Bracketing (German: Einklammerung; also called phenomenological reduction) is a term in the philosophical movement of phenomenology describing the act of suspending judgment about the natural world to instead focus on analysis of 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 (fundamentally unknowable things-in-themselves) must be distinguished from Phenomena (the world as it appears to the mind). Kant, commonly misconceived as arguing that humans cannot have direct access to reality, but only to the contents of their minds, argued rather that what is experienced in the mind is reality. Phenomenology grew out of this conception of phenomena, and studies the meaning of isolated phenomena as directly connected to our minds. According to The Columbia Encyclopedia, "Modern philosophers have used 'phenomenon' to designate what is apprehended before judgment is applied." This may not be possible if observation is theory laden.
Bracketing (or epoché) is a preliminary act in the phenomenological analysis, conceived by Husserl as the suspension of the trust in the objectivity of the world. It 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 an 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 as constituted in intentional acts.
Bracketing may also be 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 intending of the bracketed phenomenon is examined and analyzed in phenomenological purity.
- "Phenomenon". The Columbia Encyclopedia. 2008.
- Farina, Gabriella (2014). Some reflections on the phenomenological method. Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences, 7(2):50–62.
- Husserl, Edmund (1977). Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. pp. 20–21. ISBN 9789400999978. OCLC 851394087.
- Creswell, J.W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design. Sage, Thousand Oaks (CA).
- Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. Sage, Thousand Oaks (CA).
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