Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet


On Integrating the First-person Perspective of Phenomenology into a Cognitive Neuroscience of Consciousness

Eduard Marbach (professor emeritus, University of Bern, Switzerland)

Recently, several proposals for conceptual and methodological cooperation between neuroscientists and phenomenologists studying consciousness from an objective and a subjective perspective, respectively, have been made (e.g., Francisco Varela and his collaborators’ “neurophenomenology” with its working hypothesis of reciprocal constraints between phenomenological accounts of the structure of experience and their counterparts in cognitive science; David Chalmers’ advocacy of integrating the two classes of data,. the objective and the subjective ones, into a scientific framework and of building an explanatory connection between them; Shaun Gallagher’s call for a “front-loaded phenomenology”, making direct use of phenomenology in the design of empirical investigations of consciousness).

This lecture joins such attempts at methodologically controlled ways of integrating scientific, objective, third-person data related to consciousness and phenomenological, subjective, first-person data pertaining to conscious experiences. It argues that if it is a matter of research into the finer details of conscious experiences, as it clearly is with the new brain imaging techniques, then everyday introspection and common sense mental concepts can no longer suffice for guiding the experimental work in the neuroscience of consciousness. When conscious experiences are the subject-matter, or part thereof, recourse to phenomenologically clarified concepts along Husserlian lines should become the norm. Such phenomenological

Reading suggestions:
  • Varela, Francisco J. (1996). Neurophenomenology: A methodological remedy for the hard problem, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 3 (4): 330-349.
  • Gallagher, Shaun (2003). Phenomenology and Experimental Design. Towards a Phenomenologically Enlightened Experimental Science. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10, No. 9-10.