This article provides a critical review of recent work at the intersection of phenomenology and cognitive science. What is and what ought to be the relationship between these two approaches to the study of consciousness? This review explores problems involved with expressing subjective experience in an objective fashion, and issues involved in the use of principles of isomorphism to explain how brain and consciousness are interrelated. It suggests that strict lines cannot be drawn between third-person theory and phenomenological description, that the division of labour between phenomenology and cognitive science is not very strict, and that the best model for understanding the relation between these two approaches is one that emphasizes an externalist viewpoint.
I argue that theory theory approaches to autism offer a wholly inadequate explanation of autistic symptoms because they offer a wholly inadequate account of the non-autistic understanding of others. As an alternative I outline interaction theory, which incorporates evidence from both developmental and phenomenological studies to show that humans are endowed with important capacities for intersubjective understanding from birth or early infancy. As part of a neurophenomenological analysis of autism, interaction theory offers an account of interpersonal problems that is fully consistent with the variety of social and nonsocial symptoms found in autism.
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.
In this chapter I address two questions. First, can phenomenology be naturalized? Second, if so, how? There is some controversy about how to answer the first question, and there are different proposals in response to the second question.
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.
Excerpt: The purpose of this chapter is to first explore potential hybrid theories and methodologies that will help to explicate specific and immediate moments of learning, such as situated learning as well as embodied and enactive learning and, second, to advocate for the use of a pedagogical portfolio assessment and praxis that is appropriate for adult learners and that values these ways of learning. […] I will synthesize specific ways of learning (situated, embodied, enactive) with a neurophenomenologically inspired pedagogy and praxis for the purpose of liberating these ways of learning from educational subjugation.