Chicken or Egg: Phenemenology and Structuralism

Warning: Incoming blog post fueled by jetlag and sushi.

I find myself occasionally questioning the “philosophical” history of phenomenology and structuralism. By philosophical history, I mean determining which idea “comes first” and helps create the other in some thought experiment that hopefully simulates the complexity of our actual thought processes.

As an example, lets look at structuralism. Would a phenomenologist say that our ability to identify structures and relationships are a direct result of our lifeworlds and horizons? If so, does that make phenomenology the “first” thought?

However, structuralists don’t go down that easy. Might they say that phenomenologists lifeworlds are constructed through the relationships and structures embedded in media? Perhaps even language?

What do you think? I find this type of thought experiment helpful for testing the boundaries of new philosophies.


  1. mingxian

    All the first knowledge was accumulated in their everyday life if we look at the beginning stage of human history, although I disagree on Tao’s post that human beings noticed there are two kind of body shape after they got enough food to survive. I believe that they always know the difference between female and male.But it doesn’t mean that they knew how to think and analyze according structuralism method. Maybe we all heard some animal stories before. One story I heard is that when a group of deer moving, the fawns and does were surrounded by those strong male deers. Of course I believe that they know the difference between male and female, but is this something called instinct? Do they think other things also according the conflict aspects? We never know.

    When I thinking about this, I could not stop thinking about the first division of labor in human history. Maybe the divisions made our society developed. However, didn’t they make design less user-centered? At the old time, people learn in practice, create for their need. Now people choose which could be helpful and easy to use. The digital designs are those hardest to “re-create” to fit users’ special need during using process. Maybe this doesn’t make sense to you. I couldn’t think this clearly until now. But it hurt my head for several days.

  2. mingxian

    Oh, forget one more sentence…

    I think interaction design in some degree could fix the hard to recreate by end-user character of digital products–the flexibility, personalization. And the result is that the systems were made very big, more and more features are added…

  3. davidroyer

    I would say it doesn’t really matter and that both phenomenology and structuralism can be useful in analyzing new media.

  4. davidroyer

    I just realized that looks like a glib answer. Sorry about that. What I mean to say is:

    I have no clue, it seems like a very difficult and perhaps impossible question. And even though I don’t know I think both phenomenology and structuralism can still be useful in analyzing new media.

  5. laurabrunetti

    I do believe that a phenomenologist would say that our ability to identify and find meaning in structures and relationships is a direct result of our lifeworlds and horizons. In addition to that I would add language as having a direct effect as well. That we recognize something by both identifying it and defining it, and to do that we need both experiences on which to draw from and language as a crucial piece of all of it (lifeworlds, horizons, identifying and recognizing new objects and relationships).

    And a structuralist would at least, in part, say that yes, part of the message is embedded in the media. Therefore, while we are identifying and defining things from the phenomenolgists’ point of view, the media, being inseparable from the message, is part of the definition and so becomes part of the experience that contributes to our lifeworld.

  6. laurabrunetti

    By the way, no more jetlag and sushi a la Tyler posts! You’re making me think too hard. I’m not sure which “came first” technically, but I think about it like this:

    More often than not things like laws are reactionary versus pre-emptive, meaning that someone does something that causes a stir and afterward a law is made. I’m not really sure if that has anything at all to do with the following connection I make. So way back when, all these people were talking about how different songs, sculptures, paintings (specific ones) made them feel and what message they were trying to convey, when someone popped the question, “Well, what about the fact that the artist/sculptor/composer chose this specific medium?” And so hath born structuralism.


Leave a Reply to mingxian Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s