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Interruptions: Levinas

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image of Journal of Phenomenological Psychology

This article is a continuation of the challenge begun by early phenomenologists of the reductionistic scientism of Natural Science Psychology. Inspired by five distinctions of Emmanuel Levinas, it seeks to bring a deeper interruption of the seemingly unalterable force of mainstream psychology to model itself after the hard sciences. Levinas distinguishes the experience of totality from infinity, need from desire, freedom as self-initiated and self-directed from freedom as invested by and for the Other, active agency from radical passivity, and the said from saying. Five commonly accepted characteristics of science, objective, empirical, causal, reducible, and value neutral, are used to compare three approaches to psychology: Natural Science, Phenomenology (psychology as a human science), and Psychology for the Other. Using the definition of science, “knowing the phenomenon as it shows itself,” this paper argue that Natural Science Psychology is the least “scientific,” Phenomenological Psychology is more scientific, and Psychology for the Other is the most “scientific” with its ethical command to allow the Other to reveal her/himself. This extravagant but compelling claim is illustrated with descriptions of research and therapy.

Affiliations: 1: Seattle University


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