This paper discusses the phenomenological nature of the sense of boundaries (SB), based on the case of S, who has practiced mindfulness in the Satipathana and Theravada Vipassana traditions for about 40years and accumulated around 20,000h of meditative practice. S’s unique abilities enable him to describe his inner lived experience with great precision and clarity. S was asked to shift between three different stages: (a) the default state, (b) the dissolving of the SB, and (c) the disappearance of the SB. Based on his descriptions, we identified seven categories (with some overlap) that alter during the shifts between these stages, including the senses of: (1) internal versus external, (2) time, (3) location, (4) self, (5) agency (control), (6) ownership, and (7) center (first-person-egocentric-bodily perspective). Two other categories, the touching/touched structure and one’s bodily feelings, do not fade away completely even when the sense-of-boundaries disappears.
Context: Affective neuroscience has not developed first-person methods for the generation of first-person data. This neglect is problematic, because emotion experience is a central dimension of affectivity. Problem: I propose that augmenting affective neuroscience with a neurophenomenological method can help address long-standing questions in emotion theory, such as: Do different emotions come with unique, distinctive patterns of brain and bodily activity? How do emotion experience, bodily feelings and brain and bodily activity relate to one another? Method: This paper is theoretical. It advances ideas for integrating neurophenomenology and affective neuroscience, and explains how this integration would allow progress on the above questions. Results: An integrated “affective neuro-physio-phenomenology” may help scientists understand whether discrete emotion categories come in different experiential varieties, which would in turn help interpret concomitant brain and bodily activity. It may also help investigate the bodily nature of emotion experience, including how experience relates to actual brain and bodily activity. Implications: If put into practice, the ideas advanced here would enrich the scientific study of emotion experience and more generally further our understanding of the relationship of consciousness and physical activity. The paper is speculative and its ideas need to be implemented to bear fruit. Constructivist content: This paper argues in favor of the neurophenomenological method, which is an offshoot of enactivism.
This book takes ideas from the enactive approach developed over the last twenty years in cognitive science and philosophy of mind and applies them for the first time to affective science – the study of emotions, moods, and feelings. Colombetti argues that enactivism entails a view of cognition as not just embodied but also intrinsically affective, and she elaborates on the implications of this claim for the study of emotion in psychology and neuroscience. In the course of her discussion, the author focuses on long-debated issues in affective science, including the notion of basic emotions, the nature of appraisal and its relationship to bodily arousal, the place of bodily feelings in emotion experience, the neurophysiological study of emotion experience, and the bodily nature of our encounters with others. Relevance: The author draws on enactivist tools such as dynamical systems theory, the notion of the lived body, neurophenomenology, and phenomenological accounts of empathy.