Empirical research into subjective experience

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … scope of possible experiences and meanings
  • Knowing is … meaning (and other higher-order cognitive functions)
  • Learner is … a conscious experiencer
  • Learning is … meaning-making (and other brain-based, systemic changes)
  • Teaching is … prompting reflection of meaning-making




Neurophenomenology combines Neuroscience (the study of the brain, from a third-person perspective) with Phenomenology (the study of conscious experience, from a first-person perspective). It figures prominently in many contemporary theories of learning. Subdiscourses include:
  • Biogenetic Structuralism (Charles Laughlin, Eugene d’Aquili, 1990s) – a blend of Structuralism and Neuroscience, with the intention to better understand sites and manifestations of human knowing and knowledge, such as ritual, myth, religion, science, and consciousness. Subdiscourses include:
    • Neurognosis (Charles Laughlin, 1990s) – the complex of genetically determined neural structures – or any relevant aspect of that complex – that frames/enables/constitutes the cognitive experiences of the fetus and newborn


Issues cited in relation to both Neuroscience and Phenomenology apply to Neurophenomenology.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Francisco Varela; Antonio Damasio

Status as a Theory of Learning

Neurophenomenology is perhaps better described in terms of the scientific study of learning than a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Neurophenomenology is not a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Neurophenomenology is a relatively recent domain, but it derives from two well-established research fields.


  • Biogenetic Structuralism
  • Neurognosis

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2022). “Neurophenomenology” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

⇦ Back to Map
⇦ Back to List