Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 563–583 | Cite as

The place of description in phenomenology’s naturalization

  • Mark W. BrownEmail author


The recent move to naturalize phenomenology through a mathematical protocol is a significant advance in consciousness research. It enables a new and fruitful level of dialogue between the cognitive sciences and phenomenology of such a nuanced kind that it also prompts advancement in our phenomenological analyses. But precisely what is going on at this point of ‘dialogue’ between phenomenological descriptions and mathematical algorithms, the latter of which are based on dynamical systems theory? It will be shown that what is happening is something more than a mere ‘passing of the baton’ from phenomenology to mathematics. For this sophisticated naturalization to prove a worthy endeavour it must produce more than just correlation, it must prove some form of interrelation to the extent that phenomenology is deterministic. But such interrelational and deterministic requirements are the start of a slippery slope, and it will be argued that this slope only loses more friction once a further demand of formal and precise descriptions is made of phenomenology. Such deterministic and formally precise demands misconstrue phenomenology’s ideal goal of a unification of genuine/originary reason and truth. Not a deductive and definitive discipline, phenomenology is rather from the outset descriptive and critical. Phenomenology’s descriptive beginnings will thus be employed as an essential barrier to the naturalization of phenomenology.


Phenomenology Neuro-phenomenology Naturalization Description Dynamical systems theory 



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2006 meetings of the Husserl Circle in Boston, and the International Association for Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences in Durham. I would like to thank both forums for their many helpful comments and criticisms. I am also indebted to two anonymous referees and editor Dan Zahavi for their numerous insights and criticisms.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Murdoch UniversityPerthAustralia

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