A Phenomenological Reformulation of Psychological Science: Resources and Prospects

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The question I explore in this chapter is whether the reigning self-understanding of psychological science, the investigation of mind-independent causes of human behavior, is sufficient. Specifically, I explore the possibility that the existential and phenomenological traditions, particularly Charles Guignon’s work, can provide the resources for a reinterpretation that enhances scientific psychology and its societal contributions. Although psychology offers a pathway to understanding human motivations and actions, the discipline’s research tradition explores human nature primarily by abstracting individuals from their historical, social, interpersonal, and life contexts and seeking causal explanations for atomistically defined “behaviors.” The concept of behavior is itself a highly abstract notion that portrays human action in terms of discrete units of activity that can be isolated and studied in highly contrived contexts. I explore this question with an in-depth examination of a single neuropsychological study of honesty and dishonesty. Although I will refer primarily to this one study, the important features of this investigation are quite typical in psychological research. By focusing on one study, I can provide an in-depth analysis of how experimental research tacitly relies on broader contexts of meaning that are obscured by its methods. I chose this study because of its strengths in using very sophisticated methods to investigate an intriguing problem. If anything, this particular study is closer to understanding its subjects as full-bodied agents in a meaningful world than most psychological investigations are. Even so, it is clear that it woefully underestimates the humanity of its research subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationContributions To Phenomenology
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages15
StatePublished - 2015

Publication series

NameContributions To Phenomenology
ISSN (Print)0923-9545
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1915


  • Abstraction
  • Constitutive ends
  • Honesty
  • Neuropsychology
  • Virtue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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