What Is Phenomenology in Existentialism?


Diego Sanchez

Phenomenology is a philosophical approach that explores the nature of human consciousness and experience. It is often associated with existentialism, which emphasizes individual freedom and choice in the face of the absurdity and meaninglessness of existence. In this article, we will dive into what phenomenology is in existentialism.

The Roots of Phenomenology

Phenomenology originated in the early 20th century with the work of Edmund Husserl, a German philosopher who sought to develop a new method for understanding the nature of reality. Husserl believed that traditional philosophical approaches, which relied on abstract concepts and categories, failed to capture the essence of lived experience.

The Phenomenological Method

The phenomenological method involves suspending our preconceptions and assumptions about the world in order to focus on our immediate experience. This means setting aside our beliefs about what things are or should be like, and instead focusing on what we actually perceive.

For example, if we see a tree outside our window, we might normally think of it as an object with certain properties (height, shape, color) that exist independently of us. However, through phenomenological analysis, we can try to see the tree as it appears to us in its immediacy – as a visual impression that arises within our consciousness.

Phenomenology and Existentialism

Existentialism builds on phenomenology by emphasizing the subjective experience of individual existence. Existentialists argue that humans are fundamentally free beings who must create their own meaning in a world without inherent purpose or value.

Phenomenology helps illuminate this existential situation by revealing the ways in which our experiences are always already shaped by our own perspectives and interpretations. By reflecting on our immediate experiences without judgment or bias, we can gain insight into how we create meaning for ourselves.

Applications of Phenomenology in Existentialism

Phenomenology has many applications within the existentialist tradition. For example, it can help us understand the nature of anxiety, which is often seen as a fundamental aspect of human existence. By exploring our immediate experience of anxiety, we can gain insight into how it arises and how we might learn to live with it.

Phenomenology can also be useful for exploring themes such as authenticity and freedom. By examining our experiences in detail, we can gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be true to ourselves and to make choices that are genuinely our own.


In conclusion, phenomenology is an important philosophical approach within the existentialist tradition that emphasizes the importance of subjective experience. By focusing on our immediate experiences without judgment or bias, we can gain insight into the nature of human consciousness and the ways in which we create meaning for ourselves in a world without inherent purpose or value.