Never Mind the Gap: Neurophenomenology, Radical Enactivism, and the Hard Problem of Consciousness

Constructivist Foundations 11 (2):346–353 (2016)

Michael David Kirchhoff
University of Wollongong
Context: Neurophenomenology, as formulated by Varela, offers an approach to the science of consciousness that seeks to get beyond the hard problem of consciousness. There is much to admire in the practical approach to the science of consciousness that neurophenomenology advocates. Problem: Even so, this article argues, the metaphysical commitments of the enterprise require a firmer foundation. The root problem is that neurophenomenology, as classically formulated by Varela, endorses a form of non-reductionism that, despite its ambitions, assumes rather than dissolves the hard problem of consciousness. We expose that neurophenomenology is not a natural solution to that problem. We defend the view that whatever else neurophenomenology might achieve, it cannot close the gap between the phenomenal and the physical if there is no such gap to close. Method: Building on radical enactive and embodied approaches to cognitive science that deny that the phenomenal and the physical are metaphysically distinct, this article shows that the only way to deal properly with the hard problem is by denying the metaphysical distinction between the physical and the phenomenal that gives the hard problem life. Results: This article concludes by discussing how neurophenomenology might be reformulated under the auspices of a radically enactive and embodied account of cognition. That is, only by denying that there are two distinct phenomena - the physical and the phenomenal - can the neurophenomenological project get on with addressing its pragmatic problems of showing how neuroscientists may be guided by first-person data in their analysis of third-person experimental data, and vice versa. Implications: The topic addressed in this article is of direct value to consciousness studies in general and specifically for the project of neurophenomenology. If the neurophenomenological project is to deal with the hard problem, it must denude itself of its non-reductionist background assumption and embrace a strict identity thesis. Constructivist content: Radical enactive and embodied approaches to mind and consciousness adopt a view of consciousness as a dynamic activity - something an organism enacts in ongoing engagement with its environment. These approaches therefore share with constructivist approaches an action-based view of mind.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 39,545
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

On the Too Often Overlooked Radicality of Neurophenomenology.M. Bitbol & E. Antonova - 2016 - Constructivist Foundations 11 (2):354-356.
What Is It Like to Be Conscious? Towards Solving the Hard Problem.J. Stewart - 2017 - Constructivist Foundations 12 (2):155-156.
Missing Out On the Radicalism of Neurophenomenology?Katsunori Miyahara - 2016 - Constructivist Foundations 11 (2):368-370.
Neurophenomenology, an Ongoing Practice of/in Consciousness.M. Bitbol - 2012 - Constructivist Foundations 7 (3):165-173.
Not-Quite-So Radical Enactivism.D. Lloyd - 2016 - Constructivist Foundations 11 (2):361-363.
Identity or Dynamic Structure?S. Gallagher - 2016 - Constructivist Foundations 11 (2):363-364.
Crossing the Explanatory Gap by Legwork, Not by Fiat.M. Beaton - 2016 - Constructivist Foundations 11 (2):364-366.


Added to PP index

Total views
7 ( #794,648 of 2,325,377 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #332,020 of 2,325,377 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature