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The phenomenological mind, second edition



The Phenomenological Mind is the first book to properly introduce fundamental questions about the mind from the perspective of phenomenology. Key questions and topics covered include: • • what is phenomenology? • • naturalizing phenomenology and the cognitive sciences • • phenomenology and consciousness • • consciousness and self-consciousness • • time and consciousness • • intentionality • • the embodied mind • • action • • knowledge of other minds • • situated and extended minds • • phenomenology and personal identity.
Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi
Second edition
First published 2008 by Routledge
This edition published 2012 by Routledge
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© 2008, 2012 Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic,
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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Gallagher, Shaun, 1948–
The phenomenological mind / by Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi. – 2nd ed.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index.
1. Phenomenology. 2. Philosophy of mind. 3. Cognitive science. 4. Consciousness. 5. Perception. I. Zahavi, Dan. II.
B829.5.G27 2012
ISBN: 978-0-415-61036-0 (hbk)
ISBN: 978-0-415-61037-7 (pbk)
ISBN: 978-0-203-12675-2 (ebk)
List of gures ix
Acknowledgements xi
Preface to the second edition xiii
1 Introduction: philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and phenomenology 1
An oversimplied account of the last 100 years 2
What is phenomenology? 6
Outline of this book 11
2 Methodologies 15
Fantasies in the science of consciousness 16
Phenomenological method 21
Naturalizing phenomenology 31
Conclusion 45
3 Consciousness and self-consciousness 51
Consciousness and pre-reective self-consciousness 52
Pre-reective self-consciousness and ‘what it is like’ 56
Blindsight 65
Self-consciousness and reection 68
Conclusion: driving it home 73
4 Time 77
The default account 78
A phenomenology of time-consciousness 83
The microstructure of consciousness and self-consciousness 87
Time-consciousness and dynamical systems theory 89
Is consciousness of a temporal process itself temporally extended? 91
Historicity 93
5 Perception 99
Perceptual holism 105
Conceptuality and ambiguity 112
The role of others 117
6 Intentionality 123
What is intentionality? 125
Resemblance, causation, and mental representation 127
The positive account 129
Intentionalism 133
Intentionality and consciousness 136
Phenomenology, externalism, and metaphysical realism 139
7 The embodied mind 147
Robotic and biological bodies 151
How the body denes the space of experience 159
The body as experientially transparent 163
Embodiment and social cognition 167
8 Action and agency 171
The phenomenology of agency 176
Experimenting with the sense of agency 182
My actions and yours 187
9 How we know others 191
Theory-of-mind debate 191
Problems with implicit simulation 197
Empathy and the argument from analogy 201
Mentalism and the conceptual problem of other minds 205
Interaction and narrative 208
10 Self and person 219
Neuroscepticism and the no-self doctrine 220
Various notions of self 222
Sociality and personality 227
A developmental story 229
Pathologies of the self 230
Conclusion 235
11 Conclusion 239
References 245
Index 267
2.1 Formal integration of experimental science and phenomenology 37
2.2 A neurophenomenological experiment 40
2.3 Correlation of behavioural responses and phenomenological clusters 41
2.4 Dynamical neural signature 42
4.1 An enduring consciousness 80
4.2 Principles of simultaneous awareness 81
4.3 The problem of repeating content 82
4.4 The structure of time-consciousness 84
5.1 Müller-Lyer illusion 106
5.2 Ebbinghaus illusion 107
7.1 Human agent controlling a NASA robot 158
9.1 False-belief scenario 194
9.2 Shared representations 198
A few comments about how we wrote this book. It is a co-authored work, and although we
started out by dividing the chapters between us so that we each were rst author on half
of them, they were subsequently passed forth and back and rewritten so many times jointly
that they now all stand as fully co-authored chapters.
In the process of writing the book, we have received very helpful comments from a number
of people. We would like to thank Nils Gunder Hansen, Daniel Hutto, Søren Overgaard,
Matthew Ratcliffe, Andreas Roepstorff, and especially Thor Grünbaum and Evan Thompson
for their extensive comments on earlier drafts. We also want to thank Mads Gram Henriksen
for helping with the compilation of the list of references.
A signicant part of Shaun Gallagher’s work on this book was supported by a Visiting
Professorship at the University of Copenhagen, sponsored by the University’s Research
Priority Area: Body and Mind, and the Danish National Foundation’s Center for Subjectivity
Preface to the second
In preparing the revised second edition, we have greatly proted not only from ongoing
discussions with our readers and colleagues, but also and in particular from the various
reviews of and critical commentaries on the rst edition. We have made various improve-
ments, revisions and clarications, and expanded each chapter with new material.
One change in particular calls for explanation. The rst edition of our book was entitled The
Phenomenological Mind: An Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science. In this new
revised edition, we have dropped the subtitle. The reason for this is simple. The subtitle unfortu-
nately (but perhaps not so surprisingly) has been taken by many readers to suggest that our book
is something it isn’t, namely a comprehensive introduction to philosophy of mind and cognitive
science. Arriving with this kind of expectation, some readers have subsequently expressed
frustration over the fact that we failed to treat and discuss this or that central topic in philosophy
of mind and cognitive science. This is also a frustration and criticism that some of our reviewers
have given voice to. By dropping the subtitle, we hope to avoid this misinterpretation. The aim
of our book, as made clear in the rst chapter, was never to provide a general introduction to
phenomenology, philosophy of mind, and cognitive science– a task that in any case would have
been impossible to achieve in a single short volume. Our aim was to write an accessible and up-to-
date introduction to phenomenology, but one that departed from other such introductions by its
rather unique angle. On the one hand, we wanted to show people trained in phenomenology, how
phenomenological philosophy could address issues also debated in contemporary philosophy of
mind and cognitive science, and how the phenomenological analyses could prot from and be
improved upon by such an engagement with empirical science and analytic philosophy. At the
same time, however, and even more pronounced, we wanted to show readers not already familiar
with phenomenology what kind of contribution phenomenological philosophy could make to the
contemporary philosophical and scientic discussions of cognition and consciousness, be it by
describing facets of experience that are somewhat overlooked in current debates, or by offering
alternative conceptual frameworks for the interpretation of scientic data. These ambitions
imposed some obvious limitations to our endeavour. On the one hand, we didn’t extensively
discuss topics in phenomenology that had little bearing on issues in analytic philosophy of mind
or cognitive science. At the same time, we didn’t touch and dwell on those areas of philosophy
of mind and cognitive science where phenomenology has little or nothing to contribute. Some
might consider the latter omission particularly problematic since one thereby misses out on the
opportunity to show how phenomenology could be directly complemented by analyses of areas
with which it has failed to grapple. But given our aims and the planned size of our book, this was
a limitation that was practically unavoidable. Phenomenological interventions in and exchanges
with cognitive science and philosophy of mind are ongoing. Our book was and is intended not
as an exhaustive account, but as an introduction, and we think it has succeeded in that regard.
The approach we advocate in our book is an open-ended pluralistic methodology rather
than a narrowly orthodox and rigorous phenomenological methodology. Strictly speaking,
inference to best explanation and indirect arguments that proceed by way of eliminating
competing positions is not phenomenological in nature. But we have adopted the view that the
more arguments we could garner in support of our outlook the better. We are convinced that
analytic philosophy of mind in many ways can, not only challenge, but also support, and enrich
the phenomenological discussions. We wanted to convince our scientic colleagues that the
problems addressed by the cognitive scienceshow the brain works, what counts as cognition,
all the extremely difcult ‘easy’ problems, as well as the ‘hard’ problem of consciousnessare
so complex that an adequate account of any one of them requires multidimensional studies
from perspectives offered by many different disciplines, including neuroscience, articial
intelligence, psychology, philosophy of mind, and phenomenology. A complete neuroscience
(even if that were possible) would not be a complete explanation of cognition; an exhaustive
psychology would not exhaust what we can know about human nature; a perfect linguistics
would not be a perfect account of everything we need to say about language. Cognitive science
is not (or should not be) interdisciplinary for purposes of eliminating all but one discipline.
Rather, the best account of cognitive science is that it consists of the cognitive sciences, and
that these sciences have to stand together in order to develop the fullest account possible. It’s
not reduction, but multiplication– taking multiple perspectives on the problem– that charac-
terizes the idea of the cognitive sciences that we defend in The Phenomenological Mind.
Let us end by expressing our gratitude to Rasmus Thybo Jensen, who in translating The
Phenomenological Mind into Danish, called our attention to some points that needed clari-
cation, a number of typos and some missing bibliographical information. We also want
to thank Gottfried Vosgerau and Simona Chiodo, who guest-edited two comprehensive
collections of commentaries on our book, and Roberta De Monticelli for organizing a Winter
School on The Phenomenological Mind in Milan in 2010. Our thanks obviously also go to
all the contributors to those special issues, and School participants, for their inspiring and
challenging comments. Finally, we would like to thank Tony Bruce and Adam Johnson from
Routledge for encouraging us to work on a second edition and for all their practical help, and
James Thomas for his excellent copy-editing on the second edition.
1 Introduction
Philosophy of mind, cognitive
science, and phenomenology
This is a book about the mind. What the mind is, and how it works, are currently the topics
of many complex debates that span a number of disciplines: psychology, neuroscience,
articial intelligence, philosophy of mind– disciplines that belong to what is generally
referred to as the cognitive sciences. The interdisciplinary nature of these debates is no
coincidence. Rather, it is necessitated by the fact that no single discipline can do full justice
to the complexity of the issues at hand. In this book, we want to explore a variety of issues
that have traditionally been studied by philosophers of mind. However, we do not intend
to take a pure philosophical approachthat is, we do not take a philosophical approach
that would ignore the other sciences. We will frequently appeal to the details of scientic
evidence from studies in cognitive neuroscience and brain imaging, developmental and
cognitive psychology, and psychopathology. This is, however, a book on the philosophy of
mind, and no matter how interdisciplinary it gets, it remains an attempt to address philo-
sophical problems.
Everything we said so far, however, could be the basis for a standard philosophy of mind
or philosophy of cognitive science textbook, of which there are already a sufcient number.
We propose to do things differently, and for reasons that will become clear as we proceed,
we think this difference is important and productive, and one that signals a change in the
way things are developing in the cognitive sciences. Specically, we will take a phenomeno-
logical perspective on the issues that are to be discussed, where phenomenology refers
to a tradition of philosophy that originated in Europe and includes the work of Husserl,
Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, and other more recent thinkers. We will not try to do justice
to all aspects of phenomenology. Rather, our treatment involves a selection of topics that
we think are of particular importance for contemporary discussions in philosophy of mind
and cognitive science. Also, our focus will not be historical or based on textual exegesis of
gures in the phenomenological tradition, although we will certainly cite their work where
relevant. To understand the motive for this selection of perspective, let us look briey at the
way philosophy and psychology have developed in the past century or so.
If we took a snapshot of the philosophical and psychological discussions of the mind around
the end of the nineteenth century, we would nd complex discussions about the nature
of consciousness (for example, in the writings of the American philosopher/psychologist
William James, and the European philosopher Edmund Husserl), the intentional structure of
mental states (e.g. in the work of the Austrian philosopher and psychologist Franz Brentano,
Bertrand Russell, and again, Husserl), as well as discussions about the methodology
needed for a proper study of the mind (e.g. Wilhelm Wundt, Gustav Theodor Fechner, and
again, James and Husserl). One would also notice that all of these people were inuencing
each other, sometimes directly (corresponding by letters in a pre-electronic age) or indirectly
(by reading each other’s work). So, for example, James was inspired by theorists and experi-
mentalists in Europe, and in his 1890 Principles of Psychology (1950) he cited the work of
Brentano and many of his students, including the psychologist Carl Stumpf. Although James
did not cite Husserl, a student of both Brentano and Stumpf, the latter had recommended
that Husserl read James’s Principles. Husserl did so, and he clearly learned from James.
Husserl also corresponded with the logician Frege. Both criticized the then prevalent doctrine
of psychologism, that is, the idea that the laws of logic are reducible to laws of psychology.1
Both of them had a strong interest in the philosophy of mathematics and logic, which was
also of interest to Russell, who had a copy of Husserl’s Logical Investigations in his prison
cell (where he served time for civil disobedience).
As we move further into the twentieth century, these thinkers and their particular philo-
sophical approaches start to move apart. James became less involved in psychology and
occupied himself with the development of the philosophy of American pragmatism. The kind
of logical analysis found in the work of Frege and Russell became the basis for what has
become known as analytic philosophy. And Husserl developed an approach to consciousness
and experience which he called phenomenology. By mid-century, and indeed throughout most
of the latter part of the twentieth century, we nd that with respect to discussions of the mind
(as well as other topics) very little communication is going on between analytic philosophy
of mind and phenomenology. In fact, on both sides, the habitual attitude towards the other
tradition has ranged from complete disregard to outright hostility. Indeed, up until the 1990s,
it was unusual to nd philosophers from these different traditions even talking to each other.
There has been plenty of arrogance on both sides of the aisle. Thus, for example, Jean-Luc
Marion (1998) suggested that during the twentieth century phenomenology had essen-
tially assumed the very role of philosophy, apparently ignoring any contribution by analytic
philosophy. On the other side, Thomas Metzinger allegedly proclaimed phenomenology to
be ‘a discredited research programme.
. intellectually bankrupt for at least 50 years’.2
Even when phenomenologists do talk with analytic philosophers we nd reactions such as
John Searle’s claim, in response to a critique by Dreyfus, that phenomenology suffers from
serious limitations, or as he puts it, using the less reserved economic metaphor, ‘I almost
want to say.
. bankruptcyand [it] does not have much to contribute to the topics of the
logical structure of intentionality or the logical structure of social and institutional reality’
(Searle 1999a, pp. 1, 10).3
To explain how these different philosophers came to think of themselves as so opposed
to each other, or perhaps even worse, indifferent towards each other, would involve telling
a larger story than is necessary for our purposes. We endorse David Woodruff Smith’s
observation: ‘It ought to be obvious that phenomenology has a lot to say in the area called
philosophy of mind. Yet the traditions of phenomenology and analytic philosophy of mind
have not been closely joined, despite overlapping areas of interest’ (Smith 2003). In this
book, however, you will be able to discern some of the important differences between the
approaches of the analytic philosophy of mind and phenomenology, as well as some of their
overlapping concerns.
Another part of the relevant history involves what happens in psychology. Here is
the standard version, which is a somewhat distorted history of what actually happened,
although it is the one given in almost every textbook account. At the end of the nineteenth
and beginning of the twentieth century there was a great interest in explaining conscious
experience and the cognitive processes involved in attention and memory. The early
experimental psychologists relied on introspection as a method that aimed to produce
measurable data about the mind. Around 1913, however, the emphasis shifted to the notion
of behaviour as the proper object of psychological study. Behaviourism, as an approach to
the study of animal and human psychology, was defended and articulated in the work of the
American psychologist John Watson (1913), and came to dominate the study of psychology,
especially in America, until the 1970s, peaking around 1950. The shift to behaviour and
its emphasis on the measurement of observable action was at the same time a shift away
from the interior life of the mind and the method of introspection. Behaviourism, however,
was ultimately replaced by cognitive approaches that returned to the earlier interest in the
interior processes of mental life, this time armed with computational models developed in
computer science, and more recently, all of the scientic advancements in brain research.
Finally, in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, researchers again focused on attempts
to understand and explain consciousness.
This story is distorted and oversimplied even in its broad strokes. One could easily
point to historical evidence that suggests, in complete contrast to the standard story, that
behaviourist approaches and attempts to obtain objective measures were common in the
earliest psychology laboratories of the nineteenth century, and introspection was frequently
considered problematic, even by the so-called introspectionists, although it continued to play
some part in psychological experimentation throughout the twentieth century. Furthermore,
computational concepts of the mind can arguably be traced back to the eighteenth century;
and consciousness has been of continuing interest since the time of René Descartes, in the
rst half of the seventeenth century, and perhaps since the time of the ancient Greeks. One
might also claim that the standard story is simply partisan, reecting the interests of the
people who pieced it together. As Alan Costall (2004, 2006) has argued, the understanding
of the early history of psychology as introspectionist was an invention of John Watson,
who wanted to put behaviourist psychology on everyone’s agenda. Yet, the psychologist that
Watson most associated with introspection, Wilhelm Wundt, expressed his own distrust of
introspection: ‘Introspective method relies either on arbitrary observations that go astray
or on a withdrawal to a lonely sitting room where it becomes lost in self-absorption. The
unreliability of this method is universally recognized’ (Wundt 1900, p. 180; translated in
Blumental 2001, p. 125). Furthermore, although cognitivists claimed to offer a revolution in
psychology, as Costall (2004, p. 1) points out, ‘Cognitivism is very much a continuation of
the kind of mechanistic behaviorism it claims to have undermined.
The story, then, is more complex than standard accounts indicate. The ‘cognitive
revolution’, the emergence of cognitive science after 1950, and mid-century analytic
philosophy of mind were all inuenced by behaviourist thought. Gilbert Ryle, for example,
wrote in his book The Concept of Mind, that what we call the mind simply is ‘overt intel-
ligent performances’ (1949, p. 58), and he admits to the importance of behaviourism for
this kind of insight (1949, p. 328).4 In contrast, it is often thought that phenomenology
was primarily an introspectionist enterprise. As we will show in the following, this is also a
misconception (see Chapter 2). In terms of comprehending the relation between phenom-
enology and philosophy of mind, however, it is certainly the case that analytic philosophers
of mind thought of phenomenology as being introspectionist, and from their point of view
introspection, as a method for understanding the mind, was dead.
If we set the question of introspection aside for now, another way to characterize the
difference between contemporary mainstream analytic philosophy of mind and phenom-
enology is by noting that whereas the majority of analytic philosophers today endorse some
form of naturalism, phenomenologists have tended to adopt a non- or even anti-naturalistic
approach. However, matters are somewhat complicated by the fact that naturalism is by no
means an unequivocal term. We will discuss this point in more detail in Chapter 2. For now
it will be sufcient to point out that science tends to adopt a naturalistic view, so that when
nally the cognitive revolution occurred, that is, when psychology started to come under
the inuence of computational theories of mind in the 1950s and 1960s, and when the
interdisciplinary study of the mind known as cognitive science started to emerge, the philo-
sophical approach that seemed more attuned to science was analytic philosophy of mind.
Moreover, there was quite a lot of work for philosophers of mind to do when the dominant
model was a computational one. Logic and logical analysis play an essential role in the
computational model. More importantly, however, philosophy of mind contributed important
theoretical foundations and conceptual analyses to the emerging sciences of the mind. The
philosophical denition of functionalism, for example, plays an important role in explicating
the computational model so that it can apply both to natural and articial intelligence.
In this organization of cognitive disciplines, the specic philosophical approach of
phenomenology was pushed to the side and generally thought to be irrelevant. For a long
time the one lone voice that insisted on its relevance to issues pertaining to the eld of
articial intelligence and the cognitive sciences was Hubert Dreyfus (1967, 1972, 1992).
But this situation has recently changed, and it is this change that motivates this book.
Computationalism is not as dominant as it had been in the rst 30 years of cognitive
science. Three developments have pushed it off its throne. The rst is a revived interest
in phenomenal consciousness. Starting in the late 1980s (see, for example, Marcel and
Bisiach 1988), psychologists and philosophers started to talk about consciousness in
the context of the cognitive sciences. During the 1990s a broad debate about the ‘hard
problem’ of consciousness began, led by David Chalmers (1995), in the wake of important
writings by, among others, Thomas Nagel (1974), Searle (1992), Daniel Dennett (1991),
Owen Flanagan (1992), and Galen Strawson (1994). When methodological questions arose
about how to study the experiential dimension scientically, and therefore, without resort-
ing to old-style introspectionism, a new discussion of phenomenology was started. In other
words, in some circles, phenomenology as a philosophical approach was thought to be of
possible importance when consciousness was raised as a scientic question.
The second thing that happened to motivate a reconsideration of phenomenology as a
philosophical-scientic approach was the advent of embodied approaches to cognition. In
the cognitive sciences, the notion of embodied cognition took on strength in the 1990s, and
it continues today. Scientists and philosophers such as Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson,
and Eleanor Rosch (1991), Antonio Damasio (1994), and Andy Clark (1997) objected to the
strong Cartesian mind–body dualism that, despite the best efforts of philosophers like Ryle,
Dennett, and others, continued to plague the cognitive sciences. Functionalism led us to
believe that cognition could be instantiated in a disembodied computer program, or ‘brain-
in-a-vat’, and that embodiment added nothing to the mind. Varela et al., as well as Clark and
others, pointed back to the insights of the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty
(1962) as a way to develop their objections to disembodied cognition. Indeed, we will see
that Merleau-Ponty offers one of the best examples of how phenomenology can play an
important role in the cognitive sciences.
A third development that has made phenomenological approaches to cognition relevant to
experimental science has been the amazing progress of neuroscience. In the past 20 years
we have been able to learn a tremendous amount about how the brain works. Technologies
such as brain imaging (fMRI, PET) have generated new experimental paradigms. The science
of brain imaging is complex, and is certainly not just a matter of taking a snapshot of
what is going on inside the head. But the generation of images of neural processing using
non-invasive technology has made possible a variety of experiments that depend on reports
about the experience of the experimental subjects. Both in order to design the experiments
properly and in order to interpret their results, experimenters often want to know what the
subject’s experience is like. Again, the issue of methodology calls for some consideration of
dependable ways of describing conscious experience, and phenomenology offers just such
a method.
It seems clear, then, that the time is ripe for a careful account of how phenomenological
philosophy and method can contribute to the cognitive sciences. This book is an attempt to
do that. What marks out the territory covered in this book, in contrast to other textbooks on
philosophy of mind, then, is that it develops a phenomenological approach to the philosophy
of mind. The idea, however, is not to displace or dismiss analytic philosophy of mind. Indeed,
part of what we want to explore is how phenomenology can enter back into a communication
with analytic approaches in a way that goes beyond generalities. To us the most exciting
development of the past few years has been the growing interest of both analytic philos-
ophers of mind and phenomenologists in experimental science. If, for a variety of historical
and conceptual reasons, analytic philosophy and phenomenology have for a time been
ignoring each other, the thriving eld of consciousness research is certainly an area where
communication has been re-sparked.
Phenomenology, understood as the philosophical approach originated by Edmund Husserl
in the early years of the twentieth century, has a complex history. In part it is the basis for
what has become known as continental philosophy, where ‘continental’ means the European
continent, despite the fact that much continental philosophy since 1960 has been done in
America. Within this designation one nds a number of philosophical approaches, some
building on the insights of phenomenology, such as existentialism and hermeneutics (theory
of interpretation), and others reacting critically against phenomenology, including certain
post-structuralist or postmodernist ideas. There is, however, a line of major philosophical
thinkers, including Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty, who extend phenomenological
philosophy from its origins in Husserl. Following this lineage means that we understand
phenomenology to include a somewhat diverse set of approaches. To provide a basic idea
of phenomenology, however, we will here focus on what these approaches have in common.
In later chapters we will have the opportunity to explore insights provided by some of the
individual phenomenologists.
Most introductory textbooks in philosophy of mind or in cognitive science start by or frame
the entire discussion by describing various metaphysical positions: dualism, materialism,
identity theory, functionalism, eliminativism.
. and so on (see, for example, Braddon-Mitchell
and Jackson 2006; Chalmers 2002; Heil 2004; Kim 2005). Before we even know for sure
what we are talking about, it seems that we have to commit ourselves metaphysically and
declare our allegiance to one or the other of these positions. Phenomenology pushes these
kinds of questions aside, brackets them, sets them out of play, and asks us instead to pay
attention to the phenomenon under study. One of the underlying ideas of phenomenology
is that the preoccupation with these metaphysical issues tends to degenerate into highly
technical and abstract discussions that lose touch with the real subject matter: experience.
It is no coincidence that Edmund Husserl’s maxim for phenomenology was, ‘Back to the
things themselves!’ (Husserl 1950/1964, p. 6). By this he meant that phenomenology
should base its considerations on the way things are experienced rather than various extra-
neous concerns which might simply obscure and distort what is to be understood. One
important concern of the philosophy of mind and cognitive science should be to provide a
phenomenologically sensitive account of the various structures of experience.
But what is the thing under study? Don’t we have to know whether we are studying the
mind, or the brain, or whether it is something material or immaterial? Is consciousness
generated by specic brain processes, or not? How can the phenomenologist set such
questions aside and hope to make any progress? Or, someone might object, ‘How can the
phenomenologist deny that the brain causes consciousness?’ The proper response to this
is that phenomenologists do not deny it; nor do they afrm it. They suspend these kinds of
questions and all judgements about them. They start with experience.
Take perception as an example. When I look out of the window and see my car parked
in the street, I am having a visual perception. An experimental psychologist would want to
provide a causal explanation of how visual perception works, perhaps in terms of retinal
processes, neuronal activation in the visual cortex and association areas in the brain that
allow me to recognize the car as my own. She might devise a functionalist account that
explains what sorts of mechanisms do the work, or what sort of information (colour, shape,
distance, etc.) needs to be processed in order for me to have the visual perception of my car.
These are important explanations for science to develop. The phenomenologist, however,
has a different task. She would start with the experience itself and by means of a careful
description of that experience she would attempt to say what perceptual experience is like,
what the difference is between perception and, for example, an instance of imagination or
recollection, and how that perception is structured so that it delivers a meaningful experience
of the world. Without denying that brain processes contribute causally to perception, such
processes are simply not part of the perceiver’s experience.
There is of course a relationship between what the phenomenologist is doing and what
the psychologist is doing. Clearly they are trying to give an account of the same experience.
But they are taking different approaches, asking different questions, and looking for different
kinds of answers. To the extent that phenomenology stays with experience, it is said to
take a rst-person approach. That is, the phenomenologist is concerned to understand the
perception in terms of the meaning it has for the subject. My perceptual experience of seeing
my car in the street, for example, includes nothing about processes that are happening in
my brain. The typical cognitive scientist, on the other hand, takes a third-person approach,
that is, an approach from the perspective of the scientist as external observer rather than
from the perspective of the experiencing subject. She attempts to explain perception in
terms of something other than the experience, for example certain objective (and usually
subpersonal) processes like brain states or functional mechanisms.
One might think that there is nothing much to say about experience itself. One simply
experiences as one experiences. The phenomenologist nds quite a lot to say, however.
For example, the phenomenologist notes that my visual perception of the car has a certain
structure that characterizes all conscious acts, namely an intentional structure. Intentionality
is a ubiquitous character of consciousness, and as the phenomenologists put it, it means
that all consciousness (all perceptions, memories, imaginings, judgements, etc.) is about or
of something. In that sense, experience is never an isolated or elemental process. It always
involves reference to the world, taking that term in a very wide sense to include not just the
physical environment, but the social and cultural world, which may include things that do not
exist in a physical way (for example, Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark). The phenomenological
analysis of intentionality leads to a number of insights. For example, the intentionality of
perception is richly detailed in the following sense. When I see a particular object in the
street, I see it as my car. Perception is not a simple reception of information; rather, it
involves an interpretation, which frequently changes according to context. To see my car as
my car already suggests that perception is informed by previous experience, and at least in
this sense Locke and the empiricists were correct to suggest that perception is educated by
experience. One should think of this as perception enriched by experience and by habitual,
as well as customary, ways of experiencing things rather than as a case of perception plus
thought. It’s not that I perceive x and then add something quite different and novel, namely
the thought that this is my car. One way to put this is to say that perception is ‘smart’. To say
that perception involves interpretation doesn’t mean that rst we perceive some nebulous
entity and then we add an interpretation– something over and above perception that
bestows meaning on it. Rather, perception is interpretational. I see the car already as my car.
Perception is smart; it’s already meaningful. In part this means that it is already
enriched by the circumstances and possibilities of my embodied existence and surrounding
environment. The phenomenologist would say that perceptual experience is embedded in
contexts that are pragmatic, social, and cultural and that much of the semantic work (the
formation of perceptual meaning) is facilitated by the objects, arrangements, and events that
I encounter. In a particular instance I may see the object as a practical vehicle that I can
use to get me to where I’m going. In another instance I may see the exact same object as
something I have to clean, or as something I have to sell, or as something that is not working
properly. The way that I see my car will depend on a certain contextual background, which
can also be explored phenomenologically. To encounter my car as something to drive is to
encounter it as something I can climb into, as something located in a place that affords the
kind of motion the car is built for. My perceptual experience will consequently be informed
by the bodily abilities and skills I possess. It has been customary to say that perception has
representational or conceptual content. But perhaps this way of talking fails to fully capture
the situated nature of perceptual experience. Rather than saying that I represent the car as
driveable, it might be better to say that– given the design of the car, the shape of my body
and its action possibilities, and the state of the environmentthe car is driveable and I
perceive it as such.
The intentional structure of perception also involves spatial aspects that can be explored
phenomenologically. My embodied position places precise limitations on what I can see
and what I can’t. From where I am standing I can see the driver’s side of the car. The car
appears in that prole, and in such a way that what I do see of the car occludes other
aspects or proles of the car. Standing where I am I cannot literally see the passenger side
of the car, for example it is not in my visual eld. Nonetheless, I see the car as having
another side to it, and I would be extremely surprised if I walked around the car and found
that the passenger side was missing. The surprise that I would feel indicates that I have
a certain tacit anticipation of what my possible action in the immediate future will bring.
I am surprised because my anticipation is disappointed. This temporal structure of our
experience has been described in great detail by phenomenologists, and it is a feature that
we will return to repeatedly in the following chapters.
In any perception of a physical object, my perception is always incomplete in regard
to the object I never see a complete object all at once. Let’s call this ‘perspectival
incompleteness’. There is always something more to see that is implicitly there, even in
the perception of the simplest object. If I move around a tree in order to obtain a more
exhaustive perception of it, then the various proles of the tree, its front, sides, and back,
do not present themselves as disjointed fragments, but are perceived as synthetically
integrated moments. This synthetic process is once again temporal in nature.
Phenomenologically, I can also discover certain gestalt features of perception. Visual
perception comes with a characteristic structure such that, normally, something is always in
focus while the rest is not. Some object is at the centre of my focus, while others are in the
background, or on the horizon, or at the periphery. I can shift my focus and make something
else come into the foreground, but only at the cost of shifting the rst object attended to
out of focus and into the horizon.
Notice that in these kinds of accounts the phenomenologist is concerned with particular
experiential structures of perception, and precisely as they relate to the world in which the
perceiver is situated. That is, even as she attends to experience, the phenomenologist does
not get locked up in an experience that is purely subjective, or detached from the world.
The phenomenologist studies perception, not as a purely subjective phenomenon, but as it
is lived through by a perceiver who is in the world, and who is also an embodied agent with
motivations and purposes.
In addition to this kind of intentional analysis of how we experience the world, or how
the world appears to us, the phenomenologist can also ask about the phenomenal state
of the perceiver. This is sometimes referred to in the philosophy of mind literature as the
qualitative or phenomenal features of experience– or, in a fortuitous phrase made famous
by Nagel (1974), the ‘what it is like’ to experience something. The phenomenal features of
experience are not divorced from the intentional features. What it is like to stand around
and admire my new car is obviously quite different from what it is like to stand around and
see my new car get smashed by another car.
In a short reection we have identied some ubiquitous aspects or structures of
perception: its intentionality, its gestalt character, its perspectival incompleteness, its
phenomenal and temporal character. There is much more to say about temporality (see
Chapter 4), perception (Chapter 5), intentionality (Chapter 6), and phenomenality (Chapter
3). Notice, however, that what we have been outlining here amounts to a description of
experience, or more precisely a description of the structures of experience, and that as
phenomenologists we have not once mentioned the brains behind this experience. That is,
we have not tried to give an account in terms of neuronal mechanisms that might cause us
to perceive the car in the way that we perceive it. So in this way a phenomenological account
of perception is something quite different from a psychophysical or neuroscientic account.
Phenomenology is concerned with attaining an understanding and proper description of
the experiential structure of our mental/embodied life; it does not attempt to develop a
naturalistic explanation of consciousness, nor does it seek to uncover its biological genesis,
neurological basis, psychological motivation, or the like.
This kind of phenomenological account is consistent with Husserl’s original conception of
phenomenology. In his view, phenomenology is not interested in an analysis of the psycho-
physical constitution of the human being, nor in an empirical investigation of consciousness,
but in an understanding of what intrinsically and in principle characterizes perceptions,
judgements, feelings, etc.
Nonetheless, and this is an important point for our purposes, we can also see that this
phenomenological account is not irrelevant for a science of perception. There is currently a
growing realization that we will not get very far in giving a scientic account of the relationship
between consciousness and the brain unless we have a clear conception of what it is that
we are trying to relate. To put it another way, any assessment of the possibility of reducing
consciousness to neuronal structures and any appraisal of whether a naturalization of
consciousness is possible will require a detailed analysis and description of the experiential
aspects of consciousness. As Nagel once pointed out, a necessary requirement for any coherent
reductionism is that the entity to be reduced is properly understood (1974, p. 437). Without
necessarily endorsing a reductionist strategy, it is clear that if, in a methodical way, we pursue
a detailed phenomenological analysis, exploring the precise intentional, spatial, temporal, and
phenomenal aspects of experience, then we will end up with a description of just what it is that
the psychologists and the neuroscientists are trying to explain when they appeal to neural,
information processing, or dynamical models. Indeed, the phenomenologist would claim that
this kind of methodically controlled analysis provides a more adequate model of perception for
the scientist to work with than if the scientist simply starts with a common-sense approach.
Compare two situations. In the rst situation we, as scientists who are interested in
explaining perception, have no phenomenological description of perceptual experience. How
would we begin to develop our explanation? We would have to start somewhere. Perhaps
we would start with a pre-established theory of perception, and begin by testing the various
predictions this theory makes. Quite frequently this is the way that science is done. We may
ask where this pre-established theory comes from, and nd that in part it may be based on
certain observations or assumptions about perception. We may question these observations
or assumptions, and based on how we think perception actually works, formulate counter-
arguments or alternative hypotheses to be tested out. This seems somewhat hit or miss,
although science often makes progress in this way. In the second situation, we have a well-
developed phenomenological description of perceptual experience as intentional, spatial,
temporal, and phenomenal. We suggest that starting with this description, we already have
a good idea of what we need to explain. If we know that perception is always perspectivally
incomplete, and yet that we perceive objects as if they have volume, and other sides that we
cannot see in the perceptual moment, then we know what we have to explain, and we may
have good clues about how to design experiments to get to just this feature of perception.
If the phenomenological description is systematic and detailed, then to start with this rich
description seems a lot less hit or miss. So phenomenology and science may be aiming
for different kinds of accounts, but it seems clear that phenomenology can be relevant and
useful for scientic work.
Currently, the term ‘phenomenology’ is increasingly used by philosophers of mind
and cognitive scientists to designate a rst-person description of the ‘what it is like’ of
experience. In the next chapter we will show why this non-methodical use of the term, as
an equivalent to introspection, is misleading, and that quite a lot depends on the method-
ological nature of phenomenology.
As we indicated, many philosophy of mind textbooks start off by reviewing various
theories about the minddualism, identity theory, functionalism, etc. It is also the case
that psychology and cognitive science may already be informed by specic theories of the
mind. Phenomenology, however, does not start with a theory, or with a consideration of
theories. It seeks to be critical and non-dogmatic, shunning metaphysical and theoretical
prejudices, as much as possible. It seeks to be guided by what is actually experienced
rather than by what we expect to nd, given our theoretical commitments. It asks us not to
let preconceived theories form our experience, but to let our experience inform and guide
our theories. But, just as phenomenology is not opposed to science (although its task is
somewhat different from empirical science), neither is phenomenology opposed to theory. It
would be an oversimplication if we considered phenomenology as simply a set of methods
for the pure description of experience. Using such methods, however, phenomenologists are
led to insights about experience, and they are also interested in developing these insights
into theories of perception, intentionality, phenomenality, etc. The overarching claim of this
book is that these phenomenological-based theoretical accounts and descriptions can
complement and inform ongoing work in the cognitive sciences. In fact, we think they can
do so in a far more productive manner than the standard metaphysical discussions of, say,
the mind–body problem that we nd in mainstream philosophy of mind.
In contrast to many textbooks on philosophy of mind and cognitive science, then, we will not
begin by wrestling with the various metaphysical positions. Without doubt we will meet up
with these different positions in the following chapters, but the framework for this book will
be set by starting closer to experience and scientic practice.
In Chapter 2 we will take up certain methodological questions which are directly relevant
to the practice of experimental science. We want to ask about what actually happens in
the lab, in the experiment, and how scientists go about studying the mind. If part of what
psychologists and neuroscientists want to study is experience, what kind of access do they
have to it? We also want to provide a clear explication of phenomenological methods. This
is something that we have often been asked to do by scientists who are interested in using
phenomenological approaches, but who are puzzled about how phenomenological methods
are supposed to work.
In Chapter 3 we discuss diverse concepts of consciousness. In contemporary analytic
philosophy of mind there is an important debate going on about higher-order theories
of consciousness, and we want to review that debate and suggest an alternative way to
approach the problem of consciousness. This debate involves fascinating questions about
issues that range from the common experience of driving a car, to certain experimental
results about non-conscious perception, to some exotic cases of pathology, such as
In Chapter 4 we explore one of the most important, but also one of the most neglected
aspects of consciousness and cognition, as well as action– the temporality of experience.
William James had described consciousness metaphorically as having the structure of a
stream. He also argued that the present moment of experience is always structured in
a threefold temporal way, to include an element of the past and an element of the future. He
called this, following Robert Kelly (aka E. R. Clay), the ‘specious present’. For phenomeno-
logists, this issue goes to the very foundational structure of experience.
In Chapter 5 we dig deeper into perception. Contemporary explanations of perception
include a number of non-traditional, non-Cartesian approaches that emphasize the embodied
and enactive aspects of perception, or the fact that perception, and more generally
cognition, are situated, both physically and socially, in signicant ways. We’ll try to sort these
approaches out in order to see on what issues they agree or disagree. This will lead us to
consider the debate between non-representationalist views and representationalist views of
the mind.
Chapter 6 takes us to one of the most important concepts in our understanding of how
the mind is in the world intentionality. This is the idea that experience, whether it is
perception, memory, imagination, judgement, belief, etc., is always directed to some object.
Intentionality is reected in the very structure of consciousness, and involves notions of
mental acts and mental content. It is also a concept that is of direct relevance for the
contemporary debate between externalism and internalism.
Chapter 7 takes up the question of embodiment. Here, we examine the classic phenom-
enological distinctions between the lived body (Leib) and the objective body (Körper). But
we also want to show how biology and the very shape of the body contribute to cognitive
experience. We explore how embodied space frames our experiences and we discuss cases
of phantom limbs, unilateral neglect, and deafferentation. We also pursue some implications
for the design of robotic bodies.
Chapter 8 shows how an adequate scientic account of human action depends on certain
phenomenological distinctions between the sense of agency and the sense of ownership
for bodily movement. We suggest, however, that human action cannot be reduced to bodily
movement, and that certain scientic experiments can be misleading when their focus is
narrowed to just such bodily movements. Here too a number of pathological cases, including
schizophrenic delusions of control, will help us to understand non-pathological action.
Chapter 9 concerns the question of how we come to understand other minds. We explore
some current ‘theory of mind’ accounts (‘theory theory’ and ‘simulation theory’), and
introduce a phenomenologically based alternative that is consistent with recent research in
developmental psychology and neuroscience.
In Chapter 10 we come to a question that has been gaining interest across the cognitive
sciences the question of the self. Although this question has long been explored by
philosophers, neuroscientists and psychologists have recently revisited the issue. What we
nd is that there are almost as many different concepts of the self as there are theorists
examining them. To make some headway on this issue, we focus on the basic pre-reective
sense of unity through temporal change that is implicit in normal experience. We examine
how this pre-reective sense of self can break down in cases of schizophrenia, and what
role it plays in the development of a more reective sense of self, expressed in language,
narrative, and cultural contexts.
1 Psychologism is not entirely defeated, and it has recently been revived in the form of what might
be called neurologism. The well-known neuroscientist Semir Zeki wrote in a recent article: ‘My
approach is dictated by a truth that I believe to be axiomatic– that all human activity is dictated
by the organization and laws of the brain; that, therefore, there can be no real theory of art and
aesthetics unless neurobiologically based’ (Zeki 2002, p. 54). The limitations and problematic
nature of this proposal become obvious the moment one simply replaces the claims about art and
aesthetics with claims about other human activities such as astrophysics or archaeology.
2 See the editorial in Journal of Consciousness Studies 4/5–6 (Editors 1997, p. 385).
3 For a more sober and forward-looking discussion of the relation between analytic philosophy and
phenomenology, see D. Moran (2001).
4 Was Ryle really a behaviourist? No. See Dennett (2000).
... Philosophically allied to the work of Husserl, the aim of this perspective is to gain understanding of the nature and meaning of everyday experience [17 p81]. Methodologically this implies starting from a position that does not take the nature of the social world for granted, but rather as something that is mediated through one's consciousness, or one's 'lived experience' [18]. From this ontologically grounded perspective, aggregate economic distributions at some kind of macrolevel (world, nation, or even city level) are too abstract and removed to have much purchase on people's perception or practice as they go about their daily lives. ...
... However, what we find is that the research method has its initial question posed by a researcher, the data is collected by a researcher, it is analysed, interpreted, and described by a researcher. In effect we have a first-person subjective method for exploring first-person subjective experience of Others (Gallagher and Zahavi, 2012). ...
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This article is about the phenomenological orientation to the phenomenological interview. It identifies the necessary orientation for a researcher including including being-with, typification, empathy, temporality and remembering.
Since the early 2000s it has become common for artists to exhibit performances, either live or recorded that involve the execution of planned movements and actions as part of an encounter between various individuals occupying a gallery space. Wynne-Jones offers a much-needed summary of this recent choreographic turn in biennales, art galleries and museums and its accompanying scholarship. Focusing on Nicholas Bourriaud’s argument about relational aesthetics, the chapter unpacks intersubjectivity in order to highlight the relational and connective aspects of performance art. The introduction concludes with a discussion of the tendency in contemporary art to focus on the prescriptive aspects of choreography rather than its emancipatory potential.KeywordsMuseumsPerformance artIntersubjectivityChoreographyExhibition making
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The latest progress in empirical studies of consciousness and spectacular advances in AI technologies kick philosophy out of the familiar comfort of uncontrolled proliferation of concepts and scholastic disputes. In the overview of the current state of empirical theories of consciousness, author reveals that those theories still find themselves in the pre-paradigmatic stage, therefore not yet posing an immediate existential threat to the philosophy of consciousness, though making it watch out. Author attempts to deal with the certain ambiguity of the term ‘consciousness’, stripping its meaning from parts already susceptible to science and technology and from parts still highly unlikely to be explained away. Besides, the relationship between philosophy and science is specified in general by analyzing them to their inner dynamics of theories and ontologies, showing that for science, the distinction between the two is substantially more important than for philosophy. From this perspective, philosophical schemas of consciousness claiming to be ‘experiential’ must have met recently formulated criteria for empirical theories of consciousness, otherwise failing to explain anything in the domain. Finally, author adds his pragmatic criterion that addresses the technological perspectives a theory provides. In the end, a winning competitive theory will have to let us produce and control artificial conscious devices.
This chapter explores the early phenomenological accounts of Ressentiment provided by Else Voigtländer, Max Scheler, and Adolf Reinach. In particular, it examines the self-deceptive processes that lead to the “inversion of values” inherent to Ressentiment, i.e., how an object previously felt as valuable is denuded of its worth when the subject realizes that she cannot achieve it. For the comparative analysis of these accounts, attention is paid to three crucial issues: 1) the origins of Ressentiment (etiology); 2) its place in the taxonomy of the affective mind (ontology); and 3) the psychological mechanisms responsible for the inversion of value (psychology). The early phenomenological accounts are then analyzed in the light of recent accounts of Ressentiment elaborated by authors close to the phenomenological tradition. It is argued that the early phenomenological accounts provide central insights on the interrelation between affectivity and value.
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Although pragmatism and phenomenology have both contributed significantly to the genealogy of so-called “4E” – embodied, embedded, enactive and extended – cognition, there is benefit to be had from a systematic comparative study of these roots. As existing 4E cognition literature has tended to emphasise one or the other tradition, issues remain to be addressed concerning their commonalities – and possible incompatibilities. We begin by exploring pragmatism and phenomenology’s shared focus on contesting intellectualism, and its key assumption of mindedness as representation. We then outline distinctive insights from both traditions regarding the nature and role of habits, in order to put forward a habit-based epistemology as an alternative to the Cartesian idea-based epistemology that has dominated modern philosophy. We pay particular attention to the work of classical pragmatist C.S. Peirce, arguing that his semiotics, which analyses sign-use as habit, shows how theorists of embodied cognition can break a certain false dichotomy between embodiment and logical or intellectual structure which has prevented them from fully theorising propositional knowledge. In this way, our work both augments and challenges the Dewey/Merleau-Ponty connection that has been much more extensively explored by the field.
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Este trabajo muestra cómo una deconstrucción del cuerpo propio, desde la centralidad del tacto como autoafección (haptocentrismo), debe ser completada por una deconstrucción del aptocentrismo, es decir, de la comprensión del cuerpo propio como cuerpo del cual hago uso. Tanto el haptocentrismo como el aptocentrismo postulan al cuerpo propio como aquello que puede ser eminentemente apropiado por el viviente, una apropiación conceptualizada por el estoicismo como oikeiosis. En un recorrido que va desde el estoicismo hasta Michel Henry, pasando por Condillac, Maine de Biran, Rosmini, Husserl, Bergson, Marcel y Merleau-Ponty, podrá advertirse cómo estas argumentaciones están motivadas por dicha necesidad de apropiación del cuerpo y, por tanto, cómo la autoafección debe comprenderse dentro del esquema de la autoapropiación del viviente. Este paradigma de la autoapropiación encuentra, sin embargo, su lugar aporético en el cuerpo propio, el cual no puede ser nunca apropiado del todo y se presenta como el lugar de la resistencia y de la expropiación.
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