Epoché (ἐποχή epokhē, "suspension") is an ancient Greek term typically translated as "suspension of judgment" but also as "withholding of assent". In its philosophical usage "epoché" describes the state where all judgments about non-evident matters are suspended in order to induce a state of ataraxia (freedom from worry and anxiety). This concept was developed by the Pyrrhonist school of philosophy and was also employed in Academic Skepticism.
Epoché plays an implicit role in subsequent skeptical thought, as in René Descartes' epistemic principle of methodic doubt. The term was popularized in modern philosophy by Edmund Husserl. Husserl elaborates the notion of 'phenomenological epoché' or 'bracketing' in Ideas I. Through the systematic procedure of 'phenomenological reduction', one is thought to be able to suspend judgment regarding the general or naive philosophical belief in the existence of the external world, and thus examine phenomena as they are originally given to consciousness.
Epoché plays an important role in Pyrrhonism, the skeptical philosophy named after Pyrrho. Pyrrhonism provides practitioners with techniques for achieving epoché through use of the Ten Modes of Aenesidemus, the Five Modes of Agrippa, and the Pyrrhonist maxims. Pyrrhonism is mostly known today through the writings of the Pyrrhonist philosopher Sextus Empiricus whose surviving works appear to be an encyclopedia of Pyrrhonist arguments for inducing epoché across a breadth of philosophical and other intellectual issues of antiquity.
In phenomenological research epoché is described as a process involved in blocking biases and assumptions in order to explain a phenomenon in terms of its own inherent system of meaning. This is a general predisposition one must assume before commencing phenomenological study. It is different from bracketing, which is to acknowledge any personal bias or contextual assumptions of the researcher. This involves systematic steps to "set aside" various assumptions and beliefs about a phenomenon in order to examine how the phenomenon presents itself in the world of the participant.
Notes and references
- ἐποχή in Liddell and Scott's Greek–English Lexicon.
- Benson Mates, "The Skeptic Way" p225
- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. "The Phenomenological Reduction".
- Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism
- Christensen, T.M., Brumfield, K.A. (2010). Phenomenological designs: The philosophy of phenomenological research. In C.J Sheperis, J.S Young, & M.H. Daniels (Eds.), Counseling research: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
- The dictionary definition of epoche at Wiktionary