Bracketing (German: Einklammerung; also called epoché or the phenomenological reduction) is a term in the philosophical school of phenomenology describing the act of suspending judgment about the natural world to instead focus on analysis of mental experience.
Phenomenology, developed by Edmund Husserl (1859–1938), can be understood as an outgrowth of the influential ideas of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Attempting to resolve some of the key intellectual debates of his era, Kant argued that Noumena (objects of inquiry, investigation or analysis of the workings of the world) must be distinguished from Phenomena (noumenon as experienced and interpreted by the human mind). Kant thus argued that humans can never have direct access to reality, but only to the contents of their minds.
Bracketing thus involves setting aside the question of the real existence of a contemplated object, as well as all other questions about the object's physical or objective nature; these questions are left to the natural sciences.
For example, the act of seeing a horse qualifies as a mental experience, whether one sees the horse in person, in a dream, or in a hallucination. 'Bracketing' the horse suspends any judgement about the horse as noumenon, and instead analyses the phenomenon of the horse in the human mind.
Bracketing has been compared to the instructions given to a jury in a trial to analyze only the evidence presented in court, and to avoid the usual inferences or connections they might make between such evidence and other sources of information. Bracketing can also be better understood in terms of the phenomenological activity it is supposed to make possible: the "unpacking" of phenomena, or, in other words, systematically peeling away their symbolic meanings like layers of an onion until only the thing itself as meant and experienced remains. Thus, one's subjective perception of the bracketed phenomenon is examined and analyzed in its purity.
- Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. Sage, Thousand Oaks (CA).
- Creswell, J.W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design. Sage, Thousand Oaks (CA).
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