What is Existential Phenomenology?

Existential phenomenology is a philosophical discipline that explores the interdependence between human existence and experience. It was developed by Martin Heidegger, who blended Friedrick Nietzsche’s existentialism with Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology. Existentialism focuses on human existence, or the concept of ‘being in the world,’ whereas phenomenology analyzes the structures of consciousness and human experiences (Thorpe & Holt, 2007). Therefore, existential phenomenology shows the impact of human existence and experience on values, relationships, behaviors, essence, thoughts, and ideals. 

Human beings’ existence is greatly influenced by the experience gained from the social or physical world surrounding them. Existence precedes experience because a person has to exist in the world first before they can experience it (Qutoshi, 2018). Continued existence in the world makes human beings gain more experiences, leading to continuous change in behavior, thoughts, feelings, tastes, and preferences. It explains the difference between child and adult thinking because of different levels of exposure to the world. People from different cultural, religious, or political backgrounds also have different behaviors and thoughts due to differences in experiences. Existence is a constant entity that begins after birth and ends after death, whereas experience is dynamic phenomenon that is continuously reshaped by the immediate environment such as the family, friends, workplace, school, church, society, or nationality.

            Nevertheless, existential phenomenologists argue that people are response-able beings that can subjectively respond to any experience they encounter throughout their existence. The subjective nature of human experiences enables individuals to pursue realities differently and in a manner that enables them to construct the meaning of their existence. Each person constructs the meaning of their existence and purpose in life based on individual perception influenced by former subjective experiences (Thorpe, & Holt, 2007). This justifies why people might have different world views, thoughts, or experiences even if they belong to the same culture, society, family, or religion. Thus, the meaning of human existence is influenced by the nature of experience gained from being in the world.


Qutoshi, S. B. (2018). Phenomenology: A philosophy and method of inquiry. Journal of

Education and Educational Development5(1), 215-222.

Thorpe, R., & Holt, R. (Eds.). (2007). The Sage dictionary of qualitative management research. Sage Publication