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Uncovering the dynamics of lived experience through micro-phenomenology

What's happening when an idea comes to us? When we listen to a course, read an article, or write an e-mail? When we discover an artwork, listen to a piece of music, or breathe a perfume? A large part of these phenomena, which constitute the very texture of our existence, escape awareness and verbal description, and have thus far been excluded from scientific investigation. However, these difficulties do not mean that our experience is out of reach. They mean that accessing it requires a particular expertise, which consists in carrying out specific acts. Micro-phenomenology is a new scientific discipline aiming at triggering such acts. It enables us to discover ordinary inaccessible dimensions of our lived experience and describe them very accurately and reliably. The development of this "psychological microscope" opens vast fields of investigation in the educational, technological, clinical and therapeutic, as well as artistic and contemplative domains. Notably, it enables us to explore a deeply pre-reflective, transmodal and gestural dimension of our experience that seems to play an essential role in the process of emergence of any meaning and understanding.


After studies in Buddhist philosophy and ten years of research and consulting in information system design, Claire Petitmengin completed her Ph.D. thesis under the supervision of Francisco Varela at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, on the subject of the lived experience which accompanies the emergence of an intuition. She is presently Professor at the Institut Mines-Télécom and associate researcher at the Archives Husserl, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris.

Her research focuses on the usually unrecognised dynamics of lived experience and “first-person” methods enabling us to become aware of it and describe it. She studies the epistemological conditions of these methods, notably the conditions of validity of their results, as well as their educational, therapeutic, artistic and technological applications. Her research also addresses the process of mutual enrichment of “first person” and “third person” analyses in the context of “neurophenomenological” projects.

She wrote numerous scientific articles and two books: L’expérience intuitive, and Le chemin du milieu: Introduction à la vacuité dans la pensée bouddhiste indienne. She also edited Ten Years of Viewing from Within: The Legacy of Francisco Varela, which commemorates the 10th anniversary of the publication of The View from Within, where Francisco Varela designed the foundations of a research program on lived experience.

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