Publication 2080

Varela F. J. & Shear J. (1999) First-person methodologies: Why, when and how? Journal of Consciousness Studies 6(2–3): 1–14. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/2080
Excerpt: By first-person events we mean the lived experience associated with cognitive and mental events. Sometimes terms such as ‘phenomenal consciousness’ and even ‘qualia’ are also used, but it is natural to speak of ‘conscious experience’ or simply ‘experience’. These terms imply here that the process being studied (vision, pain, memory, imagination, etc.) appears as relevant and manifest for a ‘self’ or ‘subject’ that can provide an account, they have a ‘subjective’ side. In contrast, third-person descriptions concern the descriptive experiences associated with the study of other natural phenomena. Although there are always human agents in science who provide and produce descriptions, the contents of such descriptions (i.e. of biochemical reactions, black holes or synaptic voltages) are not clearly or immediately linked to the human agents who come up with them. Their defining characteristics refer to properties of world events without a direct manifestation in the experiential-mental sphere, they can only be linked to this sphere indirectly (via the actual laboratory life, the modes of scientific communication and so on). Such ‘objective’ descriptions do have a subjective-social dimension, but this dimension is hidden within the social practices of science. The ostensive, direct reference is to the ‘objective’, the ‘outside’, the content of current science that we have today concerning various natural phenomena, such as physics and biology.

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