Our aim in ‘Are There Neural Correlates of Consciousness?’ was to call attention to some problematic assumptions of one widespread approach to investigating the relation between consciousness and the brain – the research programme based on trying to find neural correlates of the contents of consciousness (content-NCCs). Our aim was not to cast doubt on the importance of neuroscientific research on consciousness in general (contrary to Baars’s impresssion). Nor was it to engage in philosophical debates far removed from the concerns of scientists (as McLaughlin & Bartlett may think). Rather, it was to target some problematic assumptions of a particular empirical research programme, and by bringing them to light, to suggest that there may be other, more profitable ways to investigate the contribution of brain processes to conscious experience than searching for content NCCs. Most of the commentators (Bayne, Freeman, Hardcastle, Haynes & Rees, Hohwy & Frith, Metzinger, Myin, Roy, Searle, Van Gulick), though certainly not all (Baars, Jack & Prinz, McLaughlin & Bartlett) seem to have read us this way, and we are grateful for their critical reflections on our article. In this Authors’ Reply, we cannot respond in detail to every point raised by the commentators, so we shall limit ourselves to addressing the most important issues that we see arising from the commentaries collectively.
In jüngerer Zeit greifen philosophische Untersuchungen zum Leib-Seele-Problem zunehmend Ergebnisse aus den Neurowissenschaften auf und verknüpfen diese mit philosophischen Begrifflichkeiten. Solch eine Verknüpfung von Philosophie und Neurowissenschaft wird häufig unter dem Begriff “Neurophilosophie” subsumiert, ohne dass dieser Begriff und das damit verknüpfte methodische Vorgehen näher beleuchtet oder explizit diskutiert werden. Ziel des vorliegenden Aufsatzes ist es daher, sowohl den Begriff der “Neurophilosophie” als auch das hierfür spezifische methodische Vorgehen zu definieren und programmatisch näher zu charakterisieren.
Context: The founding idea of neurophenomenology is that in order to progress in the understanding of the human mind, it is indispensable to integrate a disciplined study of human experience in cognitive neuroscience, an integration which is also presented as a methodological remedy for the “hard problem” of consciousness. Problem: Does neurophenomenology succeed in solving the hard problem? Method: I distinguish two interpretations and implementations of neurophenomenology: a light or “mild” neurophenomenology, which aims at building correlations between first-person descriptions and neural recordings, and tries to evaluate the validity of first-person descriptions through objective criteria; and a deep or radical neurophenomenology, which aims at investigating the process of co-constitution of the subjective and the objective poles, within lived experience, and tries to evaluate first-person descriptions through processual criteria. Results: While mild neurophenomenology does not solve the hard problem, radical neurophenomenology solves it by dissolving it. Exploring the early stages of phenomenal processes such as the emergence of a perception or an idea highlights: (1) a dimension of experience where the separation usually perceived between the subjective and the objective poles vanishes; (2) micro-actions that instant after instant create and support this process of co-constitution, which Varela called “enaction.” This involves on the one hand experiencing concretely the dissolution of the hard problem, and on the other hand verifying the theory of enaction in lived experience. Implications: Radical neurophenomenology is a research programme that enables us to investigate precisely the mutual unfolding of the subjective and objective poles, from its most primitive phases such as perceptual events, to its latest phases such as the co-construction of scientific objectivity and intersubjectivity.
Neurophenomenology, as an attempt to combine and mutually enlighten neural and experiential descriptions of cognitive processes, has met practical difficulties which have limited its implementation into actual research projects. The main difficulty seems to be the disparity of the levels of description: while neurophenomenology strongly emphasizes the micro-dynamics of experience, at the level of brief mental events with very specific content, most neural measures have much coarser functional selectivity, because they mix functionally heterogeneous neural processes either in space or in time. We propose a new starting point for this neurophenomenology, based on (a) the recent development of human intra-cerebral EEG (iEEG) research to highlight the neural micro-dynamics of human cognition, with millimetric and millisecond precision and (b) a disciplined access to the experiential micro-dynamics, through specific elicitation techniques. This lays the foundation for a microcognitive science, the practical implementation of neurophenomenology to combine the neural and experiential investigations of human cognition at the subsecond level. This twofold microdynamic approach opens a line of investigation into the very cognitive acts in which the scission between the objective and the subjective worlds originates, and a means to verify and refine the dynamic epistemology of enaction. Relevance: The twofold microdynamic approach that we are advocating in this article not only provides a methodological solution to the problems of correlation between experiential and neuronal, first-person and third-person descriptions of our cognitive processes. It also opens a line of investigation into the very cognitive acts in which the scission between the objective and the subjective worlds originates, and a means to verify and refine the dynamic epistemology of enaction.
Empirical phenomenology – study of lived subjective experience is the latest addition to the interdisciplinary efforts aiming at understanding the human mind. We present the research, which was originally aimed at investigating the experiences of Holotropic Breathwork, however, results of the analysis convinced us to move the focus of our interest to differences between individual ways of constructing experience. We have identified three types of personal epistemologies (i.e. ways of constructing the subjective experience) and found the correlation with individual attitudes towards self-exploration. The paper aims at providing a novel model with regard to how experience is constructed and expands the understanding of the limitations of the phenomenological interview techniques.
The purpose of this introductory essay is to make explicit the general intellectual project behind the book Naturalizing Phenomenology. It should be clear that it expresses the opinion of the editors; none of the contributors has been invited to discuss or modify it. In fact this essay does not even fully reflect the opinions of the editors, because it gives no room to the differences existing in their concerns and philosophical orientations. A more adequate statement of their respective positions is to be found in their individual contributions.
Context: Phenomenology and the enactive approach pose a unique challenge to dream research: during sleep one seems to be relatively disconnected from both world and body. Movement and perception, prerequisites for sensorimotor subjectivity, are restricted; the dreamer’s experience is turned inwards. In cognitive neurosciences, on the other hand, the generally accepted approach holds that dream formation is a direct result of neural activations in the absence of perception, and dreaming is often equated with “delusions.” Problem: Can enactivism and phenomenology account for the variety of dream experiences? What kinds of experiential and empirical approaches are required in order to probe into dreaming subjectivity? Investigating qualities of perception, sensation, and embodiment in dreams, as well as the relationship between the dream-world and waking-world requires a step away from a delusional or altered-state framework of dream formation and a step toward an enactive integrative approach. Method: In this article, we will focus on the “depth” of dream experiences, i.e., what is possible in the dream state. Our article is divided into two parts: a theoretical framework for approaching dreaming from an enactive cognition standpoint; and discussion of the role and strategies for experimentation on dreaming. Based on phenomenology and theories of enactivism, we will argue for the primacy of subjectivity and imagination in the formation of lived experience. Results: We propose that neurophenomenology of dreaming is a nascent discipline that requires rethinking the relative role of third-, first- and second-person methodologies, and that a paradigm shift is required in order to investigate dreaming as a phenomenon on a continuum of conscious phenomena as opposed to a break from or an alteration of consciousness. Implications: Dream science, as part of the larger enterprise of consciousness and subjectivity studies, can be included in the enactive framework. This implies that dream experiences are neither passively lived nor functionally disconnected from dreamers’ world and body. We propose the basis and some concrete strategies for an empirical enactive neurophenomenology of dreaming. We conclude that investigating dream experiences can illuminate qualities of subjective perception and relation to the world, and thus challenge the traditional subject-object juxtaposition. Constructivist content: This article argues for an interdisciplinary enactive cognitive science approach to dream studies.
This work presents the results of the first empirical research protocol based on the connection between phenomenology, cognitive science and pedagogy, conducted in the Laboratory of Epistemology and Practices of Education (LEPE) in the last three years and aimed at the pedagogical training of psychologists and teachers. The LEPE follows a different path than the more commonly used laboratory strategies because it does not depart from a biographical analysis of the experience but from a preliminary systematization of knowledge about the educational process by means of a comparative-synchronic analysis of theoretical models of education. This analysis is preliminary to the choice and explanation of a model of action, in which formal, non-formal and informal knowledge is interconnected. The training is aimed at acquiring meta-cognitive and self-reflection strategies in order to produce an “autonomous and responsible action” that is the result of conscious and critical “practical” choices, based on understanding, monitoring and management of the largest number of possible alternatives. Relevance: This paper is a synthesis of the author’s book “Il Laboratorio di Epistemologia e Pratiche dell’educazione. Un approccio neurofenomenologico alla formazione dei formatori.” Starting from the nexus between phenomenology and cognitive sciences, it explores intentionality in an educational setting and offers neurophenomenological strategies aimed at the training of the trainers.
Context: Neurophenomenology is a relatively new field, with scope for novel and informative approaches to empirical questions about what structural parallels there are between neural activity and phenomenal experience. Problem: The overall aim is to present a method for examining possible correlations of neurodynamic and phenodynamic structures within the structurally-coupled work of Alexander Technique practitioners with their pupils. Method: This paper includes the development of an enkinaesthetic explanatory framework, an overview of the salient aspects of the Alexander Technique, and the presentation of an elicitation interview technique as part of a neurophenomenological method. It will propose a way of testing the hypothesis that if, in the effective practice of Alexander Technique, there is a union between the nervous systems of teacher and pupil, it should be visible neurologically and affective phenomenologically, and thus it should be possible to investigate both its neural and phenomenal signatures. Results: The proposed means of testing the hypothesis is to use the elicitation interview technique alongside neural monitoring during the teaching of the Alexander Technique in four paired sets of subjects. Constructivist content: At the heart of this paper is the claim that all activity is co-activity. I make no assumption of an ontological primacy of mental or physical, or explanatory primacy of any methodology. Implications: This has important ramifications for somatic education and therapies, for establishing frameworks of co-engagement and care in health-care situations, and for understanding empathy.
This talk, delivered at “De l“autopoièse à la neurophénoménologie: un hommage à Francisco Varela; from autopoiesis to neurophenomenology: a tribute to Francisco Varela,” June 18–20, at the Sorbonne in Paris, explicates several links between Varela’s neurophenomenology and his biological concept of autopoiesis. Relevance: The paper deals with relevant notions such as autopoiesis and neurophenomenology.