‘The new image of the person‘ by Peter Koestenbaum – Philosophical background Part 1

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The focus is to establish the theoretical foundations for humanistic psychology and existentialism.

The fields of Phenomenology

1. Phenomenology as method

2. Descriptive, empirical phenomenology which has two subdivisions: cosmology and anthropology (when phenomenology is used to describe the human condition), also called existentialism or existential personality theory.

3. Transcendental phenomenology, or phenomenological ontology: phenomenology as a description of pure consciousness.

Scientific character of phenomenology

Phenomenology allows us to be both scientific and subjective at the same time.

– Scientific fact: precise fact

– Phenomenological fact: fringe fact

Phenomenology makes possible a scientific approach to the subjective study of the person.

The meaning of the scientific character of phenomenology can be compressed in two propositions:

– descriptions that are poetic and intuitive, introspective and metaphoric, are of the same logical form as traditional scientific descriptions and mesurements

– to observe our acts of observation or our inner consciousness is not different from observing distant galaxies

Three types of facts

A: scientific data

Are the experiences of structure, assimilated and managed by the left part of the brain. Make the world appear discrete.

B: poetic data

Are the experiences of process, make the world appear continuous, are processed by the left hemisphere of the brain. Are also objects, but amorphous, not limited.

C: consciousness itself

Consists of transcendental data, not objects but pure subjectivity Are revealed by performing the transcendental phenomenological reduction and focusing attention on the act of focusing itself. Unique. There is only one consciousness and therefore there is only one transcendental datum It is either described accurately or not, there is no room for inductive procedures to cast doubt on the integrity of other and similar data.

Phenomenology as method

How to proceed.


All knowledge begins with first-person experience. The idea of objectivity itself is an invention of subjectivity. Phenomenology is the fearless development of this idea.


Description of that first-person experience, to catalog the data.


The description of the first-person experience must be presuppositionless. We don’t eliminate assumptions but we become aware of them.

An example of assumption denied by phenomenology is the cartesian dualism mind\body.


It’s the applying the presuppositionless description of first-person experience to the activity of knowledge itself.

What does our phenomenological description tell us about the structure of knowledge?

– Bracket, or to thematize: is to take a phenomenon out of the stream of experience and examine it in isolation.

– Reduction: to reflect on experience rather than to participate in it. Stepping back out of involvement.

The act of reduction introduces abstract thought into human experience.

Additional terminology

Referential thought

Is consciousness directed outward, referring to objects in the sense in which a word refers to its meaning.

Reflexive thinking

Is consciousness turned back upon itself. It’s self-referential, it is an act of self-consciousness. We can produce it at will, it’s a permanent possibility of human nature.

The capacity of reflexive thinking is the key that unlocks the door to transcendental phenomenology.

Transcendental Phenomenology

Exploration of the structure of pure consciousness as that consciousness is given to us in the here-and-now.

–> When the method of phenomenology is used to describe our consciousness it becomes transcendental phenomenology.


Is the tradition that holds all knowledge is derived from experience, and denies the existence of a priori knowledge.

Phenomenology endorse the empiricism and extends it to cover the transcendental zone. We can describe the structure of pure consciousness through successive applications of the phenomenological reduction, when we describe that region we are extending the principle of empiricism.

A reflexive observation of the zone of transcendental subjectivity is called transcendental empiricism.

Intentionality and the Field of Consciousness

The fundamental structure of being is the intentionality of consciousness.

Being consists of three elements:

– Subject: ego

– Object: cogitatum

– The connection between them: cogito

By recognizing that cogitatum is an integral part of the perceptual process, phenomenology has transcended the subject-object split.

Archetypal Decisions

The world as it appears to us is the constitution imposed by consciousness upon the data of experience. Since all constitutions are constructions of consciousness and in theory changeable, they are called decisions.

–> Our world organization is our own responsibility.

Archetypal decisions are the most basic of all (ex. individuality, identity).

Primary archetypal decision is the decision for finitude. Related archetypal are the decision for personal identity, embodiment, scientific outlook, affirmation, morality, sexual role identification.

Clinical philosophy leads the patient past his\her psychological foundations straight to these archetypal regions.


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