Phenomenology of Human Understanding

By Brian Cronin

An accessible introduction to the question of human knowing, offering a map of the cognitive activities that lead us towards truth and value.

ISBN: 9780718895358


The problem of human knowing has been foundational for the enterprise of philosophy since the time of Descartes. The great philosophers have offered different accounts of the power and limits of human knowing, but no generally acceptable system has emerged. Contemporary writers have almost given up on this most intractable issue.

In Phenomenology of Human Understanding, Brian Cronin suggests using the method of introspective description to identify the characteristics of the act of human understanding and knowing. Introspection, far from being private and unverifiable, can be public, communal, and verifiable. If we can describe our dreams and our feelings, then, we can describe our acts of understanding. Using concrete examples, one can identify the activities involved: namely, questioning, researching, getting an idea, expressing a concept, reflecting on the evidence and inferring a conclusion. Each of these activities can be described clearly and in great detail. If we perform these activities well, we can understand and know both truth and value.

This book invites readers to verify each and every statement in their own experience of understanding. This is a detailed account of human knowing, an extremely valuable contribution to philosophy and a solution to the foundational problem of knowing.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 300

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Brian Cronin is an Irish Spiritan missionary and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh. He has worked as a missionary in Kenya and Tanzania and has been teaching philosophy since 1980. He did his doctorate at Boston College and was later awarded five post-doctoral fellowships there. He is author of two books: Foundations of Philosophy (1999) and Value Ethics (2006).



1. From Introspection to Self-Appropriation
2. Consciousness as an Experience
3. The Basic Act of Understanding (Part 1)
4. The Basic Act of Understanding (Part 2)
5. Developing Understanding
6. How Understanding Becomes Knowledge
7. Understanding and Knowing Values
8. Cognitional Structure
9. Understanding Misunderstanding
10. Establishing Critical Realism
11. From Subjectivity to Objectivity
12. Mind Recovered



Endorsements and Reviews

Nothing is more important for the cultural life of our age than accurate self-knowledge. This book by Brian Cronin addresses that challenge – and delivers. Written in a direct and simple style, the book leads the reader on a profound journey of transformation – to themselves and to the world. I have used Cronin’s previous works with both faculty and students to their great benefit. I could not recommend this book more highly.
Richard M. Liddy, Seton Hall University

A learned and thoughtful book, recommended to anyone thinking critically about perennial philosophical topics as understanding, knowledge and truth.
Esgrid Sikahall, University of Edinburgh, in Expository Times, Vol 131, No 8, May 2020