Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

Martinus J. Langeveld obtained his doctorate with a dissertation entitled Taal en Denken in 12 tot 14 Jarige Leerlingen (Language and Thinking in 12 to 14 Year Old Students) (1934). In 1939, he received the Chair in Pedagogy at the University of Utrecht. Until World War II, pedagogy was largely connected with the preparation of teachers. In 1946, pedagogy became an independent discipline at the University of Utrecht. Langeveld employed phenomenology at several levels.


One of Langeveld’s most influential texts was Beknopte Theoretische Pedagogiek (Concise Theoretical Pedagogy), in which he elaborated a phenomenological pedagogy. This work was published in 15 editions between 1946 and 1979. Langeveld analyzed the phenomena of child rearing and educational experiences by paying close attention to concrete and common situations and events in the lives of children and adults. This led to remarkable results. For example, he rejected that pedagogical authority should be related to general theory of authority. Authority is not just a question of moral choice; rather, authority is necessary because children require pedagogy for their very existence and in order to be able to grow up.


Langeveld then linked this existential phenomenological starting point for the determination of authority to his philosophical anthropology, wherein self-responsible self-determination assumed a central value. The phenomenological studies of the Utrecht School are now less valid for their methodological aspirations, but they retain a high level of validity for their practical engagement. It is remarkable that many of Langeveld’s studies such as “De verborgen plaats in het leven van het kind” (The Secret Place in the Life of the Child) (1953), “Das Ding in die Welt des Kindes” (1956) (The Thing in the World of the Child), and the “Phaenomenologie van het Leren” (1952) (Phenomenology of Learning) are still very readable and formative for understanding the pedagogical lifeworld. Langeveld was quite clear about his relation to the work of Husserl. He did not acknowledge the scientific validity of a transcendental subjectivity, and he replaced the transcendental reduction with the method of immanent reduction, which stresses the situatedness and concrete particularity of human experience. He said “yes” to Husserl’s method but “no” to his philosophical pretensions. Phenomenology had to remain focused on the everyday concerns of the concrete lifeworld. Within the domain of pedagogy, and at the international level, Langeveld exercised a tremendous influence. He published numerous studies in the German language, some of which were never translated into Dutch. Indeed, in Germany he had been long recognized as a prominent “German” phenomenologist and pedagogue.