(noun) A philosophy and research method that studies experienced events and objects using the senses.

Example: Exploring the natural environment and language through a phenomenological lens such as David Abram (1957) did in The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (1996).

Audio Pronunciation: (phe·nom·e·nol·o·gy)

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Usage Notes:

  • Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) developed phenomenology as a philosophical method of inquiry building on the work of previous scholars, particularly Enlightenment philosophers such as Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), Emmanuel Levinas (1906–1995),  Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1905 –1961), and Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980) studied aspects of phenomenology.
  • Alfred Schütz (1899–1959), a student of Husserl developed phenomenological sociology (also called social phenomenology) which merged phenomenology with the study of social relations in The Phenomenology of the Social World (1932).
  • Peter Berger (1929) and Thomas Luckman (1927) in The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (1966), an oft studied and debated book, provides an overview of phenomenological sociology.
  • A (noun) phenomenologist attempts to know the world (adverb) phenomologically by interpreting the world though (adjective) phenomenological or (adjective) phenomenologic or (adjective) phenomenolistic lenses

Related Quotations:

  • “In a society that accords priority to that which is predictable and places a premium on certainty, our spontaneous, preconceptual experience, when acknowledged at all, is referred to as “merely subjective.” The fluid realm of direct experience has come to be seen as a secondary, derivative dimension, a consequence of events unfolding in the “realer” world of quantifiable and measurable scientific “facts” (Abram 1996:34).
  • “Phenomenology, as [Edmund Husserl] articulated it in the early 1900s, would turn toward “the things themselves,” toward the world as it is experienced in its felt immediacy. Unlike the mathematics-based sciences, phenomenology would seek not to explain the world, but to describe as closely as possible the way the world makes itself evident to awareness, the way things first arise in the our direct, sensorial experience. By thus returning to the taken-for-granted realm of subjective experience, not to explain it but simply to pay attention to its rhythms and textures, not to capture or control it but simply to become familiar with its diverse modes of appearance—and ultimately to give voice to its enigmatic and ever-shifting patterns—phenomenology would articulate the ground of the other sciences (Abram 1996:35).

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 



Abram, David. 1996. The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. New York: Pantheon Books.


Works Consulted

Dillon, Michele. 2014. Introduction to Sociological Theory: Theorists, Concepts, and their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Ferrante, Joan. 2011. Seeing Sociology: An Introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Macmillan. (N.d.) Macmillan Dictionary. (

Marsh, Ian, and Mike Keating, eds. 2006. Sociology: Making Sense of Society. 3rd ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Merriam-Webster. (N.d.) Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (

O’Leary, Zina. 2007. The Social Science Jargon Buster: the Key Terms You Need to Know. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (

Stewart, Paul, and Johan Zaaiman, eds. 2015. Sociology: A Concise South African Introduction. Cape Town: Juta.

Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (


How to Cite the Definition of Phenomenology

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “phenomenology.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved December 14, 2018 (

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

phenomenology. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “phenomenology.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed December 14, 2018.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“phenomenology.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 14 Dec. 2018. <>.