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.
The neurophilosophical project, as envisioned by Churchland, involves interrheoretic reduction, moving from (or eliminating) theories formulated in terms of common sense and folk psychology, to theories that have stood the test of scientific experiment. In her view, folk psychology, as well as introspective phenomenology, will be eliminated in favor of neuroscience. Neurophenomenology holds that phenomenology (as a practice) is not only possible, but is in fact a useful tool for science; and that phenomenology is ineliminable if the project is to pursue a neurobiology of consciousness. Clarification of these issues rests on an understanding of how phenomenology can be an alternative source of testable theory, and can play a direct role in scientific experiment. Rather than talking in the abstract about the role of theory formation in science, I consider two specific issues to show the difference between a neurophilosophical approach and a neurophenomenlogical approach, namely, the issues of self and intersubjectivity. Neurophilosophy (which starts with theory that is continuous with common sense) and neurophenomenology (which generates theory in methodically controlled practices) lead to very different philosophical views on these issues.
Research in phenomenology has benefitted from using exceptional cases from pathology and expertise. But exactly how are we to generate and apply knowledge from such cases to the phenomenological domain? As researchers of cerebral palsy and musical absorption, we together answer the how question by pointing to the resource of the qualitative interview. Using the qualitative interview is a direct response to Varela’s call for better pragmatics in the methodology of phenomenology and cognitive science and Gallagher’s suggestion for phenomenology to develop its methodology and outsource its tasks. We agree with their proposals, but want to develop them further by discussing and proposing a general framework that can integrate research paradigms of the well-established disciplines of phenomenological philosophy and qualitative science. We give this the working title, a “phenomenological interview”. First we describe the what of the interview, that is the nature of the interview in which one encounters another subject and generates knowledge of a given experience together with this other subject. In the second part, we qualify why it is worthwhile making the time-consuming effort to engage in a phenomenological interview. In the third and fourth parts, we in general terms discuss how to conduct the interview and the subsequent phenomenological analysis, by discussing the pragmatics of Vermersch’s and Petitmengin’s “Explicitation Interview”.
Borrett, Kelly and Kwan claim to provide neural-network models of important aspects of subjective human experience. To sidestep the long-standing and assumedly insurmountable problems with providing models of inner experience, they turn to a body-centered interpretation of experience, drawn from the work of Merleau-Ponty. This body-centered interpretation makes experience more tractable by linking it closely with bodily movement. However, when it comes to modeling, Borrett et al. ignore this body-centered interpretation and revert back to the traditional view of inner experience as existing apart from the body. The result is uninteresting on two counts. The models that they present cannot be taken seriously as models of real inner experience. Additionally, these models do not apply to or extend the idea of a different, body-centered interpretation of experience either.
The article is an attempt at – yet once again – finding a source of more fitting metaphor for the study of consciousness inside the framework of quantum mechanics. It starts by doubting into the possibility of the naturalization of research of experience. Proceeding from that it searches for a more adequate way to implement Varela’s idea about a balanced bridging the explanatory gap. By comparing certain positions of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanical phenomena with the properties of introspection, it tries to point out that there might exist better epistemic positions for understanding consciousness than the ones most frequently used today.
Phenomenology and empirical research are not naturally compatible and devising an empirical technique aiming at researching experience is a challenge. This article presents second-person in-depth phenomenological inquiry – a technique that tries to meet this challenge by allowing the transformation of a participant greatly interested in the investigation of their own subjective experience, into a co-researcher. It then provides an example of this technique being used in a study on enaction of beliefs, more closely showing the cooperative research process of researcher and co-researcher and its result: a grounded theory. The article ends with a discussion on the techniques strengths and weaknesses.
Context: Neurophenomenology lies at a rich intersection of neuroscience and lived human experience, as described by phenomenology. As a new discipline, it is open to many new questions, methods, and proposals. Problem: The best available scientific ontology for neurophenomenology is based in dynamical systems. However, dynamical systems afford myriad strategies for organizing and representing neurodynamics, just as phenomenology presents an array of aspects of experience to be captured. Here, the focus is on the pervasive experience of subjective time. There is a need for concepts that describe synchronic (parallel) features of experience as well as diachronic (dynamic) structures of temporal objects. Method: The paper includes an illustrative discussion of the role of temporality in the construction of the awareness of objects, in the tradition of Husserl, James, and most of 20th century phenomenology. Temporality illuminates desiderata for the dynamical concepts needed for experiment and explanation in neurophenomenology. Results: The structure of music – rather than language – is proposed as a source for descriptive and explanatory concepts in a neurophenomenology that encompasses the pervasive experience of duration, stability, passing time, and change. Implications: The toolbox of cognitive musicology suddenly becomes available for dynamical systems approaches to the neurophenomenology of subjective time. The paper includes an illustrative empirical study of consonance and dissonance in application to an fMRI study of schizophrenia. Dissonance, in a sense strongly analogous to its acoustic musical meaning, characterizes schizophrenia at all times, while emerging in healthy brains only during distracting and demanding tasks. Constructivist content: Our experience of the present is a continuous and elaborate construction of the retention of the immediate past and anticipation of the immediate future. Musical concepts are almost entirely temporal and constructivist in this temporal sense – almost every element of music is constructed from relations to non-present musical/temporal contexts. Musicology may offer many new constructivist concepts and a way of thinking about the dynamical system that is the human brain.