Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

The psychologist Buytendijk completed his medical studies in 1909 and was promoted in 1918 on a dissertation entitled Proeven over Gewoontevorming in Dieren (Experiments of Habit Formation in Animals). In 1991, he assumed the Chair in Physiology at the University of Amsterdam, and in 1929, he was appointed at Groningen. In 1946, he received the assignment of Chair in Theoretical Psychology at the University of Utrecht, as well as appointments in Nijmegen and Leuven. After 1957, he remained as emeritus at Utrecht and returned for two more years as Chair after the death in 1964 of one of his students and successor, Jan Linschoten. Professor Buytendijk enjoyed an international reputation as a phenomenological scholar. During his lifetime he published over 50 books and monographs and over 200 articles in Dutch, German, French, Spanish, and Japanese. His book On Pain was translated into German, English, French, and Italian. Buytendijk’s phenomenological program required that knowledge of human existence be gathered by observations of everyday life situations and events. He argued that the obvious features of a lifeworld that we interpret linguistically must become questionable and enigmatic. The book Persoon en Wereld (Person and World) (1953) is a collection of now classic phenomenological lifeworld studies from which Kockelmans made a selection for his Phenomenological Psychology: The Dutch School.


According to Buytendijk, to understand human existence one does not start from the simple or from the bottom but from the complex and from the top. That approach is characteristic of all his work, from his Psychology of Animals (1920) to Prolegomena of an Anthropological Physiology (1965). For example, in the latter book, he employs considerations about the idea of an anthropological physiology and aspects of human embodiment and psycho-physical problems to introduce a comprehensive study of exemplary modes of human existence and physiological regulatory systems. He describes in detail modes of being such as being-awake and asleep, being-tired, being-hungry, being-emotional, as well as regulatory aspects such as posture, respiration and circulation.