Supplementary Handout
for MacLennan's Lecture in
US 410: Perspectives on Creativity

This supplementary handout is intended to help you understand chs. 6 & 8 of Ihde's Experimental Phenomenology. Phenomenology is notoriously hard to read, partly because of the need to name things that are not named in ordinary language. In fact, since these selections are especially difficult at the beginning, I would suggest reading them twice; they should make a lot more sense when you see where he is going.

The following glossary should help your comprehension. Note however that I have not given the most general definitions of these terms, only definitions relevant to Ihde's book.

You might want to begin by reading Phenomenology and then look up the other terms as the need arises.

Glossary of Phenomenological Terms

A judgement as to how well a phenomenological analysis has been verified; phenomenological verification is based on fulfillment, in which a less evident conscious process is fulfilled and clarified by a more evident one. For example, seeing the multiple possibilities inherent in a noema is more adequate than seeing only a single possibility, but the adequacy of the multiple possibilities is built on the apodicticity of the individual possibilities (i.e., we must be able to repeat the experience of each possibility). Thus the foundation of adequacy is apodicticity.
Apodictic (ap-o-DIK-tic):
Something is apodictic when we can return to it again and again to fufill the experiential claim concerning seeing the thing as this or that (after Ihde). Loosely, a repeatable experience.
The field in which a thing necessarily appears and to which it is strictly related. It is "the nexus of objects and objective sense explicitly posited along with any object" (Runes). There are no "things-in-themselves," i.e. separate from a background.
"[T]he process of thinking away the natural interpretation of an experience in order to concentrate on its intrinsic nature or phenomenology" (Blackburn).
Curved Line Example:
[curved line illusion]
Deconstruction, Phenomenological:
Seeks "to approximate the topography inherent in the noema" (Ihde), that is, to analyze a phenomenon into its possible modes of appearance, by mean of the variational method. This is referred to as a possibilization of the phenomenon. See also Reconstruction.
Eidetic (eye-DET-ic):
Concerned with the structures or invariants ("essences") of appearances (phenomena) as opposed to the appearances themselves.
Empirical Order of Possibilities:
The normal order in which possibilites are experienced, generallly from the easier and more stable to the harder and less stable.
Epochê (eh-po-KAY or eh-po-KEE):
Suspension of the natural attitude; "to suspend or step back from our ordinary way of looking, to set aside our usual assumptions regarding things" (Ihde 32). Essentially the same as bracketing.
Gestalt (geh-SHTALT):
An organized whole, in which the parts "derive their character from the structure of the whole" (Runes). In this way an experience may derive its character from the context, interpretation etc. See also Hermeneutic.
The ordinary and naive view that certain context-independent facts are given to us by the world.
Hallway Example:
[abstract hallway image]
Hermeneutic (her-men-YOO-tic):
Referring to the process of interpretation (see also Strategies of Interpretation). Understanding a particular element of a whole can only be done in the context of all its elements, but understanding the whole depends on understanding that element; this is the hermeneutic circle. See also Gestalt.
Hermeneutic Strategy:
Interpretive strategy that uses stories and metaphorical naming to create a noetic context, but what stands out is a noematic possibility; how it occurs is irrelevant. Less technically, using a story or metaphor causes a gestalt-shift that allows something to be seen differently (seen as something different from what it was). The strategy is a way of causing a shift of perspective to reveal a possibility hidden beyond the inner horizon of something. Contrasted with the transcendental strategy.
The indistinct border, fringe or limit of the visual field or, more generally, of any field of awareness. See also Inner Horizon.
Inner Horizon (or Internal Horizon):
The horizon within a thing, which separates what is manifest or apparent about it (e.g. the side of a book being viewed) from a latent field of possibilities (the parts of the book not being viewed).
Directedness of consciousness towards its objects (content); the "directional shape of experience" (Ihde). Intentionality should be carefully distinguished from intention in the ordinary sense of our intending to do something.
Natural Attitude:
Our ordinary attitude toward the world and experience of it when we are engaged in everyday activities rather than phenomenology; it is primarily constituted of sedimented beliefs; thus we speak of the recalcitrance of the natural attitude. Contrasted with the phenomenological attitude.
Noema (no-AY-ma or no-EE-ma; pl. Noemata, no-e-MA-ta):
What is experienced as something with sense, something present to consciousness. See also Noesis.
Noematic (no-e-MAT-ic):
Referring to noemata.
Noesis (no-AY-sis or no-EE-sis):
How a thing is experienced or present to conscious. The noetic (referring to noesis) and the noematic (referring to noema) are two sides of the same experience; neither can exist without the other. Their relation can be represented by this diagram (after Ihde):
I : noesis -> noema
experiencer : experiencing -> experienced
Noetic (no-ET-ic):
Referring to noesis.
Openness (Open Noetic Context):
Active search for all the possibilites in the noema, seeking its topographic possibilities.
Phenomenon (pl. Phenomena):
Anything that appears in experience (consciousness), whether perceived, remembered, imagined, etc.
The study of the invariant structure of phenomena. One of its primary tools is variational method. The discipline of phenomenology used in Idhe's book was developed primarily by Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), but also by Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-61) and Martin Heidegger (1889-1976).
Having many shapes or forms; more generally, able to appear in various ways. These are its topographical possibilities.
Praxis (PRAK-sis):
Goal-directed activity; practice as opposed to theory.
A resedimenting of the open noetic context, as a tool of eidetic investigation. See also Deconstruction.
Relating to the act of reference, by which one thing refers to another.
Sediment (Sedimented Beliefs, Sedimentation etc.):
Beliefs acquired and absorbed from the cultural environment, and often consolidated in early life, but also later, which are consequently difficult to abandon or set aside, even temporarily. They are generally an invisible part of the background context in the natural attitude (and in fact determine the natural attitude), but may be exposed through phenomenology.
Seeing As:
When we see something, we see it as something. Thus we may see a rock and see it as just a rock, or we may see it as a hammer (if that suits our purposes), or see it as a chair, etc. Seeing-as is normally automatic and instantaneous, i.e., we do not first experience raw sense data, and then see it as something.
Strategies of Interpretation:
Ihde discusses two strategies, the hermeneutic strategy and the transcendental strategy.
Topography (Topographical Possibilities):
All the different ways of seeing or modes of appearance of something; the possibilities inherent in the noema.
Transcendental Strategy:
Interpretive strategy that centers on the subject and the way he or she perceives something and that relies on knowledge of the mechanisms of perception; the perceiver controls the act of perception, for example, by shifting focus or perspective. This strategy emphasizes the process, that is the noetic as opposed to the noematic pole of the experience. Contrasted with the hermeneutic strategy. The hermeneutic strategy is usually easier, but the transcendental strategy permits more systematic phenomenological investigation.
Variational Method:
One of the main tools of phenomenology. One seeks for what is invariant in a phenomenon under all possible variations, thus revealing the structure ("essence") of a phenomenon. In other words, the variational method explores the topography of a phenomenon, by looking for what is potentially present in a noema. Interpretive strategies may be used to reveal variations.


Unless otherwise noted, the definitions are my own, based on Ihde.

  1. Blackburn, Simon. Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford University Press, 1994.

  2. Ihde, Don. Experimental Phenomenology: An Introduction. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1977.

  3. Runes, Dagobert D. The Dictionary of Philosophy. Philosophical Library, n.d. (especially good for Husserlian philosophy)

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Last updated: Mon Mar 27 12:42:28 EST 2000