Through a comparison between phenomenology and quantum physics, the paper aims to show that naturalising phenomenology can also mean bringing it into a critical and fruitful relationship with some of the most complex and fundamental questions of contemporary physics, thus showing both the truly ever-open potential of Husserlian and Heideggerian thinking and the need for the sciences to receive a theoretical light without which they risk remaining either magical, arbitrary and esoteric knowledge or technical, reductionist and epistemologically sterile.
This contribution aims to be a concrete proof of how fertile, rich and innovative dialogue and confrontation between transcendental phenomenology and naturalising sciences can be. Through the phenomenological-transcendental analysis of the neurodegenerative pathology of dementia, an attempt will be made to propose, within the debate on the possible naturalisation of phenomenology, the perspective of an actual mutual enlightenment, as proposed by Gallagher. Not a naturalisation of consciousness in the sense of a reduction to neural process, but a pluralisation of the (...) valid and rigorous perspectives through which it can be investigated. The phenomenological-transcendental eidetic study of dementia thus becomes complementary to the neurobiological one, revealing what the subject feels ‘from within’, his losses, but also what persists in the patient until the most advanced stages. Such a study, in synergy with the biological one, would greatly help in the holistic understanding of dementia in this particular case and, in general, of consciousness phenomena. (shrink)
In this contribution I aim at developing some critical considerations about the possibility of establishing a dialogue between Husserlian phenomenology and embodied cognitive science to which both partners can participate with equal dignity, apart from any concession to radical forms of naturalism. Phenomenology and cognitive science are different theoretical enterprises, each of which relies autonomously on its own methods and categorial apparatus. This does not prevent of course that both disciplines can influence each other by exerting some kind of constraints. (...) Phenomenology alone cannot provide a full explanation of our conscious experiences as regards their sub-personal mechanisms and needs therefore to be integrated in a unitary framework which allows for its communication with the empirical sciences of mind, without any need to distort phenomenology’s transcendental features. On the other side, cognitive science should seriously take into account phenomenological and eidetic descriptions of first-person experience and avoid superimposing on it its own ontological and methodological assumptions. In the first part of the paper, I try first of all to highlight how Husserl’s phenomenology amounts to a theory of experience which keeps itself equidistant from both extremes of scientism and idealism and then to illustrate the necessity of downplaying Husserl’s transcendental philosophy through a critical assessment on its attitude toward natural sciences and by highlighting at the same time its right to conduct its inquiries autonomously. In the second part I explore the mediating role of psychological phenomenology in allowing a mutual exchange between phenomenology and embodied cognitive sciences, as far as it falls on the side of naturalistic attitude. In the third part I proceed to a critical evaluation of the encounter between embodied phenomenology and embodied cognitive sciences by underlining some ontological and methodological shortcomings in which some of their representatives incur. In the fourth part, I argue for a mild naturalization of phenomenology by confronting it with some forms of non-reductionist naturalism (e.g. liberal and enactive naturalism) for the purpose of safeguarding its fundamental tenets. In the fifth and final part I discuss the topic of lived body and embodiment as the turning point which allows for the mutual transition from the transcendental to the empirical level. To this aim, I try to focus on the intrinsic belongingness of lived body to the essential features of transcendental subject to the extent that it plays a major role in disclosing an oriented worldly space through its kinaesthetic powers. (shrink)
Being conscious or experiencing the world with all its vivid qualities is something humans intimately cherish. The fact that consciousness provides us with a lively phenomenology is what makes life worth living. Yet, when it comes to understanding how consciousness fits into the natural world, we feel deeply puzzled. In this context, one important claim about consciousness consists in the idea that our awareness is not only about the world but also reveals an intimate subjectivity. This aspect of phenomenal consciousness (...) is often referred to as pre-reflective self-consciousness. It is often held that this type of self-awareness is intrinsic and essential to any form of conscious experience, i.e. there is no conscious experience without also being implicitly self-conscious. Being of such importance to the nature of consciousness, the recent literature mainly discusses two ways of accounting for pre-reflective self-consciousness, its role for conscious experience and how it fits into the natural world. On the one hand, there are relational views; on the other hand, there are non-relational accounts. This paper will argue that both approaches are not sustainable as they stand, since either important aspects are lost or not sufficiently embedded in the natural world. Consequently, I will argue for an alternative that allows for both a functional and an embodied nature of pre-reflective self-consciousness. (shrink)
The methodological differences of understanding, versus explaining, have been at the centre of a century-long methodenstreit debate (and disagreement) among philosophers and scientists. Karl Jaspers managed to import this discussion to the realm of psychiatry and psychopathology in a significant, but unresolved, manner. Side-tracked by the advent of various changes in psychiatry during the 20th century, phenomenology and philosophy of psychiatry have made a comeback in the last decades and, since then, developed new contributions to this subject. Quite similarly, the (...) study of time experience, standing on the shoulders of notorious philosophers, has too witnessed a similar renaissance, with groundbreaking developments across several conditions, including depression. The present essay is essentially exploratory, but during its development, after addressing the concepts of the methodenstreit debate, and tackling both meaningful and causal connections behind time dysperception in depression, I argue that understanding, at least in this context and at present time, is not entirely reducible to causal explanations, for some things are only gained in understanding, such as the feeling of being understood and the implications it carries for a therapeutic relationship and the treatment plan. (shrink)
In his late lecture course titled “Nature and Logos: The Human Body” (1959-1960), Merleau-Ponty proposed that we understand human symbolism, language, and reason by viewing the human being initially as a variant on animal embodiment and perception prior to being a rational animal. To elaborate this project, he outlined an “esthesiology” informed by the study of evolution. However, in the sketches that survive of “Nature and Logos,” we find neither a detailed explanation of how Merleau-Ponty understood this approach nor its (...) concrete execution with respect to the human body. In this paper I reconstruct Merleau-Ponty’s esthesiology. An animate body possesses two “sides”: it is a sensing organism open onto the world and a sensible part of the natural world. Visual animals such as humans can see, see themselves, and be seen by others. To understand their way of life, we must study not only the body’s capacities for perception and action, but also how those capacities are seen by other organisms, especially conspecifics. The body’s visibility shapes the social prospects of a species and its potential for developing complex sociality, language, and cognition. I apply this basic esthesiological principle to study the human eye. Both in its vision and its visibility, the human eye is a distinctive variation of animality and one that conditions and shapes human sociality and cognition. I develop this insight with respect to a central philosophical theme of Merleau-Ponty’s late work, the relation of the visible and the invisible. I conclude by discussing the importance of Merleau-Ponty’s esthesiology for his late thought and current discussions of the naturalization of phenomenology. (shrink)
The negation constitutes one of the main troubles for attempts to naturalise the semantics of the logical vocabulary, as shown by the problems related to the interpretation of disjunction in the treatment of error (Fodor) or to the definition of contraries in the analysis of reidentification abilities (Millikan). There seems to be no way out between “no (naturalized) negation, no grip of logic on the world” and “no (truth-functional) negation, no logic”. Unexpected help may come from the cognitive phenomenology of (...) negation. For three reasons: • Firstly, because it allows a distinction to be made between semantic analysis, identification of the possession conditions and psychology of the acquisition of the notion of negation, a distinction whose absence produces many misunderstandings between those who support a naturalization of semantics and those who oppose it. • Then because it places negation at the level of the contrast between beliefs, a terrain that is hostile to some naturalizers. • Finally, because it makes it possible to define a peculiar type of liberalised naturalization of semantics and, consequently, to present a hypothesis for the naturalization of cognitive phenomenology. (shrink)
The sciences are in a state of crisis. Due to factors like hyperspecialization and an all too naive and uncritical faith in their own method, the sciences have lost sight of their initial goal. The idea that sciences are in a state of crisis can of course famously be found in Edmund Husserl’s Crisis of the European Sciences. What is less well-known, however, is that Martin Heidegger also discusses and analyzes a crisis of the sciences in his 1928/29 lecture course (...) Einleitung in die Philosophie. There are interesting similarities between the nature of the crisis the two thinkers observe, but key differences when it comes to the relation between science and philosophy and the question of whether or not the crisis can be resolved. The aim of my article will be to provide a thorough comparative analysis of Husserl’s and Heidegger’s accounts of the crisis, the of Galileo’s mathematization of nature in their analyses, and what this means for their ideas concerning the relation between science and philosophy. The goal of this analysis is to provide some conceptual clarity regarding the prospect of naturalizing phenomenology. (shrink)
I now intend to return to Husserl’s argument against psychologism in logic, aiming to frame it within the broader antinaturalistic controversy and see how recent proposals of a natural (or naturalized) epistemology could affect it.
In this paper, we examine the metaphilosophical relevance of the phenomenon of sleep, suggesting that it has the potential to not only enrich the analysis of limit cases but also to test some of the ideas concerning the possibility of naturalizing phenomenology and its limits. Insofar as sleeping allows for both a first personal and a third personal description and challenges the usual primacy of the first-person point of view, exploring sleeping under the prism of its import for the phenomenological (...) method allows to illuminate the relationships between a first personal transcendental phenomenology and a third personal naturalized one. We do this by examining Husserl’s treatment of sleep as a limit-case, and the problem of accounting for deep sleep from a first-personal perspective. Drawing from a Heidegger-inspired account of sleep, we argue that sleep demands for a type of approach that can be fairly described as ontological, and which reveals a new understanding of subjectivity as a dynamic unity of different modes of being. Although this approach challenges a first-personal based approach, it does not, however support the naturalization of phenomenology or undermine the project of a transcendental philosophy of experience. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine the prospect of naturalizing phenomenology within the framework of Francisco Varela’s neurophenomenology. In doing so, I follow two main objectives. The first is exegetical. Namely, there is a pronounced discrepancy between Varela’s earlier works on neurophenomenology and his later works on naturalizing phenomenology, with the former receiving considerable scholarly attention and the latter remaining comparatively unknown. This discrepancy is further exacerbated by the fact that, due to his untimely death, Varela failed to produce a comprehensive (...) view of naturalization, leaving us with a plethora of suggestive fragments scattered throughout his later works (some of them published posthumously). Thus, briefly recapitulating the original neurophenomenological program in Section I, I bring some of these fragments together in Section II and make an attempt at elucidating Varela’s position on the topic. My second objective is critical. Section III thus opens with a question of whether the idea of naturalizing phenomenology in the context of neurophenomenology makes sense. I argue that it does not and should therefore be discarded. The reason for this is twofold. First, a strong case could be made that the idea of naturalization is ultimately at odds with the spirit of neurophenomenology; secondly, and relatedly, Varela’s lax use of the term naturalization not only puts it at odds with the more ordinary interpretations of naturalism but also risks emptying it of any substantive content. (shrink)
The search for spaces of cooperation between the methodology of natural sciences (cognitive sciences in particular) and the phenomenological approach has gained importance over time. However, it is necessary not to lose sight of the fact that Husserlian phenomenology was first and foremost characterized by a profound critique of ontological naturalism, a critique crucial for understanding the ethical sense of the phenomenological operation. To clarify this point, it is necessary to clarify the problematic role that naturalism has played - and (...) continues to play - on the ethical level, and the way in which phenomenological criticism is able to neutralize it. In the following pages we will first try to illustrate the impact of ontological naturalism on the contemporary ethical vision and then to show how the phenomenological perspective is best understandable as a way to reveal the blind spots of naturalism, to denounce its implicit reductionism, and to reopen an ethical perspective that the historical establishment of a naturalistic worldview had artificially closed. (shrink)