wildhood welcome

Share what you have gathered wildly.

CHCB 467
Missoula, MT 59802

Wildhood is kinship of the wild in all people, places, and things.


Welcome the wild.

Van Manen (2014) Annotation - Chapter 8 - Philosophical Methods: The Epoche and Reduction

Mark Douglas


We want to "gain access to the prereflective experiences as they occur in the taken-for-granted spheres of our everyday lifeworld" (p. 215). The basic method for this is called 'the reduction'. "The reduction consists of two methodical opposing moves that complement each other. Negatively it suspends or removes what obstructs access to the phenomenon--this move is called the epoche or bracketing. And positively it returns, leads back to the mode of appearing of the phenomenon--this move is called the reduction [citing Taminiqaux, 1991, p. 34]" (p. 215).

"Bracketing means parenthesizing, putting into brackets the various assumptions that might stand in the way from opening up access to the originary or the living meaning of a phenomenon" (p. 215).

"Phenomenologically, I need to open myself (the epoche) and try to bracket my presumptions, common understandings, and scientific explanations; at the same time, I need to regard the phenomenon that was given in my experience (the reduction) and observe how the remembrance emerged as it were from the leaves under my shoes" (217).

When I ask where and how do wilderness meanings show themselves, then I have to describe how the meanings are experienced in the things and spatial contexts of our world, and we may release the meanings through with our bodies. p. 217

The study will gain insight into "the prereflective meanings that may show themselves in an ordinary experience" (p. 217). My question asks how wilderness meanings appear in consciousness or show themselves in lived experience.

"There's a temporality, and contingency, and gift quality of a remembrance that is part of its phenomenological sense and essence" (p. 218).

"a remembrance is probably only granted when we happen to be in a certain disposition that prefigures the epoche and the reduction" (p. 218).

"the reduction is not a technical procedure, rule, tactic, strategy, or a determinate set of steps that we should apply to the phenomenon that is being researched. Rather, the reduction is an attentive turning to the world when in an open state of mind, effectuated by the epoche.

Approaches to the Epoche and Reduction 

Husserl, 1970, p. 152:

"through the epoche a new way of experiencing, of thinking, of theorizing, is opened to the philosopher; here, situated above his own natural being and above the natural world...he simply forbids himself...the whole natural performance of his world-life; that is, he forbids himself to ask questions which rest upon the ground of the world at hand"

Heidegger, 1982, p. 21:

"For us phenomenological reduction means leading phenomenological vision back from the apprehension of a being, whatever may be the character of that apprehension, to the understanding of the being of this being (projected upon the way it is unconcealed)."

The shift that Heidegger makes is from understanding the essence (eidos) of something to understanding something's modality, or its modes of being. "Heidegger stays in the world of beings to understand their modes of being from within the world" (Van Manen, 2014, p. 220). The reduction cannot become stilted into techniques. "Rather, each phenomenon requires its own unique approach and unique application of the epoche and reduction" (p. 220).

"The epoche describes the ways that we need to open ourselves to the world as we experience it and free ourselves from presuppositions" (p. 220). The reduction describes the phenomenological move toward rediscovering what Merleau-Ponty (1962) called "the spontaneous surge of the lifeworld" or what Pred (2005) calls "the onflow" of life. "The aim of the reduction is to reactive a direct and primitive contact with the world as we experience it or as it shows itself--rather than as we conceptualize it" (p. 220).

"So the method of the reduction is meant to bring the hidden, invisible, originally aspects of meaning that belong to the pre reflective phenomena of our lifeworld in to visibility or nearness" (p. 221). The reduction involves an attitude of attentiveness and an open style of thinking. "If we want to come to an understanding of the meaning and significance of something, we need to reflect on it by practicing a thoughtful attentiveness" (p. 221). 

Emulating a first order phenomenon through a second order medium requires language and writing. "The intent of writing is to produce textual 'portrayals' that resonate and make intelligible the kinds of meanings that we seem to recognize in life as we live it. The vocative serves as a separate kind of reduction that gets worked out through writing.

"So the reduction is a complex reflective attentiveness that must be practiced for phenomenological understanding to occur" (p. 221). The reduction entails a phenomenological attitude. "[I]t is helpful to keep in mind the underlying idea and purpose of the reduction: to gain access, via the epoche and the vocative, to the world of pre reflective experience-as-lived in order to mine its meanings" (p. 221).

The Epoche-Reduction: Invitations to Openness

The purpose of the epoche-reduction is "to open oneself to experience as lived--how certain phenomena and events are constituted an drive themselves in lived experience" (p. 222). This type of reflection on lived experience is neither inductive nor deductive, it is reductive in the sense that it is reflection led back toward life itself. As reductive, the aim is to allow oneself to be open and in the open so that one may be led back to the way things show themselves in their own originality. What follows are several aspects of the epoche. These are "general preparatory moments of the reduction" (p. 222). It's important to distinguish that the four aspects of the epoche belong to the general reduction and are separate from the five varieties of the reduction proper that are covered further below.

The Heuristic Epoche-Reduction: Wonder

The idea here is to bracket "the attitude of taken-for-grantedness" (p. 223). This happens through the disposition or mood of wonder. "Wonder overwhelms, but wonder should not be confused with curiosity, fascination, or admiration" (p. 223). "Wonder is the unwilled willingness to meet what is utterly strange in what is most familiar. Wonder is the stepping back and let things speak to us, an active-passive receptivity to let the things of the world present themselves on their own terms" (p. 223). 

Heidegger (1994) describes wonder as the mood to which one becomes attuned as "we see the unusual in the usual, the extraordinary in the ordinary" (p. 223). But "the problem is that the ordinary tends to be passed over in favor of the extraordinary" (p. 223). "[T]he heuristic reduction challenges the researcher to be receptive and wakened to a profound sense of wonder" (p. 224). 

The Hermeneutic Epoche-Reduction: Openness

The Hermeneutic epoche reduction involves "bracketing all interpretation and explicating reflectively whatever assumptions seem to beed attention in writing the research text" (p. 224). "[T]his means that one needs to practice a critical self-awareness with respect to the assumptions that prevent one from being as open as possible to the sense and significance of the phenomenon. Instead of overlaying one's own frame of meaning upon a phenomena, the hermeneutic reduction "requires that the various dimensions of lived meaning of some selected human experience are investigated for their various sources and layers of meaning" (p. 224).

The Experiential Epoche-Reduction: Concreteness

The experiential epoche-reduction involves "bracketing all theory or theoretical meaning" (p. 225). "PHENOMENOLOGY IS A METHOD TO REVEAL LIVED MEANINGS OF POSSIBLE HUMAN EXPERIENCES" (p. 225, my capitalization). But what's experience? 

"In existential terms we may say that experience is where and how we are in time and place as time and place; experience is also how we are corporeally and relationally in the world as embodied and relational beings. ...Experience is what presents itself immediately, unmediated by subsequent thought, image, or language. And yet, experience can only be accessed through thought, image, or language" (p. 225).

"Phenomenological human science is the study of lived or existential meanings; it attempts to describe and interpret these meanings to a certain degree of depth and richness" (p. 226). 

The Methodological Epoche-Reduction Approach

The methodological epoche-reduction involves "bracketing all conventional techniques and seeks or invents an approach that might fit most appropriately the phenomenological topic under study" (p. 226). Two methodological issues are subjectivism and objectivism. 

"[S]ubjectivism is the expectation that phenomenology can give us access to the private and inner lives of particular individuals so that we may know what and how they feel and experience in a particular situation and at a particular moment in time" (p. 227). "[O]bjectivism is the expectation that definable methods and procedures can produce valid phenomenological research studies" (p. 228). This means that there's no guarantee of the successful production of knowledge.

The Reduction-Proper: Meaning Giving Sources of Meaning

"The epoche-reduction...is the predatory move of the method that involves opening up and freeing oneself from obstacles" (p. 228). What's presented below is the reduction-proper, which "engages the reflective phenomenological attitude that aims to address the uniqueness of a phenomenon as it shows or gives itself in its singularity" (p. 228). There's five dimensions of the reduction proper; the eidetic, ontological, ethical, radical, and originary. 

The Eidetic Reduction: Eidos or Whatness

What we're after is the meaning of a phenomenon or event. By varying the aspects either in imagination or the comparison of examples, essential insights can be gained in an effort to understand a phenomenon's meaning. "The eidetic reduction focuses on what is distinct or unique in a phenomenon. The eidetic intuition is the grasping of an essential insight, and the eidetic reduction aims to arrive at the possible invariations or eidos of a phenomenon" (p. 229).

The eidos, through this Husserlian prospective, "is a phenomenological universal that an be described through a study of the structure that governs the instances or particular manifestations of the essence of that phenomenon" (p. 229). And from a general phenomenological perspective, the eidetic reduction is based on the premise that "phenomenology is the attempt to uncover and describe the eidetic structures, the internal meaning structures, of lived experience" (p. 229). "So the phenomenological eidos of a phenomenon or event...has been adequately described if the description reawakens, evokes, or shows us reflectively the lived meaning and significance of the pre reflective experience of [that phenomenon or event]...in a fuller or deeper manner" (p. 229).

The Ontological Reduction: Ways of Being

"The method of the ontological reduction consists of explicating the mode or ways of being that belong to or are proper to something. The ontic meaning of something is the mode of being in the world of that something or someone" (p. 231). From a Heideggerian perspective, "the reduction should be understood as going back to the world as lived--which can never be brought to full unconcealment. Heidegger shifts to focus from ontic being (whatness of being) to ontological meaning (mode of being). To understand a phenomenon is aiming to understand the ontological mode of being of the being (meaning) of that phenomenon" (p. 231). Understanding the ontological meaning of an event or phenomenon is not an epistemological problem but rather "an ontological concern: every way of being in the world is a way of understanding the world as an event of being" (p. 231).

"There is no Heideggerian procedural method that one can follow, step by step, for conducting research into specific lifeworld phenomena" (p. 231).

The Ethical Reduction: Alterity

This method of reduction goes beyond the epistemological and ontological thrusts of Husserl and Heidegger respectively. "Levinas suggests that for a truly profound understanding of human existence, one must not only ask for the meaning of being, self, or presence, but also for the meaning of what is not self:  otherwise than being, alterity" (p. 232).

The Radical Reduction: Self-Givenness

"The method of the radical reduction consists of focusing on the way that a phenomenon gives itself as itself, while applying the epoche to all senses of subjectivity or agency" (pp. 233-234). The researcher who aims at conducting this reduction "should aim at describing how something gives itself while refraining from engaging a perspective that remains committed to a constructivist subject" (p. 235).

The Originary Reduction: Inception or Originary Meaning

The originary reduction calls for opening oneself up through a certain mood or attunement. This involves inceptual thinking. Inceptual thinking involves "the manner that a sudden insight reveals a truth about a phenomenon" (p. 235). "[I]nception is the essential event or happening of 'being' itself as appropriation--which is Ereignen" (p. 235). The originary "aims at tracing the meaning of a phenomena to its originary character, its source, the beginning of its beginning. ...[T]he originally reduction focuses primordially on the emergent meanings and how a phenomenon originates and comes into being" (p. 236).

Inception is that fragile moment of a heuristic event: of the coming-upon, being struck by, or suddenly grasping an original idea, experiencing a fundamental insight, realizing the depthful meaning of something.

These are fragile and delicate moments.

Inceptual thinking is not the same as conceptual thinking: inceptual thinking involves in grasping, coming upon an inceptual thought. 

Inbegriff has recently been translated as in-grasping, epitome, and incept. An incept is like an epiphany.  

An inceptual thought tends to come to us indirectly, as if through the backdoor.

"No planning, systematic method, or carefully constructed program will get us to the place where inceptual thought dwells" (p. 238).

We cannot find an inceptual thought; rather, it finds us.

"We seize an inceptual thought by letting it seize us or by being seized by it." (p. 238).

We know we may have 'touched truth' when inceptuality resonates with the call of our quest, the project of our existence.

"[A]n inceptive thought may strike a person with powerful sensation of having witnessed a momentous moment even though it may only have presented itself in a split second" (p. 238).

"[T]he originally reduction places less emphasis on the activity of the subject: subjectivity tends to be understood in a different, perhaps passive modality. The challenge for inceptual or originary thought is to find non conceptual and non theoretical access to the realm where understandings are evoked through more indirect, poetic, and vocative means" (p. 239).