 42, 145-151.

Eisner, E. W. (1983). Anastasia might still be alive, but the monarchy is dead. Educational Researcher, May, 13-24.

Kuhn, T. S. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kuhn, T. S. (1977). The essential tension. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Serlin, R. C. & Lapsley, D. K. (1985). Rationality in psychological research: The good-enough principle. American Psychologist, 40, 73-83.

Gholson, B. & Barker, P. (1985). Kuhn, Lakatos, and Laudan: Applications in the history of physics and psychology. American Psychologist, 40, 755-769.

McCarthy, T. (1978). The critical theory of Jurgen Habermas. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Messer, S. B. (1985). Choice of method is value laden too. American Psychologist, 40, 1414-1415.

Fiske, D. W. & Shweder, R. A. (1986). Metatheory in social science: Pluralisms and subjectivities. University of Chicago Press.

Hacking, I. (1983). Representing and intervening: Introductory topics in the philosophy of natural science. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Masterman, M. (1970). The nature of a paradigm. In (Eds.), I. Lakatos & A. Musgrave, Criticism and the growth of knowledge, Cambridge University Press.

Feyerabend, P. (1978). Against method. Verso Press.

Feyerabend, P. (1978). Science in a free society. NLB Press.

Habermas, J. (1971). Knowledge and human interests. (J. Shapiro, Trans.). Boston: Beacon Press.

Popper, K. R. (1959). The logic of scientific discovery. New York: Basic Books.

Popper, K. R. (1963). Conjectures and refutations: The growth of scientific knowledge. 4th ed. rev. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Diesing, P. (1991). How does social science work? Reflections on practice. Pittsburgh: University if Pittsburgh Press.

Eger, M. (1993). Hermeneutics as an approach to science: Part I. Science in Context, 2, 1-29.

Markus, G. (1987). Why is there no hermeneutics of natural science? Science in Context, 1(1), 5-51.



Berger, T. & Luckmann, T. (1967). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Garden City, NY: Anchor.

Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. (1987). Life as narrative. Social Research, 54, 11-32.

Sarbin, T. R. (1986). Narrative psychology: The storied nature of human conduct. New York: Praeger.

Reinharz, S. (1984). On becoming a social scientist. New Brunswick: Transaction Books.

Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New York: Harper and Row.

Geertz, C. (1983). Local knowledge: Further essays in interpretive anthropology. New York: Basic Books.

Gergen, K. J. (1982). Toward transformation in social knowledge. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Gergen, K. J. (1985). The social constructionist movement in modern psychology. American Psychologist, 40, 266-275.

Giddens, A. (1976). New rules of sociological method. New York: Basic Books.

Phillips, D. C. (1983). After the wake: Postpositivist educational thought. Educational Researcher, May, 4-12.

Polkinghorne, D. (1983). Methodology for the human sciences. Albany: State University of New York Press.


Interpretive Research in Education

Allender, J. S. (1986). Educational research: A personal and social process. Review of Educational Research, 56, 173-193.

Angus, L. B. (1986). Developments in ethnographic research in education: From interpretive to critical ethnography. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 20, 59-67.

Connelly, F. M. & Clandinin, D. J. (1986). On narrative method, personal philosophy, and narrative unities in the story of teaching. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 23, 293-210.

Heap, J. (1985). Discourse in the production of classroom knowledge: Reading lessons. Curriculum Inquiry, 15, 245-279.

Howe, K. R. (1988). Against the quantitative-qualitative incompatability thesis: Or dogmas die hard. Educational Researcher, 17, 10-16.

Hull, C. (1985). Between the lines: The analysis of interview data as an exact art. British Educational Research Journal, 11, 27-32.

Kickbush, K. W. & Everhart, R. B. (1985). Curriculum, practical ideology, and class contradition. Curriculum Inquiry, 15, 281-317.

Ginsburg, M. B. (1986). Reproductions, contradictions, and conceptions of curriculum in preservice teacher education. Curriculum Inquiry, 16, 283-309.

MacMillan, C. J. B. & Garrison, J. W. (1984). Using the "new philosophy of science" in criticizing current research traditions in education. Educational Researcher, 13(10), 15-21.

Maxcy, S. J. & Stanley, W. B. (1986). Reflective inquiry, reconstructionism, and positivism: A reexamination of the process of social education. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 19, 62-71.

Pope, M, & Denicolo, P. (1986). Intuitive theories -- a researcher's dilemma: Some practical methodological implications. British Educational Research Journal, 12, 153-166.

Soltis, J. F. (1984). On the nature of educational research. Educational Researcher, 13(10), 5-10.

Woods, P. (1985). Conversations with teachers: Some aspects of life-history method. British Educational Research Journal, 11, 13-26.

Packer, M. J. (1992). Interpreting stories, interpretive lives: Narrative and action in moral development research. In M. B. Tappan & M. J. Packer (Eds.), Narrative and storytelling: Implications for understanding moral development. Vol. 54. New Directions for Child Development (pp. 63-82). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Theory of Interpretation

Bernstein, R. (1983). Beyond objectivism and relativism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Dreyfus, H. (1984). Beyond hermeneutics: Interpretation in late Heidegger and recent Foucault. In G. Shapiro & A. Sica (Eds.), Hermeneutics: Question and prospects. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

Dreyfus, H. L. & Dreyfus, S. E. (1986). Mind over machine: The power of human intuition and expertize in the era of the computer. The Free Press.

Dreyfus, H. L. & Rabinow, P. (1982). Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics., Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Dreyfus, H. L. (1991). Being-in-the-world: A commentary on Heidegger's Being and time, Division 1. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Bleicher, J. (1980). Contemporary hermeneutics: Hermeneutics as method, philosophy and critique. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Caputo, J. D. (1987). Radical hermeneutics: Repetition, deconstruction, and the hermeneutic project. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Gadamer, H-G. (1960/1986). Truth and method. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company.

Habermas, J. (1983). Interpretive social science vs. hermeneuticism. In N. Haan, R. N. Bellah, P. Rabinow, & W. M. Sullivan (Eds.), Social science as moral inquiry. Columbia University Press.

Ihde, D. (1971). Hermeneutic phenomenology: The philosophy of Paul Ricoeur. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press.

Kvale, S. (1983). The qualitative research interview: A phenomenological and a hermeneutic mode of understanding. J. Phenomenological Psychology, 37, 171-196.

Kvale, S. (1986). Interpretation of the qualitative research interview. Transformations, 2, 32-42.

Mishler, E. G. (1979). Meaning in context: Is there any other kind? Harvard Educational Review, 49, 1-19.

Misgeld, D. (1976). Critical theory and hermeneutics: The debate between Habermas and Gadamer. In J. O'Neill (Eds.), On critical theory. Vol. New York: Seabury Press.

Mueller-Volmer, K. (Ed.). (1988). The hermeneutics reader: texts of the German tradition from the Enlightenment to the present. New York: Continuum .

Odman, P.-J. (1988). Hermeneutics. In J. P. Keeves (Eds.), Educational research, methodology, and measurement: an international handbook. Vol. Oxford: Pergamon.

Ormiston, G. L., & Schrift, A. D. (1990). Transforming the hermeneutic context: From Nietzsche to Nancy. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Ormiston, G. L., & Schrift, A. D. (1990). The hermeneutic tradition: From Ast to Ricoeur. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Palmer, R. E. (1969). Hermeneutics: Interpretation theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger and Gadamer. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Ricoeur, P. (1976). Interpretation theory: Discourse and the surplus of meaning. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press.

Ricoeur, P. (1981). Hermeneutics and the human sciences: Essays on language, action and interpretation. J. B. Thompson (Ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Bauman, Z. (1981). Hermeneutics and social science. Columbia University Press.

Madison, G. B. (1988). The hermeneutics of postmodernity: Figures and themes. Indiana University Press.

Rosen, S. (1987). Hermeneutics as politics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hiley, D. R., Bohman, J. F., & Shusterman, R. (Ed.). (1991). The interpretive turn: Philsophy, science, culture. Ithica: Cornell University Press.

Thompson, J. B. (1990). Ideology and modern culture: Critical social theory in the era of mass communication. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Narrative Explanation

Freeman, M. (1984). History, narrative, and life-span developmental knowledge. Human Development, 27, 1-19.

Freeman, M. (1985). Paul Ricoeur on interpretation: The model of the text and the idea of development. Human Development, 28, 295-312.

Hekman, S. (1984). Action as a text: Gadamer's hermeneutics and the social scientific analysis of action. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, 14, 333-354.

Honey, M. A. (1987). The interview as text: Hermeneutics considered as a model for analyzing the clinically informed research interview. Human Development, 30, 69-82.

Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. (1987). Life as narrative. Social Research, 54, 11-32.

Geertz, C. (1988). Works and lives: The anthropologist as author. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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