What’s So Hard about Phenomenology?

December 17, 2013

Buddha Behind Bars - Roppongi, Oct. 24, 2013

Buddha Behind Bars – Roppongi, Oct. 24, 2013 (Enlarge) See also the same Buddha behind Glass.

Can anyone give me a brief, concrete definition of phenomenology? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy just revised its entry on phenomenology, so that’s what I’m looking at now, but I admit this all looks pretty confusing to me. Here’s what I could figure out just from the first paragraph:

  1. It’s the first-person view of consciousness.
  2. It’s about intentionality.
  3. Somehow experiences have content or meaning, or they represent something, depending on the environment.

Couldn’t we get more specific? More concrete? When you study phenomenology, what are you actually studying? I mean, what part of the human body are you looking at? What physical phenomenon?

Here’s my attempt at a simple, concrete explanation:

Phenomenology is all about nerve impulses as they flow from your sensory nerve endings into your brain. Phenomenology is the explanation of how the raw sensory input gets turned into mental images, ideas and feelings.

And here’s a suggestion about phenomenology, like a quick rule of thumb that I call “Whether-Where-When.” I think the brain only gets three kinds of information from the outside world:

This suggests there aren’t really any images in the brain, and we don’t really know from our physical senses about any objects in the world. Instead, we build images and ideas in our minds using just the three types of information above.

There’s a bit more of this kind of discussion here. I’d sure be glad if some smart people gave me their reactions and constructive ideas about this.