What is Existential Phenomenology?

Existential phenomenology is a subsect of philosophy that defines the subjective aspect of human existence and experience, which is reflected in their values, thoughts, norms, interactions, emotions, purpose, ideals, and relationships. It is a blend between Husserl’s phenomenology, which people think or feel about themselves, and existential philosophy, which carefully analyses the concept of ‘being’ or existing in the world (Thorpe, & Holt, 2007). The interaction with the social world in everyday life gives meaning to individuals’ existence. Such interactions generate lived experiences through what people see, touch, hear, smell, taste, or feel.

Notably, existential phenomenology demonstrates the intense interdependence between human beings and the social world. A person can hardly exist without the social world, and vice versa, because the social world is constructed by the people, and it exists in them. People usually develop the meaning of their existence through shared reality built through social interactions during interviews, face-to-face conversations, formal speeches, commentaries, dialogues, reading, and writing (Thorpe, & Holt, 2007). Human existence is entirely dependent on the experiences gained from their active participation in the social world.

However, existential phenomenology shows that a person is an active and creative being that exists and interprets the essence of their existence and relationship with others, then constructs their purpose, behavior, and actions from the lived experiences (Thorpe, & Holt, 2007). The social world plays a significant role in helping people construct a sense of consciousness and their relationship with other people. As such, individuals’ behavior and actions generally express how the interaction between their private world and the social world has shaped their existence and experiences.


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