Abrahamson D., Dutton E. & Bakker A. (2021) Towards an enactivist mathematics pedagogy. In: Stolz S. A. (ed.) The body, embodiment, and education: An interdisciplinary approach. Routledge, London: 156–182. https://cepa.info/7085
Enactivism theorizes thinking as situated doing. Mathematical thinking, specifically, is handling imaginary objects, and learning is coming to perceive objects and reflecting on this activity. Putting theory to practice, Abrahamson’s embodied-design collaborative interdisciplinary research program has been designing and evaluating interactive tablet applications centered on motor-control tasks whose perceptual solutions then form the basis for understanding mathematical ideas (e.g., proportion). Analysis of multimodal data of students’ handand eyemovement as well as their linguistic and gestural expressions has pointed to the key role of emergent perceptual structures that form the developmental interface between motor coordination and conceptual articulation. Through timely tutorial intervention or peer interaction, these perceptual structures rise to the students’ discursive consciousness as “things” they can describe, measure, analyze, model, and symbolize with culturally accepted words, diagrams, and signs – they become mathematical entities with enactive meanings. We explain the theoretical background of enactivist mathematics pedagogy, demonstrate its technological implementation, list its principles, and then present a case study of a mathematics teacher who applied her graduate-school experiences in enactivist inquiry to create spontaneous classroom activities promoting student insight into challenging concepts. Students’ enactment of coordinated movement forms gave rise to new perceptual structures modeled as mathematical content.
Albertazzi L. (2019) Experimental phenomenology: What it is and what it is not. Synthese 198: 2191–2212. https://cepa.info/6585
Experimental phenomenology is the study of appearances in subjective awareness. Its methods and results challenge quite a few aspects of the current debate on consciousness. A robust theoretical framework for understanding consciousness is pending: current empirical research waves on what a phenomenon of consciousness properly is, not least because the question is still open on the observables to be measured and how to measure them. I shall present the basics of experimental phenomenology and discuss the current development of experimental phenomenology, its main features, and the many misunderstandings that have obstructed a fair understanding and evaluation of its otherwise enlightening outcomes.
Alcaraz-Sanchez A. (2021) Awareness in the void: A micro-phenomenological exploration of conscious dreamless sleep. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences Online first. https://cepa.info/7298
This paper presents a pilot study that explores instances of objectless awareness during sleep: conscious experiences had during sleep that prima facie lack an object of awareness. This state of objectless awareness during sleep has been widely described by Indian contemplative traditions and has been characterised as a state of consciousness-as-such; while in it, there is nothing to be aware of, one is merely conscious (cf. Evans-Wentz, 1960; Fremantle, 2001; Ponlop, 2006). While this phenomenon has received different names in the literature, such as ‘witnessing-sleep’ and ‘clear light sleep’ among others, the specific phenomenological profile of this state has not yet been rigorously studied. This paper aims at presenting a preliminary investigation of objectless consciousness during sleep using a novel tool in qualitative research that can guide future research. Five participants experiencing objectless consciousness during sleep were interviewed following the Micro-phenomenological Interview technique (MPI; Petitmengin, 2005, 2006). All participants reported an experience they had during sleep in which there was no scenery and no dream. This period labelled as ‘No Scenery/Void’ was either preceded by the dissolution of a lucid dream or by other forms of conscious mentation. The analysis of the results advances four experiential dimensions during this state of void, namely (1) Perception of absence, (2) Self-perception, (3) Perception of emotions, and (4) Perception of awareness. While the results are primarily explorative, they refer to themes found in the literature to describe objectless sleep and point at potential avenues of research. The results from this study are taken as indications to guide future operationalisations of this phenomenon.
Predictive processing (PP) approaches to the mind are increasingly popular in the cognitive sciences. This surge of interest is accompanied by a proliferation of philosophical arguments, which seek to either extend or oppose various aspects of the emerging framework. In particular, the question of how to position predictive processing with respect to enactive and embodied cognition has become a topic of intense debate. While these arguments are certainly of valuable scientific and philosophical merit, they risk underestimating the variety of approaches gathered under the predictive label. Here, we first present a basic review of neuroscientific, cognitive, and philosophical approaches to PP, to illustrate how these range from solidly cognitivist applications – with a firm commitment to modular, internalistic mental representation – to more moderate views emphasizing the importance of ‘body-representations’, and finally to those which fit comfortably with radically enactive, embodied, and dynamic theories of mind. Any nascent predictive processing theory (e.g., of attention or consciousness) must take into account this continuum of views, and associated theoretical commitments. As a final point, we illustrate how the Free Energy Principle (FEP) attempts to dissolve tension between internalist and externalist accounts of cognition, by providing a formal synthetic account of how internal ‘representations’ arise from autopoietic self-organization. The FEP thus furnishes empirically productive process theories (e.g., predictive processing) by which to guide discovery through the formal modelling of the embodied mind.
Analyzing the outline of the endless literature on consciousness, the separation between science and philosophy rather than being overcome, seems to come back in different shapes. According to this point of view, the hard problem seems to be how to study consciousness while avoiding a slip back to the old dualism. This article outlines the advantages of the phenomenological method. This method, more than getting over the mind-body separation, anticipates it through an open gaze, able to bring back the human presence as something structurally “ambiguous.” Reintroducing Husserl’s scientific project in a complete way, Francisco Varela opened up a research area yet to be explored, which promises to be fertile for neuroscience, provided that we accept that radicalism essential to phenomenology.
Constructive theories of brain function such as predictive coding posit that prior knowledge affects our experience of the world quickly and directly. However, it is yet unknown how swiftly prior knowledge impacts the neural processes giving rise to conscious experience. Here we used an experimental paradigm where prior knowledge augmented perception and measured the timing of this effect with magnetoencephalography (MEG). By correlating the perceptual benefits of prior knowledge with the MEG activity, we found that prior knowledge took effect in the time-window 80–95ms after stimulus onset, thus reflecting an early influence on conscious perception. The sources of this effect were localized to occipital and posterior parietal regions. These results are in line with the predictive coding framework.
This article considers W. Ross Ashby’s ideas on the nature of embodied minds, as articulated in the last five years of his career. In particular, it attempts to connect his ideas to later work by others in robotics, perception and consciousness. While it is difficult to measure his direct influence on this work, the conceptual links are deep. Moreover, Ashby provides a comprehensive view of the embodied mind, which connects these areas. It concludes that the contemporary fields of situated robotics, ecological perception, and the neural mechanisms of consciousness might all benefit from a reconsideration of Ashby’s later writings.
Historically, the suspension of presuppositions (the epoché, or bracketing) arose as part of the philosophical procedure of the transcendental reduction which, Husserl taught, led to the distinct realm of phenomenological research: pure consciousness. With such an origin, it may seem surprising that bracketing remains a methodological concept of modern phenomenological psychology, in which the focus is on the life-world. Such a focus of investigation is, on the face of it, incompatible with transcendental idealism. \\The gap was bridged largely by Merleau-Ponty, who found it possible to interpret Husserl’s later work in an existentialist way, and thus enabled the process of bracketing to refer, not to a turning away from the world and a concentration on detached consciousness, but to the resolve to set aside theories, research presuppositions, ready-made interpretations, etc., in order to reveal engaged, lived experience. \\This paper outlines the history of the suspension of presuppositions and discusses the scope and limitations of bracketing in its new sense within existential phenomenology. The emphasis is on research practice and on the phenomenological quest for entry into the life-world of the research participant. It is argued that the bracketing of presuppositions throughout the process of research should be a cardinal feature of phenomenological psychology. \\Of equal importance is the investigator’s sensitive awareness that the investigation of the life-world and the phenomena which appear within it is a thoroughly interpersonal process, necessarily entailing the taken-for-granted assumptions implicit in all social interaction. These presuppositions are not open to bracketing.
Ataria Y. (2016) On the Too Often Overlooked Complexity of the Tension between Subject and Object. Constructivist Foundations 11(3): 550–552. https://cepa.info/2872
Open peer commentary on the article “Consciousness as Self-Description in Differences” by Diana Gasparyan. Upshot: Gasparyan’s article ignores the inherent tension of being a human who is both a subject and an object at the same time. Any theory of consciousness must include both of these dimensions.
Ataria Y. (2017) Varela as the Uncanny. Constructivist Foundations 12(2): 153–154. https://cepa.info/4066
Open peer commentary on the article “Enaction as a Lived Experience: Towards a Radical Neurophenomenology” by Claire Petitmengin. Upshot: Why has the neurophenomenological approach not been adopted as a common and even obligatory tool in the study of consciousness? I suggest that the problem with the neurophenomenological approach is its effectiveness on the one hand and its almost impossible demands from the scientist on the other: One cannot accept the neurophenomenological approach without rejecting not only the paradigm of cognitive science, but the scientific paradigm as a whole.