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Heidegger, lived experience and method

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Abstract

Aim

A discussion of the assumption that Heidegger's philosophy in Being And Time provides a warrant for the study of lived experience.

Background

It is generally assumed, in nursing as in other disciplines, that Heidegger's philosophy points, uncontroversially, to the study of lived experience. It is also assumed that studies of this type will take the form of qualitative interviews which seek to explore the respondent's experience of a particular phenomenon and to elicit the meanings which the individual concerned attaches to that experience.

Data sources

Being And Time; the philosophical literature on Heidegger since 1999; the literature of experimental social psychology, 1970–2012.

Conclusions

According to Heidegger, there is no such thing as ‘lived experience’. The concept is embedded in the subject–object dualism that he is attempting to dismantle. In Heideggerian terms, interviews intended to explore ‘lived experience’ can only reproduce the voice of das Man, the ‘They’, not the voice of unique individuals. Methods more in keeping with Heidegger's philosophy include observation, naturalistic experiments, some forms of discourse analysis and conceptually associated lines of enquiry involving vocabularies of motive, scripts and the performative aspects of language use.

Implications for Nursing

Nursing researchers who wish to embrace Heidegger's philosophy as a basis for their work should abandon ‘lived experience’ interviews and adopt one of the alternative methods suggested above. Nursing researchers who wish to continue with ‘lived experience’ interviews should seek an alternative philosophical or theoretical basis for their work.

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