Volume 7 · Number 3 · Pages 165–173

< Previous Paper · Next Paper >

Neurophenomenology, an Ongoing Practice of/in Consciousness

Michel Bitbol

Download the full text in
PDF (401 kB)

> Citation > Similar > References > Add Comment


Context: In his work on neurophenomenology, the late Francisco Varela overtly tackled the well-known “hard problem” of the (physical) origin of phenomenal consciousness. Problem: Did he have a theory for solving this problem? No, he declared, only a “remedy.” Yet this declaration has been overlooked: Varela has been considered (successively or simultaneously) as an idealist, a dualist, or an identity theorist. Results: These primarily theoretical characterizations of Varela’s position are first shown to be incorrect. Then it is argued that there exists a stance (let’s call it the Varelian stance) in which the problem of the physical origin of primary consciousness, or pure experience, does not even arise. Implications: The nature of the “hard problem” of consciousness is changed from an intellectual puzzle to an existential option. Constructivist content: The role of ontological prejudice about what the world is made of (a prejudice that determines the very form of the “hard problem” as the issue of the origin of consciousness out of a pre-existing material organization) is downplayed, and methodologies and attitudes are put to the fore.

Key words: First-person approaches, non-dualism, idealism, Francisco Varela, Edmund Husserl.


Bitbol M. (2012) Neurophenomenology, an ongoing practice of/in consciousness. Constructivist Foundations 7(3): 165–173. http://constructivist.info/7/3/165

Export article citation data: Plain Text · BibTex · EndNote · Reference Manager (RIS)

Similar articles

Vörös S. (2014) The Uroboros of Consciousness: Between the Naturalisation of Phenomenology and the Phenomenologisation of Nature

Weiss M. G. (2013) Non-dualistic Sex. Josef Mitterer’s Non-dualistic Philosophy in the Light of Judith Butler’s (De)Constructivist Feminism

Vörös S. & Riegler A. (2017) A Plea for not Watering Down the Unseemly: Reconsidering Francisco Varela’s Contribution to Science

Ene P. (2013) Descriptions as Distinctions. George Spencer Brown’s Calculus of Indications as a Basis for Mitterer’s Non-dualistic Descriptions

Froese T., Gould C. & Barrett A. (2011) Re-Viewing from Within: A Commentary on First- and Second-Person Methods in the Science of Consciousness


Amstrong D. M. (1993) A materialist theory of the mind. Routledge, London. << Google Scholar

Batchelor S. (2000) Verses from the centre. Riverhead Hardcover, New York. << Google Scholar

Bayne T. (2004) Closing the gap? Some questions for neurophenomenology. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 3: 349–364. << Google Scholar

Bilodeau D. J. (1996) Physics, machines and the hard problem. Journal of Consciousness Studies 3: 386–401. << Google Scholar

Bitbol M. (2000) Physique et philosophie de l’esprit. Flammarion, Paris. << Google Scholar

Bitbol M. (2002) Science as if situation mattered. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Science 1: 181–224. << Google Scholar

Bitbol M. (2006) Une science de la conscience équitable: L’actualité de la neurophénoménologie de Francisco Varela. Intellectica 43: 135–157. << Google Scholar

Bitbol M. (2007) Ontology, matter and emergence. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Science 6: 293–307. << Google Scholar

Bitbol M. (2008) Consciousness, situations, and the measurement problem of quantum mechanics. NeuroQuantology 6: 203–213. << Google Scholar

Bitbol M. (2008) Is consciousness primary? NeuroQuantology 6: 53–71. << Google Scholar

Bitbol-Hespériès A. (2000) Descartes face à la mélancolie de la Princesse Elisabeth. In: Melkevik B. & Narbonne J.-M. (eds.) Une philosophie dans l’histoire, hommages à Raymond Klibansky. Presses de l’Université de Laval, Montréal: 229–250. << Google Scholar

Carnap R. (1936) Existe-t-il des prémisses de la science qui soient incontrôlables? Translated by Henri Buriot-Darsiles. Scientia LX: 129–135. Note: Carnap’s original German paper was never published. << Google Scholar

Chalmers D. J. (1996) The conscious mind. In search of a fundamental theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. << Google Scholar

Chalmers D. J. (1997) Moving forward on the problem of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness studies 4: 3–46. << Google Scholar

Damasio A. (1995) Descartes’ error: Emotion, reason and the human brain. New York: Harper Perennial. << Google Scholar

Davidson D. (1980) Essays on actions and events. Clarendon Press, Oxford. << Google Scholar

Descartes R. (1991) The philosophical writings III. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. << Google Scholar

Elie M. (1993) Lumière, couleurs et nature. Vrin, Paris. << Google Scholar

Feigl H. (1970) Mind-Body, not a pseudo-problem. In: Borst C. V. (ed.) The mind-brain identity theory. McMillan, London: 33–42. << Google Scholar

Gallagher S. & Zahavi D. (2008) The phenomenological mind. Routledge: New York. << Google Scholar

Hardcastle V. G. (1996) The why of consciousness: a non-issue for materialists. Journal of Consciousness Studies 3: 7–13. << Google Scholar

Henry M. (1985) Généalogie de la psychanalyse. Presses Universitaires de France, Paris. << Google Scholar

Husserl E. (1964) The phenomenology of internal time-consciousness. Translated by James S. Churchill. Indiana University Press, Bloomington. German original: Husserl E. (1928) Vorlesungen zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewusstseins. Niemeyer, Halle. << Google Scholar

Husserl E. (1977) Cartesian meditations: An introduction to phenomenology. Martinus Nijhoff, Den Haag. << Google Scholar

Hut P. & Shepard R. N. (1998) Turning the “hard problem” upside down and sideways. In: Shear J. (ed.) Explaining consciousness, the hard problem. MIT Press, Cambridge. << Google Scholar

James W. (2003) Essays of radical empiricism. Dover Publications: London. << Google Scholar

Lachaux J.-P. (2011) If no control, then what? Journal of Consciousness Studies 18: 162–166. << Google Scholar

Lockwood M. (1993) Dennett’s mind. Inquiry 36: 59–72. << Google Scholar

Lutz A. & Thompson E. (2003) Neurophenomenology: Integrating subjective experience and brain dynamics in the neuroscience of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 10: 31–52. << Google Scholar

Merleau-Ponty M. (1964) Le visible et l’invisible. Gallimard, Paris. << Google Scholar

Natorp P. (1912) Allgemeine Psychologie nach kritischer Methode. Tübingen: Mohr. << Google Scholar

Peschard I. & Bitbol M. (2008) Heat, temperature and phenomenal concepts. In: Wright E. (ed.) The case for qualia. MIT Press, Cambridge: 155–174. << Google Scholar

Petitmengin C. & Bitbol M. (2009) The validity of first-person descriptions as authenticity and coherence. Journal of Consciousness Studies 16: 363–404. << Google Scholar

Petitmengin C., Navarro V. & Baulac M. (2006) Seizure anticipation: Are neuro-phenomenological approaches able to detect preictal symptoms? Epilepsy and Behavior 9: 298–306. << Google Scholar

Place U. T. (1956) Is Consciousness a brain process? British Journal of Psychology 47: 44–50. << Google Scholar

Rudrauf D., Lutz A., Cosmelli D., Lachaux J.-P. & Le Van Quyen M. (2003) From autopoiesis to neurophenomenology: Francisco Varela’s exploration of the biophysics of being, Biological Research 36: 27–65. << Google Scholar

Ryle G. (1949) The concept of mind. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. << Google Scholar

Schrödinger E. (1967) What is life? Mind and matter. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. << Google Scholar

Searle J. (1992) The rediscovery of the mind. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. << Google Scholar

Taraborelli D. & Mossio M. (2008) On the relation between the enactive and the sensorimotor approach to perception, Consciousness and Cognition 17(4): 1343–1344. << Google Scholar

Thompson E. & Varela F. J. (2001) Radical embodiment: Neural dynamics and consciousness. Trends in cognitive science 5: 418–425. << Google Scholar

Thompson E. (2007) Mind in life. Belknap Press, Cambridge MA. << Google Scholar

Van Fraassen B. (1980) The scientific image. Oxford University Press, Oxford. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J. & Depraz N. (2000) At the source of time: Valence and the constitutional dynamics of affect. Journal of Consciousness Studies 12: 64–81. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J. & Shear J. (1999) The view from within. Imprint Academic, London. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J. (1976) Not one, not two. The coevolution quarterly. Fall 1976: 62–67. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J. (1996) Neurophenomenology. Journal of Consciousness Studies 3: 330–349. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J. (1997) The naturalization of phenomenology as the transcendence of nature: Searching for mutual generative constraints. Alter: Revue de Phénoménologie 5: 355–385. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J. (1998) A science of consciousness as if experience mattered. In: Hameroff S., Kaszniak A. W. & A. C. Scott (eds.) Towards a science of consciousness II: The second Tucson discussions and debates. MIT Press, Cambridge: 31–44. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J. (1999) Dasein’s brain: Phenomenology meets cognitive science. In: Aerts D. (ed.) Einstein meets Magritte. The white book. Kluwer, Dordrecht: 185–197. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J. (1999) Present-time consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 6(2–3): 111–140. << Google Scholar

Comments: 0

To stay informed about comments to this publication and post comments yourself, please log in first.