What Is the Meaning of Hermeneutical Phenomenology?


Vincent White

Hermeneutical phenomenology is a philosophical approach that combines the methods of hermeneutics and phenomenology. This approach aims to understand the meaning of human experiences and actions by exploring their underlying structures.

What is Hermeneutics?

Hermeneutics is the study of interpretation and understanding, particularly in relation to texts. It seeks to uncover the meaning behind a text by examining its context, language, and cultural background. Hermeneutics assumes that meaning is not fixed but rather emerges from a dynamic process of interpretation.

What is Phenomenology?

Phenomenology is a philosophical method that focuses on describing the subjective experience of consciousness. It aims to capture the essence of human experience by suspending preconceived notions and examining phenomena as they appear in consciousness. Phenomenology assumes that we can only understand reality through our own subjective experiences.

How does Hermeneutical Phenomenology Work?

Hermeneutical phenomenology combines these two approaches by applying the principles of hermeneutics to phenomenological analysis. It involves examining subjective experiences in their cultural context and interpreting them through a process of dialogue between the interpreter and the interpreted.

The Key Features of Hermeneutical Phenomenology:

1. Suspension of Preconceptions

Hermeneutical phenomenology requires a suspension of preconceptions when analyzing subjective experiences. This means bracketing off any assumptions or biases that may interfere with understanding.

2. Interpretation as Dialogue

Interpretation in hermeneutical phenomenology is seen as a dialogue between the interpreter and the interpreted. The interpreter seeks to understand the meaning behind an experience by engaging with it in an empathetic way.

3. Contextualization

Contextualization is crucial in hermeneutical phenomenology. The interpreter must examine the cultural, historical, and social context in which a subjective experience occurs in order to understand its meaning.

4. Emphasis on Subjectivity

Hermeneutical phenomenology places a strong emphasis on subjectivity. It acknowledges that our experiences are shaped by our own perspectives and that understanding is always mediated through our own consciousness.


In conclusion, hermeneutical phenomenology is an approach that seeks to understand the meaning behind human experiences and actions. By combining the principles of hermeneutics and phenomenology, it provides a framework for interpreting subjective experiences in their cultural context. Its emphasis on suspension of preconceptions, interpretation as dialogue, contextualization, and subjectivity make it a powerful tool for understanding the complexities of human experience.