Centre for Continuing Education

Philosophy Course: Introduction to Phenomenology

Philosophy. Study the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

Phenomenology has been, and still remains one of the most significant philosophical movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. Phenomenology attempts to take the relationship between body and experience seriously, and find the complex inter-relation of body to mind, consciousness and language.

Phenomenology is a vibrant part of contemporary philosophy and the theory has had many applications in fields such as medicine, psychology and the arts. We will consider a range of philosophers who are currently working in the field including one of the top researchers at present, Prof. Dan Zahavi of the University of Copenhagen.


By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • identify the key concepts in phenomenology
  • discuss the ideas of Edmund Husserl, Max Scheler, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Prof. Dan Zahavi and more, and apply them to practical domains such as medicine
  • relate phenomenological ideas to our contemporary world and current issues, and apply these ideas to their personal lives and choices.


Week 1: What is phenomenology?

The philosophical background of phenomenology is discussed in this lecture. We will discuss the relationship between thought and perception; the idea and its expression; reason and emotion.

Week 2: Edmund Husserl: Phenomenological reduction

Husserl (1859-1938) is generally considered to be the founder of Modern Phenomenology. We will discuss Husserl's theory of perception, time, intentionality, and the phenomenological reduction.

Week 3: Max Scheler

Like many of the Lebensphilosophen (philosophers of life) who had influenced him, Scheler strove to save philosophy and thought from the reductive mindset of the positive sciences and to a degree, American pragmatism. For Scheler, practical knowledge and practical consciousness are genetically the first form of knowledge for the individual. Yet, human beings are not necessarily tied to practical affairs and have the ability to comprehend and regard the world in terms of its essence or being.

Week 4: Martin Heidegger: Being-with-others

Heidegger (1889-1976) took phenomenology in a new direction with his concepts of: Being-with-Others; Care and Authenticity; and his original concept of truth as Revealing and Concealing. We will consider aspects of his most important text Being and Time (1927).

Week 5: Martin Heidegger: Technology of the body

Heidegger was one of the first theorists to think seriously about the human relationship to technology. He considers questions such as: Is our fundamental human nature changed by the kinds of technology we use?

Week 6: Maurice Merleau-Ponty

This week we will discuss Merleau-Ponty’s (1907-1961) concept of the body as a synergic system. Merleau-Ponty understands the human body and mind as a synergic system in which all the senses play an integrated part.

Week 7: Merleau-Ponty: The Visible and the Invisible (1964)

In his book The Visible and the Invisible, Merleau-Ponty develops a theory which attempts to understand how meanings become embedded in the ‘fabric of being’.

Week 8: Contemporary phenomenology

In this lecture we consider the contemporary situation. Some of the best new work being done in Phenomenology is coming from the continent. Prof. Dan Zahavi of the University of Copenhagen is one of phenomenology's top researchers. His recently published Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Phenomenology (2012) has been widely discussed. We will consider some of these new developments.

Week 9: Practical phenomenology

Phenomenology has many contemporary applications in medicine, psychology, anthropology, and many other areas. We will consider some of these applications.

Week 10: Phenomenology and the arts

By adopting the phenomenological attitude, we pay attention to how objects such as paintings, symphonies, films, waterfalls appear to us not as ‘useful’ but as ‘contemplative’. We will consider the difference this aesthetic intentionally makes to our consciousness of art objects.

Intended audience

Anyone with a general interest in philosophy and the course themes.

Delivery style



Course notes are provided electronically.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

Philosophy Course: Introduction to Phenomenology

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