Neurophenomenology


Francisco Varela
Neurophenomenology, a term coined by Francisco Varela (1946-2001), proposes an explicitly naturalized account of consciousness or experience on the basis of two complementary sources: phenomenological analysis and cognitive neuroscience. Neurophenomenology takes seriously the importance of examining experience in first-person descriptions. According to neurophenomenology lived experience and its natural biological basis are linked by mutual constraints provided by their respective descriptions (Varela, 1996) See Varela's homepage.

De l'AutopoiŹse ą la Neurophénoménologie - From Autopoiesis to Neurophenomenology - Un hommage ą Francisco Varela - Juin 18-20, 2004 (AmphithéČtre Richelieu, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne) - Audio and Video downloads of this conference available at Complexity Digest.

Special Issue of Phenomenology and the Cogitive Sciences, 1.2 (2002). Includes papers from the Conference in Honor of Francisco Varela (1946-2001) (Paris: 13 October 2001). Journal abstracts

Special Issue of Biological Research: A Tribute to Francisco Varela Biological Research 36 (1), 2003.

Varela sets out the program of neurophenomenology in:

Varela, Francisco .J. 1996. Neurophenomenology: A Methodological Remedy for the Hard Problem. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 3 (4): 330-349

For some background see Neurophenomenology, a webpage by Owen McNally. For background on Varela, see
Palacios, Adrian and Juan Bacigalupo. 2003. Francisco Varela (1946-2001): Filling the mind - brain gap: A life adventure. Biological Research 36: 9-12.

For further theoretical and methodological discussions of neurophenomenology and the use of phenomenology and introspection in experimentation, see especially:

Baynes, Tim. 2003 (preprint). Closing the Gap? Some Questions for Neurophenomenology. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences.

Gallagher, Shaun. 1997. Mutual Enlightenment: Recent Phenomenology in Cognitive Science. Journal of Consciousness Studies 4, (3): 195-214.

Gallagher, S. 2002. Experimenting with introspection (Comment). Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 6 (9): 374-375.

Gallagher, S. and M. Sasma. 2003. Phenomenology and neurophenomenology: An Interview. May 15, 2003 following Gallagher's Hebdomades Lectures at the Philosophy Department of the Univerzita Palackého v Olomouci, Czech Republic.

Jack, A.I. and Roepstorff, A. 2002. Introspection and cognitive brain mapping: from stimulus-repsonse to script-report. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 6: 333-339.

Lutz, A. 2003. Neurophenomenology: How to combine subjective experience with brain evidence. Science and Consciousness Review 4 (March 2003).

Roy, J-M., Petitot, J., Pachoud, B., and Varela, F. J. 1999. Beyond the Gap: An introduction to naturalizing phenomenology. In J. Petitot, F.J. Varela, J.-M. Roy, and B. Pachoud (Eds.), Naturalizing Phenomenology: Issues in Contemporary Phenomenology and Cognitive Science (pp. 1-80). Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Rudrauf, David, Antoine Lutz, Diego Cosmelli, Jean-Philippe Lachaux, and Michel Le Van Quyen. 2003. From autopoiesis to neurophenomenology: Francisco Varela's exploration of the biophysics of being. Biological Research 36 no.1: 27-65.

Schooler, J. 2002. Re-representing consciousness: dissociations between experience and meta-consciousness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 6: 339-344.

For applications of neurophenomenology, see:

Gallagher, S. and F. Varela. 2001. Redrawing the map and resetting the time: Phenomenology and the cognitive sciences (a .pdf file). In The Reach of Reflection: The Future of Phenomenology, ed. Steven Crowell, Lester Embree and Samuel J. Julian. Electronpress. Electronic Publication. A hard-copy version of this paper will be published in Canadian Journal of Philosophy (2003).

Gallagher, S. 2002. Phenomenology and experimental design: Four approaches. Invited Lecture. Conference on Brain and Cognition. Aarhus University Hospital, University of Aarhus, Denmark (February 2002). A version of this paper is forthcoming in Journal of Consciousness Studies.

Lachaux, Jean-Philippe, Eugenio Rodriguez, Michel Le Van Quyen, Antoine Lutz, Jacques Martinerie And Francisco J. Varela. 2000. Studying single-trials of phase synchronous activity in the brain. International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos, Vol. 10, No. 10: 2429-2439.

Lutz, A. et al. 2002. Guiding the study of brain dynamics by using first-person data: synchrony patterns correlate with ongoing conscious states during a simple visual task. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 99, 1586-1591.

Petitot, J. F.J. Varela, J.-M. Roy, and B. Pachoud (Eds). 1999. Naturalizing Phenomenology: Issues in Contemporary Phenomenology and Cognitive Science. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Thompson, Evan and Varela, Francisco. 2001. Radical embodiment: Neural dynamics and consciousness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5 (10): 418-25.

Thompson, Evan, NoĎ, Alva and Pessoa, Luiz. 1999. Perceptual completion: A case study in phenomenology and cognitive science. In: In J. Petitot, F.J. Varela, J.-M. Roy, and B. Pachoud (Eds.), Naturalizing Phenomenology: Issues in Contemporary Phenomenology and Cognitive Science (pp. 161-195). Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Varela, Francisco. (1999, preprint). The Specious Present : A Neurophenomenology of Time Consciousness. In J. Petitot, F.J. Varela, J.-M. Roy, and B. Pachoud (Eds.), Naturalizing Phenomenology: Issues in Contemporary Phenomenology and Cognitive Science (pp. 266-314). Stanford: Stanford University Press.

For more details on the work of Francisco Varela, see the Archival collection and bibliography compiled by Randall Whitaker.

Varela, Francisco. 2001. Interview: La coscienza nelle neuroscienze (in Italian). Multimedia Encyclopedia of Philosophical Science.

For a broader background involving the concepts of enactive cognition and autopoiesis, see

  • VARELA, Francisco J., Evan THOMPSON, and Eleanor ROSCH. 1991. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience, Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
  • Autopoiesis and Enaction Bibliography maintained by Randall Whitaker.
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