The current approach to science for mainstream psychology relies on the philosophical foundation of positivism that cannot account for meaning as humans experience it. Phenomenology provides an alternative scientific approach in which meaning is constituted by acting toward objects in the world that is more consistent with how humans experience meaning. Immanuel Levinas argues that the phenomenological approach, while more consistent with human experience, does not provide a grounding for meaning. Rather, Levinas argues that meaning is grounded in the ethical encounter with the Other, or other person, such that meaning is given by the Other in rupture. For Levinas, the physical world, or elemental, and the I provide constraints for the meaning given by the Other but the Other is logically prior to all other experience. This alternative to the mainstream scientific approach in psychology of positivism has implications for the epistemology, methodology, and scientific community of psychology. The Levinasian perspective advocates an epistemology that is open to the rupture of the Other as a way to provide new knowledge. This emphasis on openness to rupture produces a methodology in which the scientist must allow object of study to influence the method used in research. Finally, the Levinasian perspective implies a scientific community that is sensitive to the rupture occasioned by the encounter with the Other.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Psychology



Date Submitted


Document Type





philosophy of science, Levinas, epistemology, psychology, Other

Included in

Psychology Commons