Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

Human phenomena always acquire their significance in cultural contexts; thus culture is a source of meaning for phenomenological inquiry.


As a result of the increased globalization of our cultural awareness, we now realize that people’s experiences of everyday life phenomenona may differ sharply from one culture to the next. Thus phenomenological inquiry needs to be sensitive to cultural dimensions of lived meaning. As well, it is clear that culture itself can be an interesting source for lived meaning.


For example, how would we know to what extent the need for privacy or the function of secrecy is a natural or a cultural phenomenon? This question invites cultural comparison. Did some earlier or do some present cultures completely lack any sense of privacy or secrecy? It may appear very difficult to settle such questions. A reliable distinction of natural and non-natural (cultural) inclinations cannot be made; but it seems acceptable that in the beginning any new social rules would be criticized on the basis of natural inclinations, while later on natural inclinations will be curbed according to the rules. For example, babies have to burp; this is a natural inclination. People would criticize cultural rules that disapprove of babies burping. But children of an older age are often not allowed to do so, at least not in our western culture.