This article is based on an ethnographic research carried out from 2004 to 2008 in Spain. It is about the understanding of the companionship for minors with correctional and educational intervention in Juvenile Court. The first ethnographic affiliation aspired to become “medium” in search of an humanistic epistemology which admits its physical, psychological, sociological and political dimensions and shapes a critical deconstruction of certain scientific representations of educational phenomena. The epistemological evolution was the following: Phenomenology, Constructivism and Complexity. The fieldwork was thought as “situation-in-life”: the whole research and the progressive research subject construction were driven by this “situation-in-life” itself.
Open peer commentary on the article “Enaction as a Lived Experience: Towards a Radical Neurophenomenology” by Claire Petitmengin. Upshot: The neurophenomenological project is too ambitious technically, but highly appealing on the philosophical level, as can be learned from the extremely high ratio between theoretical and empirical work concerning neurophenomenology accumulated thus far. While “radical” neurophenomenology could possibly create, in highly unique projects, “mutual generative constraints,” will the hard problem be dissolved? I argue that although using micro phenomenology, as long as experimental designs inspired by front-loading phenomenological insights are reviewed by the regular scientific mind, the question of validating the phenomenology with objective measures remains, and will keep blocking the outbreak in this promising field. Since “we cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them,” it is timely for the scientific community to practice an attitude shift.
Six arguments against the view that conscious experience derives from a material basis are presented, none of which is entirely new taken in isolation but whose conjunction is compelling. These arguments arise from epistemology, phenomenology, neuropsychology, and philosophy of quantum mechanics. It turns out that any attempt at proving that conscious experience is ontologically secondary to material objects both fails and brings out its methodological and existential primacy. No alternative metaphysical view is espoused (not even a variety of Spinoza’s attractive double-aspect theory). Instead, an alternative stance, inspired from F. Varela’s neurophenomenology is advocated. This unfamiliar stance involves (i) a complete redefinition of the boundary between unquestioned assumptions and relevant questions ; (ii) a descent towards the common ground of the statements of phenomenology and objective natural science: a practice motivated by the quest of an expanding circle of intersubjective agreement.
Context: We are presently witnessing a revival of introspective methods, which implicitly challenges an impressive list of in-principle objections that were addressed to introspection by various philosophers and by behaviorists. Problem: How can one overcome those objections and provide introspection with a secure basis? Results: A renewed definition of introspection as “enlargement of the field of attention and contact with re-enacted experience,” rather than “looking-within,” is formulated. This entails (i) an alternative status of introspective phenomena, which are no longer taken as revelations of some an sich slice of experience, but as full-fledged experiences; and (ii) an alternative view of the validity of first-person reports as “performative coherence” rather than correspondence. A preliminary empirical study of the self-assessed reliability of introspective data using the elicitation interview method is then carried out. It turns out that subjects make use of reproducible processual criteria in order to probe into the authenticity and completeness of their own introspective reports. Implications: Introspective inquiry is likely to have enough resources to “take care of itself.” Constructivist content: It is argued that the failure of the introspectionist wave of the turn of the 19th/20th centuries is mostly due to its unconditional acceptance of the representationalist theory of knowledge, and that alternative non-representationalist criteria of validity give new credibility to introspective knowledge.
Current cognitive science models of perception and action assume that the objects that we move toward and perceive are represented as determinate in our experience of them. A proper phenomenology of perception and action, however, shows that we experience objects indeterminately when we are perceiving them or moving toward them. This indeterminacy, as it relates to simple movement and perception, is captured in the proposed phenomenologically based recurrent network models of brain function. These models provide a possible foundation from which predicative structures may arise as an emergent phenomenon without the positing of a representing subject. These models go some way in addressing the dual constraints of phenomenological accuracy and neurophysiological plausibility that ought to guide all projects devoted to discovering the physical basis of human experience.
Luhmanian sociocybernetics is an observation of socio-communicative systems with a specific difference. It is a second order observation of observations understanding society as being ‘functionally differentiated’ into autonomous autopoietic subsystems or meaning worlds in the symbolic generalized media such as money, power, truth, love, art and faith. Only communication communicates and the social is communication. The social system creates products of meaning which do not represent an aggregation of the content of individuals’ minds. The bioand psychological autopoietic systems only establish boundary conditions for the sociocommunicative systems, they do not control the socio-communicative system in any way. Somehow the socio-communicative systems seem to develop on their own (by will?) although they have no body and no subject. The psychic system in Luhmann’s theory is thus not a Kantian or Husserlian transcendental ego in spite of Luhmann’s use of aspects of Husserl’s phenomenology (while at the same time destroying its philosophical frame). On the other hand, Luhmann works with an open ontology, combined with Spencer-Brown’s philosophy that making distinctions is what creates the difference between system and environment. Thus observation is basic to the theory-but where is the observer in the theoretical framework of system theory? The inspiration from Hegel is hidden here, where distinction, creation and evolution merge. Also, Hegel has been taken out of his metaphysical frame while Luhmann never took the time to finish his own. On the other hand, the father of the pragmatic triadic semiotic C. S. Peirce-also inspired by Hegel-explicitly confronted some of these problems. Like Bataille, Peirce sees a continuity between mind and matter and his Firstness contains pure feeling, meaning that there is also an inner experience aspect of matter. The article compares Luhmann’s and Spencer-Brown’s strategies with Peirce’s, the latter of whom built an alternative transdisciplinary theory of signification and communication based on a Panentheistic theory of knowing. Surprisingly it fits well with Spencer-Brown’s metaphysics, which makes it possible to establish a consistent foundation for system theory.
Context: Radical constructivism claims that we have no final truth criteria for establishing one ontology over another. This leaves us with the question of how we can come to know anything in a viable manner. According to von Glasersfeld, radical constructivism is a theory of knowledge rather than a philosophy of the world in itself because we do not have access to a human-independent world. He considers knowledge as the ordering of experience to cope with situations in a satisfactory way. Problem: Von Foerster and Krippendorff show that the central goal of a constructivist theory of knowing must be to find a way of putting the knower into a known that is constructed so as to keep the knower, as well as the knowing process, viable in practice. Method: The conceptual and philosophical analysis of present theories and their necessary prerequisites suggests that such foundation for viable knowing can be built on the analysis of what the ontological prerequisites are for establishing viable observing, cognition, communication and observer-communicators, and communication media and vehicles. Results: The moment an observer chooses to accept his/her own embodied conscious presence in this world as well as language, he/she must accept other humans as partly independently existing conversation partners; if knowledge and knowing has to make sense, he/she must also accept as prerequisites for our observation and conversation a pre-linguistic reality from which our bodies come and which our conversation is often about. Furthermore, we can no longer claim that there is a reality that we do not know anything about: From being here in conversation, we know that the world can produce more or less stable embodied consciousnesses that can exchange and construct conceptual meanings through embodied conversations and actions that last over time and exist in space-time and mind, and are correlated to our embodied practices. We can also see that our communication works through signs for all living systems as well as in human language, understood as a structured and progressively developed system of communication. The prerequisite for this social semiotic production of meaning is the fourfold “semiotic star of cybersemiotics,” which includes at least four different worlds: our bodies, the combination of society, culture and language, our consciousness, and also an outer nature. Implications: The semiotic star in cybersemiotics claims that the internal subjective, the intersubjective linguistic, our living bodies, and nature are irreducible and equally necessary as epistemological prerequisites for knowing. The viable reality of any of them cannot be denied without self-refuting paradoxes. There is an obvious connectedness between the four worlds, which Peirce called “synechism.” It also points to Peirce’s conclusion that logic and rationality are part of the process of semiosis, and that meaning in the form of semiosis is a fundamental aspect of reality, not just a construction in our heads. Erratum: The paper erroneously refers to “pleroma.” The correct term is “plemora.”
We need to realize that a paradigm based on the view of the universe that makes irreversible time and evolution fundamental forces us to view man as a product of evolution and therefore an observer from inside the universe. The theories of the phenomenological life world and the hermeneutics of communication and understanding seem to defy classical scientific explanations. The humanities therefore send another insight the opposite way down the evolutionary ladder, with questions like: What is the role of consciousness, signs and meaning in evolution? These are matters that the exact sciences are not constructed to answer in their present state. Phenomenology and hermeneutics point out to the sciences that they have prerequisite conditions in embodied living as a conscious being imbued with meaningful language and a culture. One can see the world view that emerges from the work of the sciences as a reconstruction back into time of our present ecological and evolutionary self-understanding as semiotic intersubjective conscious cultural historical creatures, but unable to handle the aspects of meaning and conscious awareness. How can we integrate these two directions of explanatory efforts? The problem is that the scientific one is without concepts of qualia and meaning, and the phenomenological-hermeneutic “sciences of meaning” do not have a foundation in material evolution. Relevance: A modern interpretation of C.S. Peirce’s pragmaticistic evolutionary and phaneroscopic semiosis in the form of a biosemiotics is used and integrated with N. Luhmann’s evolutionary autopoietic system theory of social communication. This framework, which integrates cybernetics and semiotics, is called Cybersemiotics.
Upshot: Written by recognized experts in their fields, the book is a set of essays that deals with the influences of early cybernetics, computational theory, artificial intelligence, and connectionist networks on the historical development of computational-representational theories of cognition. In this review, I question the relevance of computability arguments and Jonasian phenomenology, which has been extensively invoked in recent discussions of autopoiesis and Ashby’s homeostats. Although the book deals only indirectly with constructivist approaches to cognition, it is useful reading for those interested in machine-based models of mind.
The terminological boxes into which we press the history of philosophy often obscure deep and important differences among major figures supposedly belonging to a single school of thought. One such disparity within the phenomenological movement, often overlooked but by no means invisible, separates Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception from the Husserlian program that initially inspired it. For Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology amounts to a radical, if discreet, departure not only from Husserl’s theory of intentionality generally, but more specifically from his account of the intentional constitution of the body and its role in perceptual experience.