On the Future of Phenomenological Sociology
Applied phenomenology is one of the fields in which the phenomenology
of the 21st century has to advance. This paper will deal with the
possibility of developing applied phenomenology with respect to
phenomenological sociology. There have been some debates on
phenomenological sociology in the second half of the 20th century. In
1965, Tiryakian proposed a list of phenomenological sociology that
includes the different aspects of sociology developed by Viedrkandt,
Mannheim, Gurwitsch, Scheler, Weber, Durkheim, Thomas, and Parsons. (1
Some scholars such as Kolaja, Berger, Heap/Roth have criticized
Tiryakian’s view, and Tiryakian himself attempted to defend his
no agreements have been reached in regard to the proper definition of
phenomenological sociology. Heap/Roth proposed another list of
phenomenological sociology that includes hermeneutic sociology,
Schutzian sociology, reflective sociology, and ethno-methodology. By
assessing these debates, I will attempt to clarify what
phenomenological sociology is about and furthermore to show that there
are abundant possibilities of developing it.
2. Even though Tiryakian and his critics have contributed a great deal
for the clarification of phenomenological sociology, their researches
have fundamental limitation that have prevented them from understanding
the proper meaning of phenomenological sociology. Focusing mainly on
empirical sociology, most of them did not attempt to clarify the field
of phenomenological sociology with respect to the general context of
phenomenology as a whole. To understand the proper meaning of
phenomenological sociology, one, however, has to take into account the
whole context of phenomenology in which phenomenological sociology
takes a place. Concerning this context, we have to pay attention to the
two following facts. First, Husserl conceives of phenomenology as an
organic whole that is comprised of not only the various dimensions of
the philosophical phenomenology such as the transcendental
phenomenology, formal ontology, and regional ontology, but also of
empirical science that is founded on the philosophical phenomenology in
various ways. Second, phenomenological sociology could be developed on
the various dimensions of phenomenology, namely on the dimension of the
transcendental phenomenology, that of regional ontology, and that of
empirical science, since the sociological facts could be investigated
on three different dimensions of phenomenology mentioned above.
(However, we cannot develop phenomenological sociology on the dimension
of formal ontology, since formal ontology is a formal science that is
empty in its contents.) Correspondingly, we have to make a distinction
among three different dimensions of phenomenological sociology: the
dimension of the transcendental phenomenological sociology, that of the
ontological phenomenological sociology, and that of the empirical
empirical phenomenological sociology is a kind of empirical science
and, as empirical science in general aiming to describe and to explain
various kinds of empirical facts, it attempts to describe and explain
the sociological facts in terms of empirical facts.
ontological phenomenological sociology is a kind of regional ontology,
and as regional ontology in general aiming to clarify the essential
structures of the facts, it seeks to elucidate the essential structures
of sociological facts.
transcendental phenomenological sociology is a kind of transcendental
phenomenology and, as transcendental phenomenology in general aiming to
clarify the condition of the possibility of something, it
attempts to explicate the condition of the possibility for the
constitution of sociological facts.
3. These three dimensions of phenomenological sociology are called
phenomenological, insofar as they use the various kinds of the
phenomenological method. But they do not need the same kind; rather
they need different kinds of phenomenological method.
order to develop the empirical phenomenological sociology, we have to
carry out, first of all, the sociological phenomenological reduction.
The sociological phenomenological reduction is the method that enables
us to go back to the sociological facts as empirical ones. From the
phenomenological point of view, various kinds of sociological fact are
the products of intentionalities. Therefore, in order to clarify the
sociological facts, one has to go back to the various kinds of
intentionalities. In fact, Husserl developed the phenomenological
method, namely the method of phenomenological psychological reduction, (3) to go back to the intentionalities. In this sense, the sociological
phenomenological reduction is the variation of the phenomenological
psychological reduction, namely the phenomenological psychological
reduction applied to the sociological facts. The ethno-methodological
reduction used by some proponents of ethono-methodology is a kind of
sociological phenomenological reduction. Various kinds of the
sociological phenomenological reduction should be elaborated, since
there are different kinds of sociological fact that have different
ontological structures. For example, the sociological phenomenological
reduction required for ethno-methodology should be distinguished from
the requirement for sociology of knowledge.
order to establish the ontological phenomenological sociology, we have
to carry out the sociological phenomenological reduction first, and
then the eidetic reduction must be added. The eidetic reduction is a
necessary component of the method in the ontological phenomenological
sociology, since the latter aims to clarify the essential structure
instead of the empirical structure of the sociological facts.
order to develop the transcendental phenomenological sociology, we have
to perform the transcendental phenomenological reduction and eidetic
reduction. The transcendental phenomenological reduction as the method
of transcendental phenomenological sociology aims to grasp the
plurality of transcendental subjectivity that provides the condition of
the possibility for the constitution of various kinds of sociological
fact. We have to examine which of the various kinds of the
transcendental phenomenological reductions developed by Husserl are
relevant for this purpose. The transcendental phenomenological
sociology is a kind of essential science, and the method of eidetic
reduction is an essential component of its method.
4. We have to lay emphasis on the fact that the essential
characteristic of phenomenological sociology is the explicit or
implicit use of the various kinds of the phenomenological methods.
Phenomenological sociology is distinguished from those concepts of
sociology that do not use the method of the phenomenological reduction
at all. Therefore, it is distinguished from those concepts of sociology
that are bound up with natural science or are quantitatively oriented.
The distinction between the phenomenological and the
non-phenomenological sociology should be dealt with in more detail.
Some scholars participated in the debates on
phenomenological sociology also consider the use of the
phenomenological method to be the essential characteristic of
phenomenological sociology. However, they do not make a clear
distinction among different kinds of the phenomenological reduction.
Most of them simply assume that there might be only one kind of the
phenomenological reduction, namely the transcendental phenomenological
reduction. According to them, in order to be called phenomenological,
empirical sociology has to use the method of the transcendental
phenomenological reduction. But this position contradicts the basic
tenet of phenomenology. According to phenomenology, science has to
conceive its method of research on the basis of the matters that it is
dealing with, and it should not borrow its method of research from
another science that is dealing with another kind of matter. The
empirical phenomenological sociology could not borrow its method of
research from the transcendental phenomenology, since its proper domain
of matter is not the matter of the transcendental phenomenology. If
empirical sociology uses the method of the transcendental
phenomenological reduction, it becomes an anti-phenomenological
science, since, being totally blind to the empirical sociological
facts, it could not investigate the latter properly.
5. The fact that three different dimensions of phenomenological
sociology have to use different kinds of the phenomenological method
should not motivate one to imagine that they do not have any
relationships with each other. Contrary to what one might believe,
there are foundational relationships among them.
In the debates on phenomenological sociology, most
scholars, implicitly or explicitly, paid attention to the foundational
relationship between the “transcendental phenomenology” and the
“phenomenological sociology.” However, they did not understand the
proper meaning of the foundational relationship in this context.
According to them, the foundational relationship between them implies
that the latter has to use the same method as the former, which
contradicts the basic phenomenological tenet as mentioned above.
Properly speaking, the foundational relationship
between among different dimensions of phenomenological sociology means
something totally different from what they have in mind. For example,
the foundational relationship between the empirical phenomenological
sociology and the ontological phenomenological sociology means that the
former has to be guided by the latter in its method of research. The
reason for this lies in the fact that the essential structures of the
sociological facts clarified by the ontological phenomenological
sociology could give us a norm that has a direct implication for the
research method of empirical phenomenological sociology. In this
context, it should be noted to the fact that “a certain method […] is a
norm which arises from the fundamental regional specificity and the
universal structures of the region in question” (Hua III/1, 161). As
the ontological phenomenological sociology could show, it is the
essence of the sociological fact that it is the product of
intentionalities. In this case, the essence of the sociological fact
could give us a methodological norm for the empirical phenomenological
sociology, namely the norm that the empirical sociology has to use the
sociological phenomenological reduction, because it has to investigate
the sociological facts from the perspective of intentionality. Thus,
the foundational relationship between the empirical phenomenological
sociology and the ontological phenomenological sociology consists in
the fact that the former gets a direction for its method of research
from the latter, it does not mean that the former has to use the same
method as the latter.
As shown above, the foundational relationships among
three dimensions of phenomenological sociology are much more
complicated than one might imagine. That is, the transcendental
phenomenological foundation means something other than the ontological
foundation. The various kinds of foundational relationship should be
examined in more detail.
6. In order to develop phenomenological sociology systematically, it is
necessary to make a clear distinction among three different dimensions
of phenomenological sociology. However, in the debates on
phenomenological sociology, this distinction has not been investigated
sufficiently. When closely examined, one can see that each dimension of
phenomenological sociology has abundant possibilities to be developed
in various directions.
a. The empirical phenomenological sociology is the discipline that
could have a great impact on the empirical sociologists. Among the
different concepts of sociology mentioned above, there are some kinds
of sociology that could be classified under empirical phenomenological
sociology. For instance, Mannheim’s sociology of knowledge, Weber’s
religious sociology, Thomas’s sociology, Garfinkel’s ethnomethodology,
and reflective sociology can be regarded as kinds of empirical
phenomenological sociology. In this context, one has to keep in mind
that, in dealing with sociological facts as products of intentionality,
it is necessary to use the method of the sociological phenomenological
reduction. Yet besides these concepts of sociology, there are more
possibilities to develop the empirical phenomenological sociology.
Sociology conceived by A. Giddens is a good example for the further
development of the empirical phenomenological sociology which concerns
the process of the social construction of reality.
b. The ontological phenomenology also has abundant possibilities to be
developed in various directions. There are examples of the ontological
phenomenological sociology among various kinds of sociology mentioned
above. For instance, one can find the ontological phenomenological
sociology in Weber’s theory of social action, since he attempts to
clarify the essential structures of social action as the basic category
of verstehende Soziologie. In this sense, one could say that,
developing his theory of social action, Weber is carrying out the
sociological phenomenological reduction and the eidetic reduction
implicitly. Weber’s theory of social action as the ontological
phenomenological sociology is the fundamental ground for his religious
sociology, which, as verstehende Soziologie, is developed on the
empirical dimension. The other examples of the ontological
phenomenological sociology are Vierkandt’s formal sociology, Parsons’s
general theory of action, and Schutz’s phenomenological sociology.
Husserl, as a founder of phenomenology, also attempted several times to
elaborate the ontological phenomenological sociology; however, to the
best of my knowledge, he never sought to develop the empirical
phenomenological sociology. Various kinds of the ontological
phenomenological sociology that have not yet been conceived could be
developed as the ontological foundation of various kinds of empirical
phenomenological sociology, for example, the ontological sociology of
knowledge as the ontological foundation for the empirical sociology.
c. There have been no attempts to develop the transcendental
phenomenological sociology in the debates on phenomenological
sociology. However, there are also abundant possibilities to develop
the transcendental phenomenological sociology in various directions.
Husserl’s theory of intersubjectivity articulated from the perspective
of transcendental phenomenology is a good example of the transcendental
phenomenological sociology. As an empirical sociologist, one might not
have any interest in the transcendental phenomenological sociology, but
one should not forget that it has a great significance for the
empirical phenomenological sociology, since it deals with the
transcendental phenomenological foundation of the latter. The
transcendental phenomenological sociology could be developed in various
directions, for example, it could be developed in as a static as well
as a genetic one.
E. A. Tiryakian, “Existential Phenomenology and the Sociological Tradition”, in: American Sociological Review 30(1965).
J. Kolaja, “On Existential
Phenomenology and Sociology(I)”, in: American Sociological Review
34(1966); P. L. Berger, “On Existential Phenomenology and
Sociology(II)”, in: American Sociological Review 34(1966); E. A..
Tiryakian, “Reply to Kolaja and Berger”, in: American Sociological
Review 34(1966), J. L. Heap/P. A. Roth, “On Phenomenological
Sociology”, in: American Sociological Review 38(1973).
phenomenological psychological reduction should be understood as a
procedure that does not include the process of eidetic reduction.