Conflicting claims have been made about whether introspection can be reliable at all. Lots of objections have been formulated against it in classical and modern literature. We thus list these objections and outline some replies, in addition to some theoretical rebuttals based on contemporary philosophy of science. We further point out that these objections target an abstract image of introspection rather than introspection per se. Accordingly, we describe one of the currently available methods that we ourselves practice: the elicitation (or micro-phenomenological) interview method. Our aim is to show that, irrespective of its alleged theoretical impossibility”, introspection is made real by this kind of method which incorporates replies to most standard objections.
Current cognitive science models of perception and action assume that the objects that we move toward and perceive are represented as determinate in our experience of them. A proper phenomenology of perception and action, however, shows that we experience objects indeterminately when we are perceiving them or moving toward them. This indeterminacy, as it relates to simple movement and perception, is captured in the proposed phenomenologically based recurrent network models of brain function. These models provide a possible foundation from which predicative structures may arise as an emergent phenomenon without the positing of a representing subject. These models go some way in addressing the dual constraints of phenomenological accuracy and neurophysiological plausibility that ought to guide all projects devoted to discovering the physical basis of human experience.
This paper outlines two ideas. The first proposes a basic high-level neuropsychological and neurophenomenological cybernetic framework for discussing the structure of mind and experience. The second is that much, perhaps even most, informational processes in the brain are inherently temporal in nature, i.e. that they are subserved by temporal neural codes. To paraphrase Mari Reiss Jones, in the study of mind and brain, “time is our lost dimension” (Jones 1976). In this view, there is pervasive, common temporal structure in the internal neural representations that subserve both perception and action. This common temporal structure permits perception to facilitate, inform, and even bootstrap action, and vice versa. Time structure in perception, action (movement, behavior), cognition, affect, motivation (drives, goals), and memory may allow these different mental faculties to mutually influence one another.
The paper proposes a renewal of the problem-space in which the relation between psychoanalysis and the cognitive neurosciences is played out, this is in response to the persistent embarrassment or stand-off that characterizes current attempts at dialogue. The authors suggest going beyond classical conceptual oppositions, (mind-body, subject-object etc.), and beyond the seduction of the idea of some ‘natural’ conceptual translation between the two practices. A process of reciprocal ‘transference’ becomes central to creating the space in which the “mixed,” (both biological and subjective), quality of our objects may be recognized and the pitfalls of reductionism be avoided. For psychoanalysis the hysteric was originally such a mixed or “quasiobject’ in which psyche and soma were in a relation of reciprocal representation. On the other hand, the cognitive neurosciences’ ‘embodied-enactive’ and neurophenomenological perspectives provide a philosophical framework for the place of subjectivity and interpretation in scientific work. This important epistemological shift in scientific thinking offers evocative conceptual tools (emergent processes, circular causality), which should transform the difficult dialogue between the neurosciences and psychoanalysis.
Context: Affective neuroscience has not developed first-person methods for the generation of first-person data. This neglect is problematic, because emotion experience is a central dimension of affectivity. Problem: I propose that augmenting affective neuroscience with a neurophenomenological method can help address long-standing questions in emotion theory, such as: Do different emotions come with unique, distinctive patterns of brain and bodily activity? How do emotion experience, bodily feelings and brain and bodily activity relate to one another? Method: This paper is theoretical. It advances ideas for integrating neurophenomenology and affective neuroscience, and explains how this integration would allow progress on the above questions. Results: An integrated “affective neuro-physio-phenomenology” may help scientists understand whether discrete emotion categories come in different experiential varieties, which would in turn help interpret concomitant brain and bodily activity. It may also help investigate the bodily nature of emotion experience, including how experience relates to actual brain and bodily activity. Implications: If put into practice, the ideas advanced here would enrich the scientific study of emotion experience and more generally further our understanding of the relationship of consciousness and physical activity. The paper is speculative and its ideas need to be implemented to bear fruit. Constructivist content: This paper argues in favor of the neurophenomenological method, which is an offshoot of enactivism.
Context: The use of first-person micro-phenomenological interviews and their productive interaction with third-person physiological data is a challenging and pressing issue in order to offer an effective and fruitful application of Varela’s neurophenomenological hypothesis. Problem: We aim at offering a generative method of analysis of first-person micro-phenomenological interviews using third-person physiological data. Our challenge is to describe this generative first-person analysis with the third-person physiological framework rather than put Varela’s hypothesis into practice in a generative way (as we did in another paper. Method: The present contribution is a first pioneering study as far as the exposition of such an interactive generative methodology is concerned. It is also a new issue insofar as it deals with a case study, surprise in depression, that has not been thoroughly dealt with so far, either in philosophy or in psychopathology. Results: We show that the analysis of first-person data is an intrinsic generative one, insofar as new refined categories and multifarious circular micro- and macro-processes were discovered in the very process of analyzing. They provide the initial structural generic third-person description of surprise inherited both from philosophical phenomenological a priori categories and from the experimental startle setting with a refined micro-segmentation of the dynamic of the experience. Implications: Our article could be of interest to neurophenomenologists looking for an effective application and to researchers in quest of a method of analysis of first-person data. The present limitations are due to the still preliminary data-results we need to complete. Constructivist content: The article is directly linked to Varela’s neurophenomenological program and aims at extending and reforming it with a cardio-phenomenological approach. Keywords: First-person micro-phenomenological interviews, surprise, generative analysis of first-person data, depression, cardio-phenomenology, generative categories.
Current research on spontaneous, self-generated brain rhythms and dynamic neural network coordination cast new light on Immanuel Kant’s idea of the ‘spontaneity’ of cognition, that is, the mind’s capacity to organize and synthesize sensory stimuli in novel, unprecedented ways. Nevertheless, determining the precise nature of the brain-cognition mapping remains an outstanding challenge. Neurophenomenology, which uses phenomenological information about the variability of subjective experience in order to illuminate the variability of brain dynamics, offers a promising method for addressing this challenge.
Context: There is a growing recognition in consciousness science of the need for rigorous methods for obtaining accurate and detailed phenomenological reports of lived experience, i.e., descriptions of experience provided by the subject living them in the “first-person.” Problem: At the moment although introspection and debriefing interviews are sometimes used to guide the design of scientific studies of the mind, explicit description and evaluation of these methods and their results rarely appear in formal scientific discourse. Method: The recent publication of an edited book of papers dedicated to the exploration of first-and second-person methods, Ten Years of Viewing from Within: The Legacy of Francisco Varela, serves as a starting point for a discussion of how these methods could be integrated into the growing discipline of consciousness science. We complement a brief review of the book with a critical analysis of the major pilot studies in Varela’s neurophenomenology, a research program that was explicitly devised to integrate disciplined experiential methods with the latest advances in neuroscience. Results: The book is a valuable resource for those who are interested in impressive recent advances in first- and second-person methods, as applied to the phenomenology of lived experience. However, our review of the neurophenomenology literature concludes that there is as yet no convincing example of these specialized techniques being used in combination with standard behavioral and neuroscientific approaches in consciousness science to produce results that could not have also been achieved by simpler methods of introspective reporting. Implications: The end of behaviorism and the acceptance of verbal reports of conscious experience have already enabled the beginning of a science of consciousness. It can only be of benefit if new first- and second-person methods become well-known across disciplines. Constructivist content: Constructivism has long been interested in the role of the observer in the constitution of our sense of reality, so these developments in the science of consciousness may open new avenues of constructivist research. More specifically, one of the ways in which the insights from first- and second-person methods are being validated is by recursively applying the methods to themselves; a practical application of an epistemological move that will be familiar to constructivists from the second-order cybernetics tradition.