What Is the Difference Between Descriptive Phenomenology and Hermeneutic Phenomenology?

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Jane Flores

Phenomenology is a philosophical approach that aims to understand the essence of subjective experiences. It has been widely used in various fields, including psychology, sociology, and nursing.

In phenomenology, there are two main approaches: descriptive phenomenology and hermeneutic phenomenology. Although they share some similarities, they have some fundamental differences. In this article, we will explore the difference between descriptive phenomenology and hermeneutic phenomenology.

Descriptive Phenomenology

Descriptive phenomenology is an approach that focuses on describing the essential structures of subjective experiences. This approach was developed by Edmund Husserl, a German philosopher who believed that our experiences are made up of “phenomena,” or things that appear to us in our consciousness.

In descriptive phenomenology, the researcher suspends their preconceptions and biases to describe the phenomena as they appear in consciousness. This involves a process of “bracketing” or “epoch√©,” where the researcher sets aside their assumptions about the phenomena and focuses on describing them objectively.

To carry out descriptive phenomenological research, researchers typically use interviews or other qualitative methods to collect data from participants who have experienced the phenomenon being studied. They then analyze the data using a process called “reduction,” which involves breaking down the data into its essential parts and identifying themes or patterns.

Descriptive phenomenology is often used in healthcare research to understand patients’ experiences of illness or disease. It can also be used in educational research to explore students’ experiences of learning.

Hermeneutic Phenomenology

Hermeneutic phenomenology is an approach that focuses on interpreting subjective experiences within their broader cultural and historical contexts. This approach was developed by Martin Heidegger, a German philosopher who believed that our understanding of ourselves and our world is shaped by our cultural background.

In hermeneutic phenomenology, the researcher acknowledges that their interpretation of the phenomena is influenced by their cultural background, and they strive to understand the subjective experience within its cultural and historical context. This involves a process of “hermeneutic circle,” where the researcher continually moves between the whole and the parts, seeking to understand how the parts fit into the whole.

To carry out hermeneutic phenomenological research, researchers typically use interviews or other qualitative methods to collect data from participants who have experienced the phenomenon being studied. They then analyze the data using a process called “interpretation,” which involves identifying themes or patterns within the data and interpreting them within their broader cultural and historical contexts.

Hermeneutic phenomenology is often used in social science research to explore how people make sense of their experiences within their cultural and historical contexts. It can also be used in organizational research to understand employees’ experiences of working in different organizational cultures.

  • Differences between Descriptive Phenomenology and Hermeneutic Phenomenology

While descriptive phenomenology and hermeneutic phenomenology share some similarities, they have some fundamental differences:

1. Focus: Descriptive phenomenology focuses on describing essential structures of subjective experiences, while hermeneutic phenomenology focuses on interpreting subjective experiences within their broader cultural and historical contexts.

2. Researcher’s role: In descriptive phenomenology, the researcher aims to be objective by suspending preconceptions about the phenomenon being studied. In hermeneutic phenomenology, the researcher acknowledges that their interpretation is influenced by their cultural background.

3. Analysis: In descriptive phenomenology, researchers use a process called reduction to break down data into essential parts and identify themes or patterns. In hermeneutic phenomenology, researchers use a process called interpretation to identify themes or patterns within the data and interpret them within their broader cultural and historical contexts.

  • Conclusion

In summary, descriptive phenomenology and hermeneutic phenomenology are two approaches that aim to understand the essence of subjective experiences. While they share some similarities, they have some fundamental differences in terms of their focus, the researcher’s role, and analysis.

Descriptive phenomenology focuses on describing essential structures of subjective experiences objectively, while hermeneutic phenomenology focuses on interpreting subjective experiences within their broader cultural and historical contexts. Researchers should carefully consider which approach is most appropriate for their research question and objectives.