The purpose of this paper is to show through the concrete example of epileptic seizure anticipation how neuro-dynamic analysis (using new mathematical tools to detect the dynamic structure of the neuro-electric activity of the brain) and ‘‘pheno-dynamic’’ analysis (using new interview techniques to detect the pre-reflective dynamic micro-structure of the cor- responding subjective experience) may guide and determine each other. We will show that this dynamic approach to epi- leptic seizure makes it possible to consolidate the foundations of a cognitive non pharmacological therapy of epilepsy. We will also show through this example how the neuro-phenomenological co-determination could shed new light on the dif- ficult problem of the ‘‘gap’’ which separates subjective experience from neurophysiological activity.
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.
Astronauts often report experiences of awe and wonder while traveling in space. This paper addresses the question of whether awe and wonder can be scientifically investigated in a simulated space travel scenario using a neurophenomenological method. To answer this question, we created a mixed-reality simulation similar to the environment of the International Space Station. Portals opened to display simulations of Earth or Deep Space. However, the challenge still remained of how to best capture the resulting experience of participants. We could use psychological methods, neuroscientific methods or philosophical methods. Each of these approaches offer many benefits, but each is also limited. Neurophenomenology capitalises on and integrates all three methods. We employed questionnaires from psychology, electroencephalography, electrocardiography, and functional near-infrared spectroscopy from neuroscience, and a phenomenological interview technique from philosophy. This neurophenomenological method enabled extensive insight in experiencers and non-experiencers of awe and wonder (AW) in a simulated space scenario that otherwise would not have been possible. Traditional empirical analyses were completed, followed by individual differences analyses using interview transcriptions paired with physiological responses. Experiencers of AW showed differences in theta and beta activity throughout the brain compared to non-experiencers. Questionnaires indicated that non-experiencers of AW gave more positive responses of religious and spiritual practices than experiencers of AW. Interviews showed that awe and wonder were more likely to occur when watching the simulated Earth view instead of the Deep Space view. Our study is a successful example of neurophenomenology, a powerful and promising interdisciplinary approach for future studies of complex states of experience.
Excerpt: A perusal of the research and literature on the cognitive neuroscience of emotion bears this out: there is a sudden interest in the phenomenology of emotion, and this is because some cognitive neuroscientists are finally beginning to get the picture; one cannot explain the consciousness of emotion as a content of experience without necessarily presupposing the ontological primacy of the experience being explained. Let me put this another way: what neuroscientists are charged with doing is taking the experience of emotion and then explaining it in terms of cognitive processes and physiological events in the nervous system. These efforts from the beginning have always had as their goal to reduce the meaning of conscious experience to biomechanical explanations. But this approach has proved fatal for the project of a reductive cognitive neuroscience, because as soon as you explain something, you are presupposing the existence of whatever it is you set out to explain. If I say, “emotion is triggered, in part, by neuromechanisms in the amygdala of the brain’s limbic system,” this means that the amygdala’s activity explains how emotion gets triggered, but what the explanation presupposes is an experience of emotion that is in need of explanation. But what is this experience of emotion? Clearly, from the first-person perspective of the person undergoing the emotional experience, this is not remotely experienced as an event in the brain. As the phenomenologist understands it, the first-person experience of emotion is the transformation of a world. Neuroscientists who ascribe to phenomenology are beginning to come to terms with the fact that their neuromechanisms are tied to a world of experience that cannot be accessed with their instruments, but require careful experiential description.
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.