What Is the Difference Between Existentialism and Phenomenology?

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Martha Robinson

Existentialism and Phenomenology are two distinct philosophical movements that emerged in the 20th century. While both approaches share some similarities, they differ in their basic tenets, methodology, and scope of inquiry. In this article, we will explore the key differences between Existentialism and Phenomenology.

Existentialism

Existentialism is a philosophical approach that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, choice, and subjective experience. According to existentialists, human beings are unique because they have the capacity to create their own meaning and purpose in life. Existentialists reject the notion of objective truth or universal values and instead focus on personal authenticity and individual responsibility.

One of the key themes of Existentialism is angst or anxiety. Existentialists argue that individuals experience anxiety when they confront the fundamental questions of life such as death, freedom, and meaninglessness. The response to anxiety is to embrace one’s freedom and create meaning in life through authentic choices.

Existentialism has had a significant impact on various fields such as literature, psychology, and theology.

Phenomenology

Phenomenology is a philosophical approach that focuses on subjective experience or consciousness. According to phenomenologists, human beings do not perceive objects directly but rather through our perception of them. Phenomenology seeks to describe this perception without making any judgments about its objective reality.

Phenomenologists believe that consciousness is intentional; it always has an object or content. They also argue that consciousness is always directed towards something in the world rather than being isolated from it.

One of the key themes of Phenomenology is bracketing or epoch√©. This involves suspending one’s assumptions about reality in order to describe it more accurately. Through bracketing, phenomenologists aim to uncover the essential structures of consciousness.

Phenomenology has had a significant impact on various fields such as psychology, sociology, and cognitive science.

Differences between Existentialism and Phenomenology

While both Existentialism and Phenomenology focus on subjective experience, they differ in their approach and scope. The main differences between these two philosophical movements are:

  • Existentialism emphasizes individual existence, freedom, and choice while Phenomenology emphasizes subjective experience or consciousness.
  • Existentialism rejects objective truth or universal values while Phenomenology seeks to uncover the essential structures of consciousness.
  • Existentialism focuses on personal authenticity and responsibility while Phenomenology seeks to describe consciousness without judgment.
  • Existentialism has had a significant impact on literature, psychology, and theology while Phenomenology has had a significant impact on psychology, sociology, and cognitive science.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, Existentialism and Phenomenology are two distinct philosophical approaches that have contributed significantly to our understanding of human experience. While both approaches share some similarities such as their focus on subjective experience, they differ in their basic tenets, methodology, and scope of inquiry. Understanding the differences between these two philosophical movements can help us appreciate the diversity of human thought and enrich our own perspectives on life.