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Introduction to Phenomenology

4.6 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521667920
ISBN-10: 0521667925
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This thoughtful and beautifully crafted book introduces the reader to the fundamental themes of phenomenology...This is the introduction to phenomenology that many of us have been waiting for. It offers rich and illuminating insights both for the first-time reader and for the long-term scholar. It also offers many original and evocative reflections on the nature and role of philosophy in our time." Richard Cobb-Stevens, Boston College, The Thomist

"Both in tone and content it is an eminently successful introduction to phenomenology. It offers rich and illuminating insights both for the first-time reader and for the long-term scholar. This is the introduction to phenomenology that many of us have been waiting for." Richard Cobb-Stevens, Boston College

"...this is an excellent introduction." Choice

"...the book would make an excellent text for an undergraduate course. Yet because it also offers a fresh and stimulating interpretation of phenomenology and an intriguing view of its importance for contemporary intellectual life it should be of much broader interest as well." Review of Metaphysics

"...a straightforward introductory presentation of philosophical phenomenology from a basically Husserlian perspective with a minimum of jargon and written in an American idiom." Journal of Phenomenological Psychology

"Sokolowshi's introduction is excellent in many ways. He writes with admirable lucidity about complex and subtle issues, including even such braintwisters as the temporality of consciousness, the phenomenology of the self, and noetic-noematic correlations...His treatment of phenomenology is quite comprehensive...appears to be a very valuable pedagogical resource, at least for those who agree with its basic view of phenomenology." Husserl Studies 2002

"Robert Sokolowski has established himself as one of our leading contemporary philosophers...In this book, Sokolowski has given us a concise, lucid, and cogently argued introduction to phenomenology, which displays many of its contributions to our understanding of human thought, action, and speech, and which leaves little doubt about the integrity and efficacy of the philosophical enterprise...Sokolowski's introduction to phenomenology is now indespensable, and it is a safe prediction that it will be the standard text on this subject for many years." Teaching Philosophy

Book Description

This book presents the major philosophical doctrines of phenomenology in a clear, lively style with an abundance of examples. The book examines such phenomena as perception, pictures, imagination, memory, language, and reference, and shows how human thinking arises from experience. It also studies personal identity as established through time and discusses the nature of philosophy. In addition to providing a new interpretation of the correspondence theory of truth, the author also explains how phenomenology differs from both modern and postmodern forms of thinking.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (October 28, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521667925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521667920
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Charles Comer on February 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Perhaps the most important philosophical movement in the 20th century, phenomenology is also one of the more abstruse and varied disciplines in philosophy. Indeed, it would be quite difficult to give a definitive description of what phenomenology is, as defined by the multifarious practitioners, and an onerous task of sifting through the thousands of pages of primary texts. Moreoever, as I can attest, encountering a phenomenological text for the first time is a daunting experience, like trying to navigate through a large city without a map or guide. While there are several good introductory texts on phenomenology in general (Moran's for example), and many texts discussing the many phenomenologists, Sokolowski has graciously and generously given us a very general and useful introduction to the basic structures of phenomenology as a method. To this extent, Sokolowski's book is strongly Husserlian and, in some aspects, echoes in simplistic terms his very good 1974 book, Husserlian Meditations. This, however, is not to be taken as a deficit. To the contrary, Husserl is the recognized father of phenomenology, and also a writer of terse and often impenetrable verse. Thus, it behooves anyone wishing to begin to study phenomenology to get the gist first before delving into the more difficult texts.
What Sokolowski has done for us is to simply explain phenomenology in much the same way one would explain their hobby or a good book they have read. That is to say that it is casual and clear, and very helpful and informative, without an excess of jargon or unnecessary info. However, Sokolowski does go through pains to clarify and define the terminology implcit in phenomenology, e.g., terms such as noetic, noema, parts, wholes, eidetic intuition, etc.
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Format: Paperback
This book describes the human experience of phenomenology in a natural language without assuming a previous knowledge of the relevant philosophers or concepts. It easily guides the reader into the subject and invites her/him to participate in this human experience by exposing it as relevant to the natural daily life. By this participation some important concepts are developed and made clear much more than may be attained by rote memorizing without a suitable context. However, the historical development of the phenomenological movement and its main figures are only mentionted in a brief sketchy way at the end of the book. Therefore this book is more like a good "appetizer" to studying the subject rather than standing, by itself, as a main "meal".
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Format: Paperback
Introduction to Phenomenology does a fine job of getting you started in phenomenology. It meticulously specifies the key themes (parts and wholes, identity in manifolds, absence and presence) and then carefully leads you through them. The fundamental, difficult-to-grasp ideas of intentionality, epoche and time consciousness are treated thoroughly and at an introductory level. The book follows a practice common in good math texts of returning again and again to the main themes, each time armed with more powerful tools.
As a rule, I never read just one introduction to any topic. No matter how good your first choice is, you need a separate perspective. In this case I recommend Natanson's Edmund Husserl: Philosopher of Infinite Tasks. The two books are complementary. Natanson's book is rich and inspirational, but Sokolowski's book is a better introduction. Introduction to Phenomenology is also motivational; it extols the benefits of phenomenology while noting it does not conflict with the objective body of science.
I keep rereading Introduction to Phenomenology and finding fresh insights. But the goal for me was to move on and read Husserl, in the excellent translations found, for example, in Donn Welton's The Essential Husserl. It is in Husserl's work that you find the mother lode of phenomenology. After mastering his vocabulary (via Sokolowski), you discover that Husserl writes carefully, methodically and clearly. At some point, you will even find Husserl easier to follow than most interpretive texts. So read Introduction to Phenomenology as the best first step in understanding phenomenology.
Side note: I personally `discovered' phenomenology in Gian-Carlo Rota's Indiscrete Thoughts and in Sokolowski's Foreword to that book. Thank you for that, Professor Sokolowski.
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As Cal Schrag notes in a fantastic litte essay called "The Recovery of the Phenomenological Subject": "In 1945 Maurice Merleau-Ponty began the preface to his classic work Phenomenologie de la perception, with the observation that the reader might find it odd that the question What is phenomenology? still needs to be answered one-half a century after the first writings of Edmund Husserl. The fact however remains, wrote Mereleau-Ponty, that this question still awaits an answer. Some fifty years after the publication of Merleau-Ponty's seminal work on perception we are still asking the question What is phenomenology?"

I do not hesitate (well, maybe a little) to reply that reading this excellent book by Sokolowski will certainly put the beginner on the path to answering this difficult question. Perhaps it answers best What is Husserlian phenomenology? but what better place to begin the journey than at the beginning. This is certainly not a scholarly text. You will not find footnotes at the bottom of every page. You won't even get citations to Husserl's texts. And you certainly won't find anything like a ten-page analysis of the words "phenomenon" and "logos" as encountered at the outset of Heidegger's Being and Time. But it's not supposed to be a critical scholarly text, it is just what it says: an introduction to phenomenology.

I think this text will be especially beneficial to readers who are familiar with philosophy but who stand outside the continental tradition - e.g. analytic philosophers. Also, those who already understand Husserl (or think they do) will find this book a fantastic read as well. Don't think that just because it is an introduction that it is beneath you. I think you will be suprised (and perhaps encouraged) by the ability of Sokolowski to state so clearly an answer to the question What is phenomenology?
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