Something's Got to Give: phenomenology, cognitive science, and consciousness.
Severin Staalesen (The University of Melbourne, )

November 12, 2013, 12:15pm - 1:45pm
Philosophy, University of Melbourne

Common Room, Old Quad


University of Melbourne

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Neurophenomenology is a research program that straddles the (purported) divide between Continental and Analytic philosophy. Drawing simultaneously on phenomenology, philosophy of mind, and cognitive science, neurophenomenologists claim to have a radical solution to the explanatory gap. Their strategies are by no means uniform. On the interpretation I will examine, the strategy consists of two tactics: firstly, a suspension of received conceptions of mind and matter, and secondly, a methodology of mutual enlightenment between phenomenology and cognitive science. An essential component of this strategy is dynamical systems theory. Neurophenomenologists use systems theory to conceptualise the mind as an ambiguous quasi-entity that traverses the traditional categories of mind and matter. Tellingly, one can discern a certain symmetry in two responses from either side of the Atlantic. Both David Chalmers, the eminent philosopher of mind, and Renaud Barbaras, the great Merleau-Ponty scholar, have independently reiterated the irreconcilability of consciousness with any formal system, systems theory included. Following Barbaras and Chalmers, I will argue that the central theoretical commitments of neurophenomenologists are not radical enough because they remain consistent with a traditional functionalist philosophy of mind. Further, I will argue that the only way forward is so radical that it risks undermining the very cognitive science neurophenomenologists turned to in the first place.

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