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Defining Existential Phenomenology

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: February 25, 2006
Latest Update: February 25, 2006

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Index of Topics on Site Defining Existential Phenomenology
As I tried to get back up to speed with my e-mail, I came across a post on the post-modern therapy list On Emmanuel Levinas. It's been a long time since I read any of this Jewish philosopher's work, so I wandered about on the Web in search of reminders. I came across a delightful website by a young doctoral student in clinical psychology. Having read about his dogs and cats, and his social worker wife, I figured I'd like him, and went on to explore his piece on existential- phenomenology. Now, I know existentialism fairly well, but I could never get John or Alan or Steve to give me an understandable clue to phenomenology, so I thought "Here's my chance."

Brent Dean Robbin's explanations made sense to me. And I thought that several of our advanced undergraduate or graduate students might like the same clarification. What is Existential-Phenomenology?, by Brent Dean Robbins, on his website, Mythos and Logos. Yeah, it was the title of the website that got me. Most of you will recall my empasis on Karen Armstrong's mythos and logos last semester, and I'll be analyzing No Child Left Behind from that perspective this semester.

I suspect that Mr. Robbins will have a different perspective of mythos and logos, but perhaps we can share ideas with him. If you are intrigued by the topic, I suggest you read also his A Brief History of Psychoanalytic Thought -- and Related Theories of Human Existence. Several of the insterspersed links are apparently not up yet, but we should understand that. I'm always trying to catch up with myself, too.

Since Mr. Robbins will undoubtedly be moving on to teach, I have backed up these two links, so that if they get lost one day, you can still refer to them: Backup of What is Existential-Phenomenology and Backup of A Brief History of Psychoanalytic Thought -- and Related Theories of Human Existence.

Careful with the section on existential-phenomenological psychology. I'll come back to this with lecture notes and explanation. But the overall review gives a good picture of psychological outreach to living well. jeanne

Discussion Questions

  1. Up soon. jeanne


  • "The saying, which is a gesture towards infinity, is constantly covered over by the said, which seeks closure. But the possibility of language being other than an empty circulation of signs exists only through the saying, which is a moment of complete exposure and vulnerability. Also in Otherwise, the disruption of the self which characterises the ethical encounter in Totality and Infinity is pushed to an even deeper level, which finally issues into "substitution" - a situation in which the subject finds itself as "hostage", held in place of another. This constitutes a 'reversal of subjectivity' - not into "nothingness", which is still part of the ontological totality of being/not being, but into the otherwise than being." (Emily Brooker Langston, St. John's College, Annapolis. "Emmanuel Levinas" The Literary Encyclopedia, 26th Aug 2004 To this passage, Nick Drury added the following question: "Now my question is, is this welcoming of Other, the moment "of complete exposure and vulnerability", the same act that Acceptance and Commitment Therapy talks about in its move to acceptance and mindfulness?" and asked for thoughts on this one.

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This explanation didn't help me much, but it's a starting place, if you're curious. jeanne

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