Phenomenological Philosophy of Education from Its Beginnings to Today. An Anthology

Just published: “Phenomenological Philosophy of Education from Its Beginnings to Today. An Anthology.”
For the first time, fundamental texts of a Phenomenological Philosophy of Education from its beginnings to today have been collected and published in this comprehensive volume. It provides an outline of structure, development and differentiation within the phenomenological movement in German pedagogy, regarding the fields: systematic pedagogy, philosophy of Bildung, learning and education, early childhood education, classroom research, special needs education as well as adult education.


Phenomenological researchers have held a well-attended conference titled “Embodiment(s): Phenomenological ‘DoubleMovement’ between Educational Theory and Bodily Practice in Pedagogical Fields” at the congress “MOVEMENTS” of the German Educational Research Association (GERA). How can moved embodiments become the subject of research? Point of origin was the phenomenological perspective of embodiment as kinaesthetic movement, which, as relation of the lived body, is directed towards itself, others, material and imaginary objects as well as the intellectual sphere. Children, adolescents and pedagogues are in a bodily movement with and towards each other in pedagogical situations. They embody themselves in a shared movement, in which they respond to actions, objectives and claims of others.
The contributions discussed the concept of embodiment as an interrelation of body and lived body in the context of cognition, language, sense and sociality. They took up the recent international discourse on embodiment with regard to neurosciences, poststructuralist discourse theory, hermeneutics, image theories as well as theories of pointing and gesture in the realm of cultural studies.
In their presentation, “Embodiments: Embodied Dimensions of Communication between Pedagogical Professionals and Children in Day Care Facilities” Ursula Stenger and Uta Thörner demonstrated how pedagogical situations between professionals and children develop in response to pre-existent cultural structures and norms. Subsequently, the embodied-bodily communicative situation between professionals and children was interpreted as the development of a mutually shared world with regard to Merleau-Ponty and Nancy’s thoughts on sociality and corporeality. These embodied-social constitution processes were presented in the form of videos and video analyses.
Malte Brinkmann presented a theory of embodied understanding (“Embodied Understanding in Pedagogical Contexts: Theory and Empiricism of an Inter-Corporeal Hermeneutics of Expression”). He pointed out that understanding as a pedagogical process contains an inherent logic regarding experiences within learning and educating – with a shift towards a perspective on lived-bodily and bodily-moved embodiment. Using examples from video analysis, he showed that understanding is an inter-corporeal practice of responsive embodiment, in which material and normalising aspects occur on the one hand and performative and singular aspects on the other.
Denis Francesconi (Aarhus University) introduced the concept of Embodied Cognition Theory (EC) as a research programme between cognition theory and phenomenology. He subsequently adopted this perspective for the practice of mindfulness meditation as an embodied practice in teacher education.
In his presentation, „Gesture, Atmosphere and Movement: Bodily Dimensions of Sociality in the Classroom” Severin Sales Rödel explored gestures and movements in the classroom as embodiments, in which teachers and pupils show themselves in a specific way. Using the practice of video analysis, phenomenological perspectives on atmosphere and situation have been suggested for a bodily- and embodied-theoretical classroom research.
The high participation and manifold discussions showed that phenomenological perspectives are regaining attention within philosophy of education. A volume on “Embodiments” is in progress and will be published as part of the book series “Phenomenological Philosophy of Education”.
Malte Brinkmann

(Deutsch) Gehen, Spazieren, Flanieren – Das Format Audiowalk als Erfahrungsgang

Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

Michael Schratz: Phenomenological school research

Michael Schratz is this year’s holder of the Fritz-Karsen-Chair of the Professional School of Educatioon at Humboldt-University Berlin. In his presentation Lernseits des Geschehens tobt das Leben, lehrseits herrscht die Didaktik he introduces the phenomenological oriented approach to vignette research for school pedagogy and pedagogical professionalisation.

See here:

Malte Brinkmann

Introduction in phenomenological education sience

Dear phenomenologists,

Kristin Westphal (Koblenz University) gives an introduction to phenomenological education sience.

Malte Brinkmann

Upcoming events

Dear Phenomenologists,

I would like to share with you some very interesting upcoming events concerning phenomenology.

Time, the Body, and the Other – Phenomenological and Psychopathological Approaches
13 Sep 2018 – 15 Sep 2018
Medizinische Klinik Heidelberg
(mit Shaun Gallagher, Natalie Depraz und Dan Zahavi)

Phenomenology as Performative Exercise
31 Aug 2018 – 02 Sep 2018
TU Dresden 01069 Dresden

Leibliche Interaktion. Phaenomenologische Annaeherungen an einen soziologischen Grundbegriff
by the “Interdisziplinärer Arbeitskreis Phänomenologien und Soziologie” of the DGS-Section “sociological theory”
28 Jun 2018 – 29 Jun 2018
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

Kind Regards

Malte Brinkmann

Symposion: Lived body – Corporeality – Embodiment. Phenomenological perspectives of the Lived body

Dear Phenomenologists,

some lectures from the Symposion Lived body – Corporeality – Embodiment. Phenomenological perspectives of the Lived body can be viewed at our Youtube Channel.

Malte Brinkmann: Embodied Understanding in Pedagogical Contexts

Massimiliano Tarozzi/ Denis Francesconi: Embodied Educuation and Education of the Body

Kristin Westphal: Kids on stage

Birgit Althans: Digitale Präsenzen – Körper und Leib in situ?

EnCP. Encyclopedeia: Journal for Phenomenology and Education

Dear Readers,

I would like to refer you to the online journal Encyclopedeia of our colleagues in Bologna. It is a traditional journal (stemming from the Bertolini tradition), which highlights the manifold and productive nature of Phenomenological Philosophy of Education in an international context.

I hope you will enjoy reading and browsing.


Malte Brinkmann

Phenomenological Pedagogy

A table, a glass, a voice, a melody, a sensation, a touch, a problem, a surprise, a sentiment while learning, an experience between parents and child in education – these are topics that phenomenological philosophy and phenomenological educational science are concerned with. They are phenomena perceived sensually and in an embodied way. When they occur, we are involved individually and inter-subjectively at the same time. To the things themselves – this claim by Husserl, the founder of modern phenomenology, is guiding phenomenological practice. Phenomena “show themselves”. They are not objectively given facts but they appear as something in the mode of intentionality. “The formula something as something means that something (actual, possible, or impossible) is linked to something else (a sense, a meaning) and is at the same time separated from it” (Waldenfels 2011, p. 21). In intentionality, something appears as close or distant, strange or familiar, in memory, in taste, touch, or plain view. A plurality of meanings arises according to one’s individual position, interest and context, and in keeping with spatial-temporal, inter-subjective and (im)material structures. Intentional engagement in educational settings is constituted as experience, and many phenomenologists profiled below specifically understand phenomenology as the study and theory of lived experience (Erfahrung). Experience, as Husserl explains, occurs between the active production of meaning and its passive reception, arising both through “active passivity” and “passive intention” (Husserl 2001).

This means that perception directed at phenomena, in which individual sense is formed (Noesis) in the intentional act, is dependent on what shows itself in the act of perception (Noema). This passivity as characteristic for perceiving and experiencing is an important starting point for phenomenological analyses. They include spatial, temporal and embodied conditions and limitations of perceiving, thinking and acting. Experience is thus not considered to be a finished product, or an output, but a process. The “jagged lines of experience” (Waldenfels 2002) show themselves in resistant moments. These are found in things ‘un-ready-to-hand’ (Heidegger), in moments of resistance or in Widerfahrnissen (Waldenfels’ notion of pathos) as well as in human struggle, pain or disappointment (Husserl), irritations, not-knowing, not-knowing-how (Buck 1989) or crises (Bollnow). They are focussed as life-worldly, inter-corporal and inter-subjective processes marked by differences, ruptures and experiences of foreignness (Waldenfels 2002). Phenomenology starts at concrete life-worldly experiences as they occur historically and systematically earlier than their scientific concepts and methods. These primordial “silent” experiences are pre-verbal, pre-discursive and pre-reflexive (Hua I, p. 77) in the beginning. Phenomenological reflexion aims at respecting different articulations of experiences instead of occupying or colonising them.
Husserl’s thoughts are the basis of Heidegger’s, Sartre’s, Merleau-Ponty’s, Levinas’ and Plessner’s philosophy as well as of Polanyi’s theory of tacit knowledge. Phenomenology significantly influences continental philosophy with exponents such as Foucault, Derrida, Waldenfels, Ricœur and Nancy. It has furthermore become fruitful for other sciences such as sociology, aesthetics, image theory, anthropology, art and literature as well as psychology and neurosciences.
The orientation towards the life-world gives it a privilege in contrast to cognitivist and rationalist concepts, as it regards the lived body as the elementary dimension of experience in learning and educating. Husserl already determines the lived body as the “zero point of all orientation” (Hua IV, p. 158). When the lived body comes to our attention as something, we experience it as more than just a body, we experience it as lived body, as phenomenon. It is thus not to be regarded as a thing amongst others. It is rather a “transfer point” (Hua IV, p. 286) between the self and the world. Merleau-Ponty and Plessner also highlight the structure lived body (Leib) and body (Körper). The lived body is the medium of our experience of the world and of our self-awareness. It produces meanings and creates tools for “practically” and productively interpreting the world. Only within and through the lived body can we experience the here and now, up and down, right and left, earlier and later. We always perceive something meaningfully and from a certain perspective. The lived body always appears as something specific, as beautiful, as desirable. The “embodied cognition theory” (ECT) makes these phenomenological insights fruitful for a neuroscientific theory of mind, brain and attention (S. Gallagher, N. Depraz). The favour of life-worldly experiences and a sceptical distance towards theoretical, scientific, ideological and fundamentalist positions can show the way to a “third way” (Merleau-Ponty) between positivism and idealism, empiricism and rationalism.
Within pedagogy, phenomenology has a history that is over one hundred years long. From the beginning, Husserl’s main themes – time, lived body, world, otherness – are systematically combined with theories and practices of Bildung and education. Most approaches share the descriptive approach to pedagogical experience. They approach phenomena differently, using methods such as “phenomenography”, (F. Marton), “descriptive phenomenological method” (A. Giorgi), a “transcendental phenomenology” (C. Moustakas’) or an “interpretative phenomenological analysis” (J. Smith). Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus’ “model of learning” as the gradual acquisition of knowledge and skill also has phenomenological roots. Max van Manen’s “hermeneutic phenomenology” is a phenomenological method for empirical research. Van Manen regards pedagogical experiences as singular relations between adult and child, in which the adult acts intentionally for the sake of the child’s present circumstances and his or her likely future. In this context, the adult’s actions are to be guided by tact, which van Manen characterises in terms of “pathic” understanding: situated, relational, embodied, and enactive forms of “non-cognitive” learning and knowing.
Phenomenological orientations can recently be found in anthropology, early childhood education, aesthetic and cultural education, school pedagogy and school research, and, self-evidently, in educational studies. Pedagogical experiences are theoretically and empirically described in their temporal, sensual and mundane dimensions as they occur and are reflected in their respective contexts. They integrate space and time of learning and educating as well as lived body, otherness and foreigness in experiences and culture. They are discussed in fields of life-world and foreignness (Lippitz), of re-learning and corporeality (Meyer-Drawe), practice and attention (Brinkmann). Concrete embodied, emotional, social and material aspects are the focus of attention in phenomenological approaches to analyses of learning and educating as experience. These life-worldly embodied experiences can be joy, embarrassment, disappointment and irritation as well as disgust, envy, jealousy and anger in learning and educating. Phenomenological practices demand opening oneself to “the things” – as “they are given”. The phenomenological attitude demands composure, attention and attentiveness for things other and foreign, for lived sense and embodied processes – an engaged passivity.

Malte Brinkmann

Interview with Dan Zahavi

Dan Zahavi is one of the leading phenomenologists (University of Copenhagen). He has published and worked on Husserl, Merleau-Ponty as well as embodiment and social emotions.

You can find an interview with him here.

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