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The Early history of Phenomenological Psychological Research in America

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This article on the early history of phenomenological psychological research in the academic context in America focuses on the four approaches of the following respective psychologists: 1) Donald Snygg, Arthur W. Combs, and Anne C. Richards and Fred Richards; 2) Robert B. MacLeod; 3) Adrian L. van Kaam; and 4) Amedeo P. Giorgi. It begins by first addressing the "context" for this early history namely, the European origin of philosophical phenomenology and the connection of it with the psychology of its times in Europe, and then the American background for the development of a sensibility for phenomenology and an eventual connection of phenomenology with psychology. Each of the four positions was examined in terms of basic approach to the study of human experience and behavior. That is, examination was directed toward whether the respective position was under the aegis of psychology as a human science or as a natural science. Also examined were the research postures and the methodologies of the four positions in terms of their respective degrees of reflecting either the human science or the natural science approach, and in terms of their approximation to a phenomenological psychology. It was found that syncretism characterized the approaches of the first three positions, and that there was either an absence of phenomenological psychological method in the psychologies of those positions or, in the case of MacLeod, an undeveloped and non-worked-out method. Only the work of Amedeo Giorgi presented 1) a human science approach that was radical and not compromised by natural science syncretions, and 2) an articulated phenomenological psychological method based on Husserl's concept of intentionality and on mediation of Merleau-Ponty's philosophical phenomenological method.

Affiliations: 1: Marymount College


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