Focuses on the nonduality of subject and object in Buddhism, Vedanta, and Taoism, with reference to Western thinkers including Wittgenstein, Heidegger and William Blake. The main argument is that these three Asian systems may be understood as different attempts to describe the same experience. The categories of Buddhism (no self, impermanence, causality, eightfold path) and Advaita Vedanta (all-Self, time and causality as maya, no path) are “mirror images” of each other. Ultimately it becomes difficult to distinguish a formless Being (Brahman) from a formless nonbeing (shunyata). Buddhism seems to be a more phenomenological description of nonduality, Vedanta a more metaphysical account.
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.
How is life related to the mind? The question has long confounded philosophers and scientists, and it is this so-called explanatory gap between biological life and consciousness that Evan Thompson explores in Mind in Life. Thompson draws upon sources as diverse as molecular biology, evolutionary theory, artificial life, complex systems theory, neuroscience, psychology, Continental Phenomenology, and analytic philosophy to argue that mind and life are more continuous than has previously been accepted, and that current explanations do not adequately address the myriad facets of the biology and phenomenology of mind. Where there is life, Thompson argues, there is mind: life and mind share common principles of self-organization, and the self-organizing features of mind are an enriched version of the self-organizing features of life. Rather than trying to close the explanatory gap, Thompson marshals philosophical and scientific analyses to bring unprecedented insight to the nature of life and consciousness. This synthesis of phenomenology and biology helps make Mind in Life a vital and long-awaited addition to his landmark volume The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (coauthored with Eleanor Rosch and Francisco Varela).
This chapter presents a methodological approach to volitional consciousness for cognitive neuroscience based on studying the voluntary self-generation and self-regulation of mental states in meditation. Called contemplative neuroscience, this approach views attention, awareness, and emotion regulation as flexible and trainable skills, and works with experimental participants who have undergone training in contemplative practices designed to hone these skills. Drawing from research on the dynamical neural correlates of contemplative mental states and theories of large-scale neural coordination dynamics, I argue for the importance of global system causation in brain activity and present an “interventionist” approach to intentional causation.
Excerpt: In addition to this new methodological approach, neurophenomenology is also informed by an autopoietic conception of life; an enactive conception of mind; and a phenomenological conception of intentionality, subjectivity, and the lived body. These link neurophenomenology to what Francisco [Varela] called “renewed ontologies” of mind and life. This idea of renewed ontologies is what I want to talk about today.
Despite the fact that the rubber hand illusion (RHI) is an experimental paradigm that has been widely used in the last 14 years to investigate different aspects of the sense of bodily self, very few studies have sought to investigate the subjective nature of the experience that the RHI evokes. The present study investigates the phenomenology of the RHI through a specific elicitation method. More particularly, this study aims at assessing whether the conditions usually used as control in the RHI have an impact in the sense of body ownership and at determining whether there are different stages in the emergence of the illusion. The results indicate that far from being “all or nothing,” the illusion induced by the RHI protocol involves nuances in the type of perceptual changes that it creates. These perceptual changes affect not only the participants' perception of the rubber hand but also the perception of their real hand. In addition, perceptual effects may vary greatly between participants and, importantly, they evolve over time.