Structural Phenomenology: An Empirically-Based Model of Consciousness

Dissertation, University of Oregon (2004)
In this dissertation I develop a structural model of phenomenal consciousness that integrates contemporary experimental and theoretical work in philosophy and cognitive science. I argue that phenomenology must be “naturalized” and that it should be acknowledged as a major component of empirical research. I use this model to describe important phenomenal structures, and I then employ it to provide a detailed explication of tip-of-tongue phenomena. The primary aim of “structural phenomenology” is the creation of a general framework within which descriptions of experiences may be organized. The work of Husserl, Gurwitsch, the Gestalt psychologists, and many contemporary philosophers and cognitive scientists reveals several basic parameters underlying subjectivity. Chapter I argues that Husserlian methodology possesses problems both of praxis and of internal logic, and that its phenomenological descriptions cannot have the certainty he claimed. Consequently, an adequate phenomenology must incorporate empirical studies. This conclusion enables explicit transitions between empirical investigations and phenomenological insights. Chapter II introduces the theoretical framework underlying my model. I identify four parameters applicable to all experiences: 1) the degree of volitional emphasis with which something is experienced, i.e., the intensity of our focus on it, 2) the degree of non-volitional emphasis, i.e., the degree to which it is salient, 3) a variant of intentionality I term “directionality”, and 4) the property of recursion. Experiences are embedded within a complex set of relationships that unify and direct a layered phenomenal structure. I support these claims with evidence discovered over the past two centuries of research. Chapter III applies my model to the tip-of-tongue (TOT) state, in which difficulty remembering is accompanied by a sense of active searching. I show that a phenomenological description of the TOT experience is dependent on cognitive data, and that a phenomenological analysis is necessary to properly interpret these data. By showing how structural phenomenology offers a perspective from which to elucidate the results of experimental studies, I hope to clarify and establish the explicit role of introspection in empiricism, and of empiricism in phenomenology.
Keywords *Cognitive Science  *Consciousness States  *Phenomenology  *Philosophies  *Subjectivity
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