Is Phenomenology the Same as Ontology?


Martha Robinson

Phenomenology and ontology are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they actually have distinct meanings in philosophy. While both of these concepts deal with the nature of reality, they approach this question from different angles. In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between these two important philosophical concepts.

What is Phenomenology?

Phenomenology is a branch of philosophy that deals with the study of consciousness and subjective experience. It was developed by Edmund Husserl in the early 20th century as a response to traditional philosophical methods, which he believed were too focused on abstract concepts rather than lived experiences. Phenomenology attempts to describe the way things appear to us in our subjective experience, rather than making claims about objective reality.

Example: For instance, if you see a tree in front of you, phenomenology would be concerned with describing how that tree appears to you – its shape, color, texture – rather than making claims about what the tree “really” is.

What is Ontology?

Ontology, on the other hand, is the branch of philosophy concerned with the study of existence itself. It asks questions about what exists and what it means for something to exist. Unlike phenomenology, which focuses on subjective experiences, ontology seeks to uncover objective truths about reality.

Example: For instance, if we ask whether numbers exist or not – ontology would deal with this question by trying to uncover whether numbers have some kind of objective existence or not.

The Relationship Between Phenomenology and Ontology

Although phenomenology and ontology are distinct branches of philosophy with different aims and approaches, they are closely related. This is because both disciplines are concerned with understanding reality in some way.

Similarities: Both disciplines seek to understand aspects of reality through philosophical inquiry.

Differences: Phenomenology is focused on subjective experience, while ontology is concerned with objective existence.


In conclusion, phenomenology and ontology are two important philosophical concepts that deal with the nature of reality. While they share some similarities in terms of their focus on philosophical inquiry, they approach this question from different angles.

Phenomenology is concerned with subjective experience, while ontology seeks to uncover objective truths about existence. It is important to understand these differences in order to appreciate the nuances of each discipline and to use them effectively in philosophical inquiry.