Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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Husserl, Edmund

core definition

Edmund Husserl was a pioneer of transcendental phenomenology.

explanatory context


analytical review

Sawicki (undated) in the International Encyclopeadia of Philosophy states:

Although not the first to coin the term, it is uncontroversial to suggest that the German philosopher, Edmund Husserl (1859–1938), is the "father" of the philosophical movement known as phenomenology. Phenomenology can be roughly described as the sustained attempt to describe experiences (and the "things themselves") without metaphysical and theoretical speculations. Husserl suggested that only by suspending or bracketing away the "natural attitude" could philosophy becomes its own distinctive and rigorous science, and he insisted that phenomenology is a science of consciousness rather than of empirical things. Indeed, in Husserl’s hands phenomenology began as a critique of both psychologism and naturalism....


New World Encyclopedia contributors (2013):

Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl (8 April 1859–26 April, 1938), philosopher, is known as the "father" of phenomenology, a major philosophical movement in the twentieth century.

Modern philosophy discarded the framework of thought of medieval philosophy which was built upon Christian faith. In the sphere of the theory of knowledge, it meant the refusal of revelation as a source of knowledge and an attempt of validating knowledge by reason and experience. Within the framework of medieval philosophy, the concept of experience included religious experiences as well as sense experiences. Through the shift of the philosophical framework, modern philosophers narrowed down the primary meaning of experience to that of sense experience.

Husserl redefined the concept of experience in the broadest sense, including the religious, mythical, aesthetic, perceptual, linguistic, and bodily sense. For Husserl, phenomenology is a philosophical methodology that allows us to describe the essence of each kind of experience without distortion. The motto of phenomenology, “to the things themselves,” expresses the spirit of phenomenology, which is trying to be a descriptive science that is faithful to the phenomena themselves. After Husserl, phenomenology became a movement and developed in various forms and variations. Problems of modern philosophy and its presuppositions were further exposed by phenomenologists after Husserl and the primacy of sense experience was questioned.

Husserl defined phenomenology as the “science of all sciences,” thereby establishing the objectivity of truth and knowledge against the skepticism and relativism of his days. He criticized two forms of relativism in particular, psychologism and historicism.

For Husserl, consciousness is a rich field where believing, loving, hoping, feeling, willing, imagining, perceiving, sensing, remembering, attending, anticipating, and all other conscious and unconscious acts are performed, and the meaning of objects of these mental acts are disclosed. While positivism, logocentricism, and scientism narrowed and limited the sphere of philosophical research only to the realm that is accessible by physical experiences, logical analyses of language, and mathematical and empirical sciences, Husserl defined philosophy as the study of the entire sphere of human life including social, political, religious, and cultural fields. By restoring and placing traditional questions of philosophy on a new ground of phenomenology, Husserl laid the cornerstone of continental philosophy.

associated issues


related areas

See also

Researching the Real World Section 2.3.1 for detail on Husserl


New World Encyclopedia contributors, 2014, 'Husserl', New World Encyclopedia, last updated 28 March 2014, available at:, accessed 21 May 2017, still available 5 June 2019.

Sawicki, M., undated, 'Edmund Husserl' (1859–1938) in International Encyclopeadia of Philosophy, available at, accessed 22 December 2016, still available 5 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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