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A Response to the Attempted Critique of the Scientific Phenomenological Method

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Recently, a book (details are given below) was published, the sole purpose of which was to discourage researchers from using the scientific phenomenological method. The author (Paley, 1997; 1998; 2000) had previously been critical of nurses who had used the scientific phenomenological method but in the new book he goes after the originators of different methods of scientific phenomenological research and attempts to criticize them severely. In this review I defend only the scientific phenomenological method that is strictly based upon the thought of Edmund Husserl. Given the entirely negative project of only critiquing phenomenologically grounded scientific research, one would expect the author to be sensitive to the cautions historians and philosophers of science speak about when one attempts to criticize concepts and procedures that belong to a different research community. Paley, an empiricist, uses empirical criteria to criticize phenomenological work.Moreover, given the entirely negative project of critiquing phenomenologically grounded scientific research one would expect the author to be knowledgeable about phenomenology and the innovative research practices used by a new research community. However, (1) the author has only a thin, superficial understanding of phenomenology (e.g., it is not a technology; Paley, 2017, 109). One gets the impression that he only reads phenomenology in order to critique it. He displays an outsider’s understanding of it which means that his criticisms of it are faulty because he does not know how to think and dwell within the phenomenological framework; (2) he does not understand “discovery-oriented” research and he keeps judging such research according to criteria from the “context of verification” perspective which are the wrong criteria for “discovery-oriented” research; (3) he denigrates and reduces nursing research strategies because he interprets them to be based on pragmatic motivations only. He does not even grant that nurses can have authentic scientific motivations for seeking phenomenologically based methods; (4) he uses unfair rhetorical strategies in the sense that he uses strategies himself that he criticizes when others use them. The review below documents what has been summarized here.

Affiliations: 1: Saybrook University ExeterUS


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