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  A continental European philosophy which is founded on the importance of reflecting on the ways in which the world is made available for intellectual inquiry: this means that it pays particular attention to the active, creative function of language in making the world intelligible. One of phenomenology\'s main concerns is \'to disclose the world as it shows itself before scientific inquiry, as that which is pre-given and presupposed by the sciences\' (Pickles, 1985; emphases added). As such, phenomenology provides a powerful critique of positivism, which disavows any such reflection as meaningless metaphysics and, by virtue of its commitment to empiricism, assumes that there is no need to say anything at all about the preconceptions on which its various objectifications depend. Against this, phenomenology claims that \'observation\' and \'objectification\' are never the simple exercises which conventional forms of science assume them to be (cf. abstraction). Indeed, it rejects any assumption of the separation of subject (\'the observer\') and object (\'the observed\'), and insists instead that \'we exist primordially not as subjects manipulating objects in the external, “real”, physical world, but as beings in, alongside and toward the world\' (Pickles, 1985; cf. existentialism).

This contradicts our seemingly commonsensical views, but that is precisely the point. Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), one of the principal architects of phenomenology, called these common-sense views the natural attitude, by which he meant a set of views in which the possibility of cognition is simply taken for granted. For Husserl, the task of a truly rigorous and radical philosophy was to interrogate the natural attitude in order to show \'from what perspective things in the world are taken by the sciences and how the objects of each science are constituted\' (Pickles, 1985). Husserl argued that this intrinsically critical examination could be achieved through an act of pure philosophical reflection which he called the epoché, or the \'phenomenological reduction\' (see Johnson, 1983). This method involves:

{img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } suspending one\'s taken-for-granted presuppositions; {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } reflecting \'not upon the objects of our perception but on the way in which they are originally given … [on] the way in which we grasp the corresponding experiences\' (Pickles, 1985) (Husserl called these experiences phenomena); and {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } disclosing the very essence (eidé) of the phenomena.Seen in this way, phenomen-ology becomes an eidetic science — not only a critique of positivism (Entrikin, 1976) but also an alternative to it (Gregory, 1978) — and it is in this double sense that phenomenology attracted the attention of many human geographers in the 1970s and 1980s. Phenomenology\'s central purpose is to establish, through the disclosure of \'essences\', what Husserl called regional ontologies (see ontology), in other words to \'ground\' the thematic frameworks of the various empirical sciences by revealing the really essential nature of the objects and concepts which constitute their empirical domains (cf. pragmatism):

The purpose of a regional ontology is to describe the domain of entities appropriate to that science. This purpose is achieved through an ontological description of the a priori theoretical framework posited by a science when it engages in empirical work. Such a description lays out precisely the origin, the meaning and the functions of the concepts, principles and methods of a particular framework which has been assumed before that science can establish facts, develop hypotheses, or build theory. (Christensen, 1982)This makes it necessary to distinguish between:

(a) descriptive phenomenology, which deals with the \'essential structures\' underlying and governing the facts of the various empirical sciences — with \'the a priori framework of meaning adopted by a particular empirical science\'; and(b) transcendental phenomenology, which deals with the \'essential structures\' of intentionality itself — with \'that realm which gives rise to the possibility of scientific reflection in the first place\' (Pickles, 1985).In human geography, however, the distinctions between (a) and (b) were often erased. Readings of Husserl were frequently closed around his transcendental phenomenology and, much more seriously, misrepresented to underwrite a patently \'subjectivist\' critique of spatial science. To reinstate descriptive phenomenology is not to arrive at subjective constructions of \'the world naively given\':

We do not arrive at \'phenomenological description\' of everyday activities such as going to the mailbox [cf. Seamon, 1979]. Descriptive phenomenology provides us with formal and abstract universal structures through methodically conscious performance of the eidetic reduction. (Pickles, 1985)As an empirical science then, clearly, human geography is susceptible to interrogation by descriptive phenomenology: to the clarification of what Relph (1970) called \'the phenomenological basis of geography\' through a systematic reflection on \'the elements and notions which characterize the nature of an entity within its empirical domain\'. It is through procedures of this sort, in fact, that Pickles (1985) sought \'to retrieve two basic concepts of geographic concern — place and space — for a viable and vital regional ontology of the geographical, on the grounds of which geographical inquiry as a human science of the world can be explicitly founded\' (see spatiality).

But what about those \'everyday activities\' (above)? Christensen (1982) claimed that:

The descriptive component of given human science cannot guarantee that the theoretical framework of meaning employed by the empirical component is adequate and relevant to the lived world. This can be guaranteed only by an interpretive component to science which accounts critically for the meanings held by the agents in their lived world. (emphases added)Indeed, Husserl himself once complained that the scientist \'does not make it clear to himself that the constant foundation of his admittedly subjective thinking activity is the environing world of life. This latter is constantly presupposed as the basic working area, in which alone his questions and his methodology make sense.\' And again: \'The sciences build upon the life-world as taken-for-granted in that they make use of whatever in it happens to be necessary for their particular ends. But to use the life-world in this way is not to know it scientifically in its own manner of being\' (Husserl, 1954). According to Pickles (1985), however, the task of phenomenology is to clarify the universal and general structure of the lifeworld — what he calls the \'universal a priori of the lifeworld\' — and not, \'contrary to the claims of much “geographical phenomenology”, [to] be a capturing of the everyday lifeworld as it is lived\'.

Others disagreed with this objective and insisted upon the importance of the \'interpretative component\' identified by Christensen (1982). She associated the interpretative, above all, with the writings of Alfred Schutz, whose ideas \'align more comfortably with the tradition of Heidegger than with the tradition of Husserl\', but which are also indebted to Weber\'s interpretative sociology (see Gorman, 1977). This necessitates a further distinction: (c) constitutive phenomenology, which deals with the structures of social meaning — with frames of reference and systems of typification — which constitute the \'multiple realities\' embedded in the lifeworld.

It is only in this context that it makes sense to speak of \'a plurality of worlds\' (Relph, 1970; see also Tuan, 1971). It was certainly not Husserl\'s intention to license \'a multiplicity of different frames of reference; on the contrary, he made it perfectly clear that the purpose of the epoché, was to ensure that the world could be \'identically reconstituted in each individual through a similar reflective procedure\' (Gregory, 1978). Insofar as Husserl\'s supposed \'preoccupation with the individual\' was contrasted with the \'fundamentally social\' focus of Schutz (Jackson, 1981), then constitutive phenomenology informed — Pickles (1985) would say \'misinformed\' — several studies in humanistic geography. \'Rather than stressing experiences\', Relph (1981) observed, such \'phenomenological studies can emphasize the phenomena of the geographical lifeworld\'. This is not how Husserl understood \'experiences\' and \'phenomena\' (see above), and when Relph cites as examples his own Place and placelessness (1976) and Tuan\'s Space and place (1977) it should be noted that neither of these texts draws upon Husserl at all. In the course of the 1970s and 1980s other studies moved still further beyond \'the letter of the phenomenological law\' to explore the dynamism of the lifeworld (Buttimer, 1976) and the constitution of the taken-for-granted world in ways which directly intersected with structuration theory and symbolic interactionism (Ley, 1977; Warf, 1986).

In the 1990s, however, other human geographers returned not only to Husserl but also (rather more emphatically) to the writings of Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) to offer critical readings of the concepts of space and spatiality embedded within the phenomenological tradition (Schatzki, 1991; Strohmayer, 1998). It is noticeable that these readings are much more sensitive to the play of power within the phenomenological tradition: Heidegger\'s own political sympathies have been the subject of considerable debate, and so too have the political implications of his ideas about \'dwelling\', place and space (cf. Harvey, 1996, pp. 299-304, 313-16). (DG)

References Buttimer, A. 1976: Grasping the dynamism of the lifeworld. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 66: 277-92. Christensen, K. 1982: Geography as a human science: a philosophic critique of the positivist-humanist split. In P. Gould and G. Olsson, eds, A search for common ground. London: Pion, 37-57. Entrikin, J.N. 1976: Contemporary humanism in geography. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 66: 615-32. Gorman, R.A. 1977: The dual vision: Alfred Schutz and the myth of phenomenological social science. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Gregory, D. 1978: The discourse of the past: phenomenology, structuralism and historical geography. Journal of Historical Geography 4: 161-73. Harvey, D. 1996: Justice, nature and the geography of difference. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Husserl, E. 1954: The crisis of European sciences and transcendental phenomenology. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Jackson, P. 1981: Phenomenology and social geography. Area 13: 299-305. Johnson, L. 1983: Bracketing lifeworlds: Husserlian phenomenology as geographical method. Australian Geographical Studies 21: 102-8. Ley, D. 1977: Social geography and the taken-for-granted world. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 2: 498-512. Pickles, J. 1985: Phenomenology, science and geography: spatiality and the human sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Relph, E. 1970: An inquiry into the relations between phenomenology and geography. Canadian Geographer 14: 193-201. Relph, E. 1976: Place and placelessness. London: Pion. Relph, E. 1981: Phenomenology. In M.E. Harvey and B.P. Holly, eds, Themes in geography thought. London: Croom Helm. New York: St. Martin\'s Press; Schatzki, T. 1991: Spatial ontology and explanation. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 81: 650-70. Seamon, D. 1979: A geography of the life-world. London: Croom Helm; New York: St. Martin\'s Press; Strohmayer, U. 1998: The event of space: geographic allusions in the phenomenological tradition. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 16: 105-22. Tuan, Y.-F. 1971: Geography, phenomenology and the study of human nature. Canadian Geographer 15: 181-92. Tuan, Y.-F. 1977: Space and place. London: Edward Arnold; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Warf, B. 1986: Ideology, everyday life and emancipatory phenomenology. Antipode 18: 268-83.

Suggested Reading Christensen (1982). Pickles (1985). Schatzki (1991).



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