Context: The advent of the embodied approach to cognition produced a paradigm shift giving experience a primary place in the different fields of inquiry. This gave rise to the need to develop methodologies for the study of experience from a first-person perspective. In this context, micro-phenomenology emerges as a methodological tool that allows the study of experience in a systematic and rigorous way. Problem: To reproduce and share the micro-phenomenological analysis - crucial for the intersubjective validation of micro-phenomenological research - it is relevant to have a procedure that allows us to trace the different steps of the analysis. As many of the stages of the micro-phenomenological analysis remain implicit, a step-by-step description has not yet been produced. We describe the procedure of analysis of the micro-phenomenological interview, step by step, thus complementing the micro-phenomenological analysis method. Method: In order to specify the analysis procedure, we used the micro-phenomenological interview to explore our experience of abstracting, developing the example of an analysis carried out in the context of a specific investigation. Results: We propose an analysis procedure organized in a concertina-shaped structure. It has fifteen stages organized into five sections. Each surface of the concertina corresponds to one stage of the analysis. We identified grouping as an abstraction operation that participates in the very early stages of the categorization process. This operation participates in the categorization mechanism we called “iterative interrogation.” Moreover, we propose that the refinement of the structures results from a process that involves recursively contrasting the description of the experience, the understanding we have gained from it throughout the analysis and the resulting structures. Implications: The proposed procedure allows the tracing not only of the different steps of the analysis, but also of the criteria used to solve the numerous issues that arise throughout it. The iterative interrogation mechanism makes it possible to reveal, in an orderly manner, the principles used by the analyst to establish the diachronic and synchronic units. This greatly facilitates the communication of a process that is highly implicit. We hope this procedure will contribute to the establishment of standards in micro-phenomenological research, facilitating the exchange between researchers and thus consolidating the intersubjective validation procedures that make it possible to evaluate the quality of neuro- and micro-phenomenological research.
Despite the fact that the rubber hand illusion (RHI) is an experimental paradigm that has been widely used in the last 14 years to investigate different aspects of the sense of bodily self, very few studies have sought to investigate the subjective nature of the experience that the RHI evokes. The present study investigates the phenomenology of the RHI through a specific elicitation method. More particularly, this study aims at assessing whether the conditions usually used as control in the RHI have an impact in the sense of body ownership and at determining whether there are different stages in the emergence of the illusion. The results indicate that far from being “all or nothing,” the illusion induced by the RHI protocol involves nuances in the type of perceptual changes that it creates. These perceptual changes affect not only the participants” perception of the rubber hand but also the perception of their real hand. In addition, perceptual effects may vary greatly between participants and, importantly, they evolve over time.
Valenzuela-Moguillansky C., Vásquez-Rosati A. & Riegler A. (2017) Building a Science of Experience: Neurophenomenology and Related Disciplines. Constructivist Foundations 12(2): 131–138. https://cepa.info/4062
Context: More than 20 years ago Varela initiated a research program to advance in the scientific study of consciousness, neurophenomenology. Problem: Has Varela’s neurophenomenology, the solution to the “hard problem,” been successful? Which issues remain unresolved, and why? Method: This introduction sketches the progress that has been made since then and links it to the contributions to this special issue. Results: Instead of a unified research field, today we find a variety of different interpretations and implementations of neurophenomenology. We argue that neurophenomenology needs to give additional attention to its experiential dimension by addressing first-person methods’ specific challenges and by rethinking the relationship between the frameworks of the firstand third-person approaches.
Varela A. C. (2002) One idea: On the path of F. J. Varela. European Journal of Psychoanalysis 14: 001. https://cepa.info/4244
This paper discusses the notion of the self or identity as central to the unfolding of F. Varela’s work. From the fundamental concept of autopoiesis to the neurophenomenology program, the view of identity as non- fixed, always virtual, acts as a guiding thread in his elaboration of a non-dualistic vision of mind and experience. The Buddhist notion of sunyata, or emptiness, elucidates this notion of the “selfless self”, and underlies the evolution of Varela’s work toward an embodied-enactive conception of mind.
This paper is an attempt to arrive at a species-specific characterization of human consciousness by considering its value as a biological adaptation. The analysis considers conscious phenomena in animals to motivate the distinction between self-consciousness and consciousness; the distinction is substantiated with neurological data. The relation between self-consciousness and language is considered in the light of the evolution of human language. Finally, a mechanism is postulated, based on current neurobiological knowledge, which makes it possible to account for self-consciousness as an epiphenomenon of language.
Varela F. J. (1995) Resonant cell assemblies: A new approach to cognitive functions and neuronal synchrony. Biological Research 28(1): 81–95. https://cepa.info/1997
This paper presents a novel reading of ideas on temporal binding as a key for cognitive operations by means of fast (gamma band) phase synchrony. We advocate a view of binding of widely distributed cell assemblies transiently locked in a neural hypergraph which serves as a reference point to incorporate or interpret other less coherent concurrent neural events. The paper traces in some detail the empirical evidence concerning the gamma binding process and presents some implications for the constitution of a unified cognitive-mental space. Relevance:
This paper starts with one of Chalmers’ basic points: first-hand experience is an irreducible field of phenomena. I claim there is no ‘theoretical fix’ or ‘extra ingredient’ in nature that can possibly bridge this gap. Instead, the field of conscious phenomena requires a rigorous method and an explicit pragmatics for its exploration and analysis. My proposed approach, inspired by the style of inquiry of phenomenology, I have called neurophenomenology. It seeks articulations by mutual constraints between phenomena present in experience and the correlative field of phenomena established by the cognitive sciences. It needs to expand into a widening research community in which the method is cultivated further.
Varela F. J. (1997) A science of consciousness as if experience mattered. In: Hameroff S., Kazniak A. & Scott A. (eds.) Toward the science of consciousness: The second Tucson discussions and debates. MIT Press: 31–44. https://cepa.info/1894
This text has a precise context and purpose. The context is the recent vigorous rekindling of the relations between Husserlian phenomenology and the contemporary science of mind, or cognitive science. This is what it is referred to as the naturalization of phenomenology. My interest have centered on a rather specific line of naturalization, provocatively called neurophenomenology, that I will introduce shortly. As a concrete application (or illustration) of this research style I have presented a new analysis of the phenomenology of present time. The purpose of these pages is to critically examine two central issues concerning the naturalization of phenomenology that emerge from this exercise, and that cry out for further elucidation.
Varela F. J. (1999) The specious present: The neurophenomenology of time consciousness. In: Petitot J., Varela F. J., Pachoud B. & Roy J. M. (eds.) Naturalizing phenomenology: Issues in contemporary phenomenology and cognitive science. Stanford University Press, Stanford CA: 266–314. https://cepa.info/2081
My purpose in this essay is to propose an explicitly naturalized account of the experience of present nowness based on two complementary approaches: phenomenological analysis and cognitive neuroscience. What I mean by naturalization, and the role cognitive neuroscience plays, will become clear as this essay unfolds.