Husserl Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 83–106 | Cite as

Phenomenology and Artificial Life: Toward a Technological Supplementation of Phenomenological Methodology



The invention of the computer has revolutionized science. With respect to finding the essential structures of life, for example, it has enabled scientists not only to investigate empirical examples, but also to create and study novel hypothetical variations by means of simulation: ‘life as it could be’. We argue that this kind of research in the field of artificial life, namely the specification, implementation and evaluation of artificial systems, is akin to Husserl’s method of free imaginative variation as applied to the specific regional ontology of biology. Thus, at a time when the clarification of the essence of our biological embodiment is of growing interest for phenomenology, we suggest that artificial life should be seen as a method of externalizing some of the insurmountable complexity of imaginatively varying the phenomenon of life.


  1. Barbaras, R. (1999). Le désire et la distance: Introduction à une phénoménologie de la perception [Desire and distance: Introduction to a phenomenology of perception] (P. B. Milan, Trans., 2006). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Barbaras, R. (2008). Life, movement, and desire. Research in Phenomenology, 38(1), 3–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beer, R. D. (1995). A dynamical systems perspective on agent–environment interaction. Artificial Intelligence, 72(1–2), 173–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beer, R. D. (1997). The dynamics of adaptive behavior: A research program. Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 20(2–4), 257–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beer, R. D. (2003). The dynamics of active categorical perception in an evolved model agent. Adaptive Behavior, 11(4), 209–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bitbol, M. (2002). Science as if situation mattered. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 1, 181–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boden, M. A. (Ed.). (1996). The philosophy of artificial life. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bourgine, P., & Varela, F. J. (1992). Introduction: Towards a practice of autonomous systems. In F. J. Varela & P. Bourgine (Eds.), Towards a practice of autonomous systems: Proceedings of the 1st European conference on artificial life (pp. 1–3). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  9. Brooks, R. A. (1991). New approaches to robotics. Science, 253, 1227–1232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cliff, D., Harvey, I., & Husbands, P. (1993). Explorations in evolutionary robotics. Adaptive Behavior, 2(1), 73–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dennett, D. C. (1978). Why not the whole iguana? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1, 103–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dennett, D. C. (1984). Cognitive wheels: The frame problem of AI. In C. Hookway (Ed.), Minds, machines, evolution: Philosophical studies (pp. 129–151). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Dennett, D. C. (1994). Artificial life as philosophy. Artificial Life, 1(3), 291–292.Google Scholar
  14. Di Paolo, E. A. (2003). Organismically-inspired robotics: Homeostatic adaptation and teleology beyond the closed sensorimotor loop. In K. Murase & T. Asakura (Eds.), Dynamical systems approach to embodiment, sociality (pp. 19–42). Adelaide: Advanced Knowledge International.Google Scholar
  15. Di Paolo, E. A., Noble, J., & Bullock, S. (2000). Simulation models as opaque thought experiments. In M. A. Bedau, et al. (Eds.), Artificial life VII: Proceedings of the 7th international conference on artificial life (pp. 497–506). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  16. Dreyfus, H. L. (1972). What computers can’t do: A critique of artificial reason. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  17. Dreyfus, H. L. (2002). Intelligence without representation—Merleau-Ponty’s critique of mental representation. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 1, 367–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dreyfus, H. L. (2007a). Reply to Romdenh-Romluc. In T. Baldwin (Ed.), Reading Merleau-Ponty: On phenomenology of perception (pp. 59–69). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Dreyfus, H. L. (2007b). Why Heideggerian AI failed and how fixing it would require making it more Heideggerian. Philosophical Psychology, 20(2), 247–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dreyfus, H. L., & Dreyfus, S. E. (1988). Making a mind versus modelling the brain: Artificial intelligence back at a branch-point. Daedalus, 117(1), 15–44.Google Scholar
  21. Egbert, M. D., & Di Paolo, E. A. (2009). Integrating autopoiesis and behavior: An exploration in computational chemo-ethology. Adaptive Behavior, 17(5), 387–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Froese, T. (2009). Sociality and the life-mind continuity thesis: A study in evolutionary robotics. Dissertation, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.Google Scholar
  23. Froese, T., & Di Paolo, E. A. (2008). Stability of coordination requires mutuality of interaction in a model of embodied agents. In M. Asada, et al. (Eds.), From animals to animats 10: Proceedings of the 10th international conference on simulation of adaptive behavior (pp. 52–61). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  24. Froese, T., Virgo, N., & Izquierdo, E. (2007). Autonomy: A review and a reappraisal. In F. Almeida e Costa, et al. (Eds.), Advances in artificial life: Proceedings of the 9th European conference on artificial life (pp. 455–464). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  25. Froese, T., & Ziemke, T. (2009). Enactive artificial intelligence: Investigating the systemic organization of life and mind. Artificial Intelligence, 173(3–4), 366–500.Google Scholar
  26. Gallagher, S. (1997). Mutual enlightenment: Recent phenomenology in cognitive science. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 4(3), 195–214.Google Scholar
  27. Gallagher, S. (2005). How the body shapes the mind. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gallagher, S., & Sørensen, J. B. (2006). Experimenting with phenomenology. Consciousness and Cognition, 15(1), 119–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gallagher, S., & Varela, F. J. (2003). Redrawing the map and resetting the time: Phenomenology and the cognitive sciences. Canadian Journal of Philosophy Supplementary Volume, 29, 93–132.Google Scholar
  30. Gendler, T. (2004). Thought experiments rethought—and reperceived. Philosophy of Science, 71, 1152–1163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gendler, T. (2007). Philosophical thought experiments, intuitions, and cognitive equilibrium. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 31, 68–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Goldberg, D. E. (1989). Genetic algorithms in search, optimization, and machine learning. Redwood City, CA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  33. Gurwitsch, A. (1966). Studies in phenomenology and psychology. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Hanna, R., & Thompson, E. (2003). The mind-body-body problem. Theoria et Historia Scientarum, 7(1), 24–44.Google Scholar
  35. Harvey, I. (2000). Robotics: Philosophy of mind using a screwdriver. In T. Gomi (Ed.), Evolutionary robotics: From intelligent robots to artificial life (Vol. III, pp. 207–230). Ontario: AAI Books.Google Scholar
  36. Harvey, I., Di Paolo, E. A., Wood, R., Quinn, M., & Tuci, E. A. (2005). Evolutionary robotics: A new scientific tool for studying cognition. Artificial Life, 11(1–2), 79–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Haugeland, J. (1997). What is mind design? In J. Haugeland (Ed.), Mind design II: Philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence (pp. 1–28). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  38. Heidegger, M. (1927). Sein und Zeit [Being and Time] (J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson, Trans., 1962). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  39. Heidegger, M. (1929). Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik: Welt, Endlichkeit, Einsamkeit [The fundamental concepts of metaphysics: World, finitude, solitude] W. McNeill & N. Walker (Trans.), 1995. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Holland, J. H. (1975). Adaptation in natural and artificial systems. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  41. Husserl, E. (1973). Experience and judgment: Investigations in a genealogy of logic. J. S. Chruchill & K. Ameriks (Trans.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul; original Landgrebe, L. (Ed.). (1948). Erfahrung und Urteil: Untersuchungen zur Genealogie der Logik. Hamburg: Claassen & Goverts.Google Scholar
  42. Husserliana I: Husserl, E. (1929). Cartesianische Meditationen und Pariser Vorträge. Den Haag, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1950. D. Cairns (Trans.). Cartesian meditations: An introduction to phenomenology. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1960.Google Scholar
  43. Husserliana III: Husserl, E. (1913). Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie. Erstes Buch. Allgemeine Einführung in die reine Phänomenologie. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1950.Google Scholar
  44. Husserliana IV: Husserl, E. (1912–1928). Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie. Zweites Buch. Phänomenologische Untersuchungen zur Konstitution. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1952.Google Scholar
  45. Husserliana VI: Husserl, E. (1934–1937). Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phänomenologie. Eine Einleitung in die phänomenologische Philosophie. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1962.Google Scholar
  46. Husserliana IX: Husserl, E. (1925). Phänomenologische Psychologie. Vorlesungen Sommersemester 1925. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1966; J. Scanlon (Trans.), Phenomenological psychology: Lectures, summer semester, 1925. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1977.Google Scholar
  47. Husserliana XVII: Husserl, E. (1929). Formale und transzendentale Logik. Versuch einer Kritik der logischen Vernunft. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1974; D. Cairns (Trans.). Formal and transcendental logic. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1969.Google Scholar
  48. Ikegami, T., & Suzuki, K. (2008). From homeostatic to homeodynamic self. BioSystems, 91(2), 388–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Izquierdo, E., & Buhrmann, T. (2008). Analysis of a dynamical recurrent neural network evolved for two qualitatively different tasks: Walking and chemotaxis. In S. Bullock, J. Noble, R. Watson, & M. A. Bedau (Eds.), Artificial life XI: Proceedings of the eleventh international conference on the simulation and synthesis of living systems (pp. 257–264). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  50. Izquierdo, E., & Harvey, I. (2007). The dynamics of associative learning in an evolved situated agent. In F. Almeida e Costa, et al. (Eds.), Advances in artificial life: Proceedings of the 9th European conference on artificial life (pp. 365–374). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  51. Izquierdo-Torres, E., & Di Paolo, E. A. (2005). Is an embodied system ever purely reactive? In M. Capcarrere, et al. (Eds.), Advances in artificial life: Proceedings of the 8th European conference on artificial life (pp. 252–261). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  52. Jensen, R. T. (2009). Motor intentionality and the case of Schneider. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 8(3), 371–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Jonas, H. (1966). The phenomenon of life: Toward a philosophical biology. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2001.Google Scholar
  54. Kelly, S. D. (2000). Grasping at straws: Motor intentionality and the cognitive science of skilled behavior. In M. Wrathall & J. Malpas (Eds.), Heidegger, coping, the cognitive sciences: Essays in honor of Hubert L. Dreyfus (Vol. II, pp. 161–177). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  55. Kelly, S. D. (2004). Merleau-Ponty on the body. In M. Proudfoot (Ed.), The philosophy of the body (pp. 62–76). London: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  56. Kelso, J. A. S. (1995). Dynamic patterns: The self-organization of brain and behaviour. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  57. Langton, C. G. (1989). Artificial life. In C. G. Langton (Ed.), Artificial life: Proceedings of an interdisciplinary workshop on the synthesis and simulation of living systems. Santa Fe Institute studies in the sciences of complexity (Vol. 4, pp. 1–47). Redwood City, CA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  58. Langton, C. G. (Ed.). (1995). Artificial life: An overview. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  59. Luisi, P. L. (2003). Autopoiesis: A review and reappraisal. Naturwissenschaften, 90, 49–59.Google Scholar
  60. Lutz, A. (2002). Toward a neurophenomenology of generative passages: A first empirical case study. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 1, 133–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Lutz, A., Lachaux, J.-P., Martinerie, J., & Varela, F. J. (2002). Guiding the study of brain dynamics using first-person data: Synchrony patterns correlate with on-going conscious states during a simple visual task. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA, 99, 1586–1591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. MacLennan, B. J. (1992). Synthetic ethology: An approach to the study of communication. In C. G. Langton, C. Taylor, D. Farmer, & S. Rasmussen (Eds.), Artificial life II (pp. 631–658). Redwood City, CA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  63. Marcel, A. (2003). The sense of agency: Awareness and ownership of action. In J. Roessler & N. Eilan (Eds.), Agency and self-awareness (pp. 48–93). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1945). Phénoménologie de la perception. Paris: Gallimard; Smith, C. (Trans.). (1962). Phenomenology of perception. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  65. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1960). Les relations avec autrui chez l’enfant. In Cours de Sorbonne. Paris; W. Cobb (Trans.), The child’s relations with others. In M. Merleau-Ponty (1964). J. M. Edie (Ed.), The primacy of perception and other essays on phenomenological psychology, the philosophy of art, history and politics (pp. 96–155). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  66. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1961). Les sciences de l’homme et la phenomenology. In Cours de Sorbonne, Paris; J. Wild (Trans.), Phenomenology and the sciences of man. In M. Merleau-Ponty (1964). J. M. Edie (Ed.), The primacy of perception and other essays on phenomenological psychology, the philosophy of art, history and politics (pp. 43–95). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Miller, G. (2005). What is the biological basis of consciousness? Science, 309(5731), 79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Moran, D. (2000). Introduction to phenomenology. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  69. Moreno, A. (2002). Artificial life and philosophy. Leonardo, 35(4), 401–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Nolfi, S., & Floreano, D. (2000). Evolutionary robotics: The biology, intelligence, and technology of self-organizing machines. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  71. Petitmengin, C., Navarro, V., & Le Van Quyen, M. (2007). Anticipating seizure: Pre-reflective experience at the center of neuro-phenomenology. Consciousness and Cognition, 16, 746–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Pfeifer, R., Lungarella, M., & Iida, F. (2007). Self-organization, embodiment, and biologically inspired robotics. Science, 318, 1088–1093.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Ramachandran, V. S., Rogers-Ramachandran, D., & Cobb, S. (1995). Touching the phantom limb. Nature, 377(6549), 489–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Roy, J.-M., Petitot, J., Pachoud, B., & Varela, F. J. (1999). Beyond the gap: An introduction to naturalizing phenomenology. In J. Petitot, F. J. Varela, B. Pachoud, & J.-M. Roy (Eds.), Naturalizing phenomenology: Issues in contemporary phenomenology and cognitive science (pp. 1–80). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Russel, S., & Norvig, P. (2002). Artificial intelligence: A modern approach (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  76. Sheets-Johnstone, M. (1999). The primacy of movement. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  77. Steels, L. (1994). The artificial life roots of artificial intelligence. Artificial Life, 1(1–2), 75–110.Google Scholar
  78. Thelen, E., & Smith, L. (1994). A dynamic systems approach to the development of cognition and action. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  79. Thompson, E. (2007). Mind in life: Biology, phenomenology, and the sciences of mind. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  80. Varela, F. J. (1996). Neurophenomenology: A methodological remedy for the hard problem. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2(4), 330–349.Google Scholar
  81. Varela, F. J. (1999). The specious present: A neurophenomenology of time consciousness. In J. Petitot, F. J. Varela, B. Pachoud, & J.-M. Roy (Eds.), Naturalizing phenomenology: Issues in contemporary phenomenology and cognitive science (pp. 266–314). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  82. Varela, F. J., Maturana, H. R., & Uribe, R. (1974). Autopoiesis: The organization of living systems, its characterization and a model. BioSystems, 5, 187–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Varela, F. J., & Shear, J. (1999). First-person methodologies: What, why, how? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6(2–3), 1–14.Google Scholar
  84. Varela, F. J., Thompson, E., & Rosch, E. (1991). The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  85. Ward, J. (2008). The frog who croaked blue: Synesthesia and the mixing of the senses. Hove: Routledge.Google Scholar
  86. Webb, B. (2009). Animals versus animats: Or why not model the real iguana? Adaptive Behavior, 17(4), 269–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Wheeler, M. (2005). Reconstructing the cognitive world: The next step. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  88. Wheeler, M. (2008). Cognition in context: Phenomenology, situated robotics and the frame problem. International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 16(3), 323–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Wilkes, K. V. (1988). Real people: Personal identity without thought experiments. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  90. Zahavi, D. (2003). Husserl’s phenomenology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  91. Zahavi, D. (2005). Subjectivity and selfhood: Investigating the first-person perspective. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of InformaticsUniversity of SussexSussexUK
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy and Cognitive SciencesUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA

Personalised recommendations