In this paper we list the various criticisms that have been formulated against introspection, from Auguste Comte denying that consciousness can observe itself, to recent criticisms of the reliability of first person descriptions. We show that these criticisms rely on the one hand on poor knowledge of the introspective process, and on the other hand on a naïve conception of scientific objectivity. Two kinds of answers are offered: the first one is grounded on a refined description of the process of (...) becoming aware of one's experience and describing it, the second one relies on a comparison with the methods of the experimental sciences. We conclude the article by providing a renewed definition of 'the truth' of a first person description. (shrink)
When he formulated the program of neurophenomenology, Francisco Varela suggested a balanced methodological dissolution of the hard problem of consciousness. I show that his dissolution is a paradigm which imposes itself onto seemingly opposite views, including materialist approaches. I also point out that Varela's revolutionary epistemological ideas are gaining wider acceptance as a side effect of a recent controversy between hermeneutists and eliminativists. Finally, I emphasize a structural parallel between the science of consciousness and the distinctive features of quantum mechanics. (...) This parallel, together with the former convergences, point towards the common origin of the main puzzles of both quantum mechanics and the philosophy of mind: neglect of the constitutive blindspot of objective knowledge. (shrink)
“Ontological emergence” of inherent high-level properties with causal powers is witnessed nowhere. A non-substantialist conception of emergence works much better. It allows downward causation, provided our concept of causality is transformed accordingly.
Emergence is interpreted in a non-dualist framework of thought. No metaphysical distinction between the higher and basic levels of organization is supposed, but only a duality of modes of access. Moreover, these modes of access are not construed as mere ways of revealing intrinsic patterns of organization: They are supposed to be constitutive of them, in Kant’s sense. The emergent levels of organization, and the inter-level causations as well, are therefore neither illusory nor ontologically real: They are objective in the (...) sense of transcendental epistemology. This neo-Kantian approach defuses several paradoxes associated with the concept of downward causation, and enables one to make good sense of it independently of any prejudice about the existence (or inexistence) of a hierarchy of levels of being. (shrink)
The two major options on which the current debate on the interpretation of quantum mechanics relies, namely realism and empiricism, are far from being exhaustive. There is at least one more position available, which is metaphysically as agnostic as empiricism, but which shares with realism a committment to considering the structure of theories as highly significant. The latter position has been named transcendentalism after Kant. In this paper, a generalized version of Kant's method is used. This yields a reasoning that (...) one is entitled to call a transcendental deduction of some major formal features of quantum mechanics. (shrink)
According to Husserl, the epochè must be left incomplete. It is to be performed step by step, thus defining various layers of “reduction.” In phenomenology at least two such layers can be distinguished: the life-world reduction, and the transcendental reduction. Quantum physics was born from a particular variety of the life-world reduction: reduction to observables according to Heisenberg, and reduction to classical-like properties of experimental devices according to Bohr. But QBism has challenged this limited version of the phenomenological reduction advocated (...) by the Copenhagen interpretation. QBists claim that quantum states are “expectations about experiences of pointer readings,” rather than expectations about pointer positions. Their focus on lived experience, not just on macroscopic variables, is tantamount to performing the transcendental reduction instead of stopping at the relatively superficial layer of the life-world reduction. I will show that quantum physics indeed gives us several reasons to go the whole way down to the deepest variety of phenomenological reduction, may be even farther than the standard QBist view: not only reduction to experience, or to “pure consciousness,” but also reduction to the “living present.”. (shrink)
A phenomenological view of contemplative disciplines is presented. However, studying mindfulness by phenomenology is at odds with both neurobiological and anthropological approaches. It involves the first-person standpoint, the openness of being-in-the-world, the umwelt of the meditator, instead of assessing her neural processes and behaviors from a neutral, distanced, third-person standpoint. It then turns out that phenomenology cannot produce a discourse about mindfulness. Phenomenology rather induces a cross-fertilization between the state of mindfulness and its own methods of mental cultivation. A comparison (...) between the epochè, the phenomenological reduction, and the practice of mindfulness, is then undertaken. (shrink)
The notion of “enaction,” as originally expounded by Varela and his colleagues, was introduced into cognitive science as part of a broad philosophical framework combining science, phenomenology, and Buddhist philosophy. Its intention was to help the researchers in the field avoid falling prey to various dichotomies bedeviling modern philosophy and science, and serve as a “conceptual evocation” of “non-duality” or “groundlessness: an ongoing and irreducible circulation between the flux of lived experience and the search of reason for conceptual invariants, is (...) to function as conceptual evocations of this back-and-forth exchange between knowing and being. However, if this overall framework is discarded, as is often the case in contemporary accounts, enaction loses its radical impetus and becomes mellowed down to yet another version of naturalized epistemology. Implications: Taking the notion of enaction seriously implies a radical shift in our conceptions of science and knowledge, as it encompasses a theoretical and existential move away from a detached observer to embedded and engaged cognizer. Thus, our manner of thinking can no longer be considered in isolation from our manner of being, which indicates a deep interconnection between epistemology and ethics, and may entail profound changes in the definition of the aims, methods, and values of the research community: self-transformation as a consequence of, and condition for, understanding. Constructivist content: The target article advocates a critical approach to realist presuppositions in contemporary science and philosophy, and emphasizes a deep interrelation between being and knowing, between ethics and epistemology. (shrink)
Six arguments against the view that conscious experience derives from a material basis are reviewed. These arguments arise from epistemology, phenomenology, neuropsychology, and philosophy of quantum mechanics. It turns out that any attempt at proving that conscious experience is ontologically secondary to material objects both fails and brings out its methodological and existential primacy. No alternative metaphysical view is espoused (not even a variety of Spinoza’s attractive double-aspect theory). Instead, an alternative stance, inspired from F. Varela’s neurophenomenology is advocated. This (...) unfamiliar stance involves (i) a complete redefinition of the boundary between unquestioned assumptions and relevant questions ; (ii) a descent towards the common ground of the statements of phenomenology and objective natural science : a practice motivated by the quest of an expanding circle of intersubjective agreement. (shrink)
This book gives a comprehensive account of SchrÃ¶dinger's successive interpretations of quantum mechanics, culminating in their final synthesis in the 1950s. SchrÃ¶dinger's original position in the realism-anti-realism debate is analyzed. His views on the wave-corpuscle issue are contrasted with Bohr's, and his conceptions of the measurement problem are systematically compared with current no-collapse interpretations.
Quantum Mechanics has imposed strain on traditional (dualist and representationalist) epistemological conceptions. An alternative was offered by Bohr and Heisenberg, according to whom natural science does not describe nature, but rather the interplay between nature and ourselves. But this was only a suggestion. In this paper, a systematic development of the Bohr-Heisenberg conception is outlined, by way of a comparison with the modern self-organizational theories of cognition. It is shown that a perfectly consistent non-representationalist (and/or relational) reading of quantum mechanics (...) can be reached thus. (shrink)
There are two versions of the putative connection between consciousness and the measurement problem of quantum mechanics : consciousness as the cause of state vector reduction, and state vector reduction as the physical basis of consciousness. In this article, these controversial ideas are neither accepted uncritically, nor rejected from the outset in the name of some prejudice about objective knowledge. Instead, their origin is sought in our most cherished (but disputable) beliefs about the place of mind and consciousness in the (...) world. It is first pointed out that these common beliefs about mind and consciousness arise from reification of situated first-person experience. Then, situatedness is shown to be a constitutive part of any exhaustive treatment of quantum measurements. It turns out that the alleged connection between consciousness and the measurement problem is a symptom of (i) the ineliminability of our being situated from the end-product of science, and (ii) our difficulty to express correctly this being situated. (shrink)
Rovelli’s RQM is first characterized by contrast with both Everett’s and Bohr’s interpretations of quantum mechanics. Then, it is shown that a basic difficulty arises from the choice of formulating RQM in a naturalistic framework. Even though, according to Rovelli’s interpretation, statements about the world only make sense relative to certain naturalized observers described by means of quantum mechanics, this very meta-statement seems to make sense relative to a sort of super-observer which does not partake of the naturalized status of (...) ordinary observers. The difficulty is solved by substituting functional reference frames for physical (or naturalized) observers throughout. Instead of being relative to physical observers, statements about the state vector of physical systems are here relative to well-defined projects of probabilistic prediction which may be embodied by several physical observers. (shrink)
A complete reappraisal of the philosophical meaning of Everett's interpretation of quantum mechanics is carried out, by analysing carefully the role of the concept of "observer" in physics. It is shown that Everett's interpretation is the limiting case of a series of conceptions of the measurement problem which leave less and less of the observer out of the quantum description of the measuring interaction. This limiting case, however, should not be considered as one wherein nothing is left outside the description. (...) Something is still needed besides this description: pure cognitive capacity, the subject, or, in a very abstract sense: "mind". The set of branches which arise, according to Everett, from a measuring interaction, gain a renewed signification. They do not refer to distinct "worlds", but to the points of view "mind" can identify itself to. This idea is compared and contrasted with Squires' "selection" of a branch by the mind (without quotation marks). Finally, the notion of indeterminism in quantum mechanics gains an unexpected and new light from a strict application of the previous ideas. (shrink)
The article by Froese, Gould and Seth is a survey rather than a commentary, dealing with the intertwined issues of the validity of first- person reports and of their interest for a science of consciousness. While acknowledging that experiential research has already produced promising results, the authors find that it has not yet produced 'killer experiments' providing a definitively positive answer to these two questions, and wonder what kind of experiment would allow it. Our response will address these two questions (...) successively. (shrink)
The reduction of the concept of heat to that of molecular kinetic energy is recurrently presented as lending analogical support to the project of reduction of phenomenal concepts to physical concepts. The claimed analogy draws on the way the use of the concept of heat is attached to the experience in first person of a certain sensation. The reduction of this concept seems to prove the possibility to reduce discourse involving phenomenal concepts to a scientific description of neural activity. But (...) is this analogy really justified? We will show that if there is an analogy, far from speaking for a reduction of phenomenal concepts, it rather stresses the necessity to integrate phenomenal reports in the scientific study of experience. (shrink)
This paper reviews the debate between Carnap and Schrödinger about Hypothesis P (It is not only I who have perceptions and thoughts; other human beings have them too)–a hypothesis that underlies the possibility of doing science. For Schrödinger this hypothesis is not scientifically testable; for Carnap it is. But Schrödinger and Carnap concede too much to each other and miss an alternative understanding: science does not depend on an explicit hypothesis concerning what other human beings see and think; it is (...) simply a practice of communication which anticipates or presupposes the perfect interchangeability of positions amongst the members of the linguistic community. The mentalistic vocabulary of folk-psychology, used by Carnap and Schrödinger, does not take first but last place in this perspective; because it does nothing but express after the event the confidence to which the disputants bear witness regarding a generally successful practice of communication. (shrink)
Physics could be defined, inter alia, as a systematic attempt at pushing actuality aside and bringing form to the fore. On the other hand, the formal descriptions which are the theoretical end-products of physics have to connect somewhere with actuality. Having to connect with actuality but holding no appropriate counterpart of actuality in it: such is the particularity of physics. As a consequence, many well-known enigma appear as paradoxes OF physics rather than just difficulties IN physics.
The concept of well-defined and mutually exclusive objective facts has no counterpart in the formalism of standard quantum mechanics. Bypassing decoherence theories, we then inquire into the conditions of use of this concept of objective fact, and find that it is grounded on the possibility of making reference to spatio-temporal continuants and permanent properties. Since these conditions are not fulfilled within the quantum paradigm, one must look for appropriate substitutes. Two such substitutes are discussed. The first one is phenomenal fact (...) , whose relevance to quantum physics is evaluated in the framework of Husserl’s phenomenology. The second substitute is intersubjective agreement, which can be disconnected from objectivity stricto sensu, as quantum mechanics seems to require. A study of intersubjectivity in terms of the pragmatics of language is undertaken. This study is applied to both Everett’s symbolism of memory brackets and Bohr’s transcendental remark that description of scientific experiments cannot dispense with ordinary language. (shrink)
A concept of the ‘actual now’ is introduced. The ‘actual now’ is negatively characterized by the fact that it is absent from the time-series. This does not mean that the ‘actual now’ is outside the time-series. For saying so would wrongly suggest the existence of an ‘outside’ where the ‘actual now’ could be located. Instead, one considers that the ‘actual now’ is just the name of ‘that with respect to which’ any event can be said to be past or future, (...) yet being no event by itself. It holds the same role with respect to time as Husserl’s transcendental ego with respect to the empirical self. McTaggart’s celebrated refutation of the reality of time is reinterpreted accordingly. To express this argument, one no longer needs to use the notions of ‘change’ or ‘time flow’, but only to point out the in-principle impossibility to refer to the ‘actual now’. (shrink)
This article aims at reducing the gap between mathematics and physics from a Wittgensteinian point of view. This gap is usually characterized by two discriminating features. The propositions of physics assert something which might be false; they have a hypothetical character. On the contrary, since mathematical propositions are rules that condition the form of assertions, they remain immune from falsification. The propositions of physics refer to facts that may confirm or refute them. On the contrary, since mathematical propositions have no (...) meaning independently of the demonstration procedures, it cannot be said that they refer to “facts” that pre-exist demonstrations. If we take a closer look, however, these two differences fade away. On the one hand, the propositions of physics are more resistant to experimental tests than has been said in the wake of logical positivism. On the other hand, the “factual” empirical material is defined and co-constituted by instruments whose arrangement is determined by the theory to be tested. I conclude by discussing the possibility of a Wittgensteinian philosophy of contemporary physics. (shrink)
Three interdependent levels are distinguished in Kuhn’s concept of paradigm: experimental know-how, formalism, and ontological commitment. The onlogical level is the only one which happens to be entirely and explicitly expressed in the framework of ordinary language. It then appears that identifying “incommensurability” with untranslatability is tantamount to skipping part of the problem. To compensate for this incompleteness, a neo-pragmatist and structuralist view of physics is developed along the lines of A. Pickering’s and I. Hacking’s. In this conception, the domain (...) of practice is no longer marginal. It rather becomes the central axis with respect to which every component of knowledge is defined and every question is to be discussed, including the issue of incommensurability.RésuméOn distingue trois strates interdépendantes dans les paradigmes kuhniens : le savoir-faire expérimental, le formalisme, et les engagements ontologiques. Seul le niveau ontologique se trouve intégralement et explicitement exprimé dans le cadre du langage courant. Il semble donc qu’assimiler l’« incommensurabilité » des paradigmes à une intraductibilité revient à esquiver une partie du problème. Afin de compenser cette apparente incomplétude, une conception néo-pragmatiste et structuraliste de la physique est développée, en l’appuyant sur les réflexions d’A. Pickering et I. Hacking. Au lieu d’être marginalisé, le domaine des pratiques devient dans cette conception l’axe central où se définissent toutes les composantes de la connaissance, et où se décident toutes les questions, y compris celle de l’incommensurabilité. (shrink)
It is argued that quantum mechanics does not have merely a predictive function like other physical theories; it consists in a formalisation of the conditions of possibility of any prediction bearing upon phenomena whose circumstances of detection are also conditions of production. This is enough to explain its probabilistic status and theoretical structure.