Context: More than 20 years ago Varela initiated a research program to advance in the scientific study of consciousness, neurophenomenology. Problem: Has Varela’s neurophenomenology, the solution to the “hard problem,” been successful? Which issues remain unresolved, and why? Method: This introduction sketches the progress that has been made since then and links it to the contributions to this special issue. Results: Instead of a unified research field, today we find a variety of different interpretations and implementations of neurophenomenology. We argue that neurophenomenology needs to give additional attention to its experiential dimension by addressing first-person methods’ specific challenges and by rethinking the relationship between the frameworks of the first- and third-person approaches.
This paper discusses the notion of the self or identity as central to the unfolding of F. Varela’s work. From the fundamental concept of autopoiesis to the neurophenomenology program, the view of identity as non- fixed, always virtual, acts as a guiding thread in his elaboration of a non-dualistic vision of mind and experience. The Buddhist notion of sunyata, or emptiness, elucidates this notion of the “selfless self”, and underlies the evolution of Varela’s work toward an embodied-enactive conception of mind.
This paper is an attempt to arrive at a species-specific characterization of human consciousness by considering its value as a biological adaptation. The analysis considers conscious phenomena in animals to motivate the distinction between self-consciousness and consciousness; the distinction is substantiated with neurological data. The relation between self-consciousness and language is considered in the light of the evolution of human language. Finally, a mechanism is postulated, based on current neurobiological knowledge, which makes it possible to account for self-consciousness as an epiphenomenon of language.
This paper presents a novel reading of ideas on temporal binding as a key for cognitive operations by means of fast (gamma band) phase synchrony. We advocate a view of binding of widely distributed cell assemblies transiently locked in a neural hypergraph which serves as a reference point to incorporate or interpret other less coherent concurrent neural events. The paper traces in some detail the empirical evidence concerning the gamma binding process and presents some implications for the constitution of a unified cognitive-mental space. Relevance:
This paper starts with one of Chalmers’ basic points: first-hand experience is an irreducible field of phenomena. I claim there is no ‘theoretical fix’ or ‘extra ingredient’ in nature that can possibly bridge this gap. Instead, the field of conscious phenomena requires a rigorous method and an explicit pragmatics for its exploration and analysis. My proposed approach, inspired by the style of inquiry of phenomenology, I have called neurophenomenology. It seeks articulations by mutual constraints between phenomena present in experience and the correlative field of phenomena established by the cognitive sciences. It needs to expand into a widening research community in which the method is cultivated further.
This text has a precise context and purpose. The context is the recent vigorous rekindling of the relations between Husserlian phenomenology and the contemporary science of mind, or cognitive science. This is what it is referred to as the naturalization of phenomenology. My interest have centered on a rather specific line of naturalization, provocatively called neurophenomenology, that I will introduce shortly. As a concrete application (or illustration) of this research style I have presented a new analysis of the phenomenology of present time. The purpose of these pages is to critically examine two central issues concerning the naturalization of phenomenology that emerge from this exercise, and that cry out for further elucidation.
My purpose in this essay is to propose an explicitly naturalized account of the experience of present nowness based on two complementary approaches: phenomenological analysis and cognitive neuroscience. What I mean by naturalization, and the role cognitive neuroscience plays, will become clear as this essay unfolds.
Our purpose in this essay is to let imagination be a guiding thread in a journey of exploration of its inextricably nondual quality, making it possible to travel from its material-brain basis to its experiential quality without discontinuity. That is, we are not going to propose a “bridge” between a scientific view of imagination and its place in the Buddhist discipline of human transformation. Our purpose is to embrace the entire phenomenon in all its complexity and weave it as a unity with its many dimensions, which need and constrain each other without residue – in the body and brain, in its direct phenomenological examination, and in its pragmatic mobilization for human change. Only such weaving can be called a meeting of Buddhism and neuroscience on a new phenomenological ground.
The paper unfolds in three stages. In the first, we briefly review some current work in the study of color vision. This view will then be taken to a critical limit in the second stage, through what we like to call the comparative argument. It purports to demonstrate the mode in which color vision is an ecologically embedded activity rather a form of information processing. We warn the reader immediately that we do not construe this in any way as a form of subjectivist view that color is a type of sensation, nor as a Lockean view that color is a form of secondary disposition. The comparative argument, we argue, allows to go beyond both those classical positions. This is done in the third and final part where we layout an enactive view of color.