Is phenomenological psychology interpretive?Mar 27th, 2019 | By Marc Applebaum | Category: Research
I recorded this short talk in response to psychology students who asked “What does “interpretation” mean in phenomenological research?” Merleau-Ponty makes a critical distinction in the first pages of the Phenomenology of Perception between explicitation (making the implicit explicit) and expliquer (explaining).
A bit more of the passage in Merleau-Ponty that I’m reading from is:
“…all of [Heidegger’s] Sein und Zeit emerges from Husserl’s suggestion, and in the end is nothing more than a making explicit of the ‘natürlichen Weltbegriff’ [natural concept of the world] or the ‘Lebenswelt‘ [life-world] that Husserl, toward the end of his life, presented as the fundamental theme of phenomenology….” (Donald Landes’ 2012 translation, p lxxi)
My aim in the talk was to free up students for the full range of imaginative variation as they discover meaning in interview data. I’m seeking to do this by helping them drop an overly simplistic and pejorative concept of “interpretation.”
Abstaining from theory-laden interpretation during data analysis allows the given to stand out just as it presents itself to the particular research position we have adopted. Withholding ourselves from imposing theoretical or quasi-theoretical explanation upon the data allows us to progressively render explicit the psychological meanings that are already-present in the participant’s narrative, but implicitly so. Such a research position is both descriptive and cognizant of the interpretive stance we are taking by adopting an empathic, psychological-scientific stance in relation to the Other’s already-meaningful experience.