Subjectivity and action : the explicitation interview

Subjectivity and action : the explicitation interview

By Pierre Vermersch

Ex CNRS researcher, author of the explicitation interview, founder of the GREX

(traduction en anglais du post déjà publié en français  « Subjectivité agissante et entretien d’explicitation » dont voici le lien http://wp.me/p4AqKY-4E)

 

Pierre Vermersch interviewed by Elisa CATTARUZZA and Alain MOUCHET

 

  1. Subjectivity is a central point in your course as a researcher. When and how has it begun ?

In fact I have not started (1969) by the notion of subjectivity. It only appeared, as such, latter, throught my contacts whith phenomenologist philosophers during the years 90. As a psychologist, I was motivated and I worked mainly to understand the cognitive functioning. So what did I do ? I started by adding Video to gather all available observable elements, and so to get visible traces of cognitive ongoing process, in addition to the final result. And then it was not enough: at the same time, traces were insufficient to infer in detail all the stages of thought, but again, many mental activities were not translated into visible behaviors and thus remained inaccessible to the researcher. It was then that I started to create the explicitation interview, and used retrospective introspection so that the subject could describe what appeared to him about his activity. And as I was developing this technique, I realized that it provided access to subjectivity in its detail, and in a way made inescapable to think subjectivity in addition to thinking about techniques. I came gradually to the idea of ​​a psycho phenomenology, as a discipline which would complete behavioral science in the third person position, by a subjective approach based on the collection in terms of first and second person position by introspective verbalization.

At the same time, I’ve realized that I had a restrictive use of the study of subjectivity, in the sense that I worked and I was still working mainly on the action in subjectivity. That is to say, in subjectivity, there are many different facets: emotion, beliefs, identity, imagination, physical and mental action, and I was only interested in the subjectivity of the individual engaged in a finalized and productive action. This choice of the primacy of the reference to the action, had absolutely extraordinary effects because, consequently, I avoided numerous pitfalls. All my objects of study are embodied in a finalized action, a process, a generation from the start to the result. It is clear that the philosophers who were interested in subjectivity have not considered the incarnation of subjectivity as expressed in the temporal progression towards achieving a goal. They take a small local example, summarized in an instant without genesis; that is to say decontextualized, not finalized, not involved in production, and therefore they do not catch much, and above all they learn nothing new … the examples then are only as illustrations, they are never sources of new knowledge. We see it clearly in the examples from Sartre, or Merleau-Ponty. I believe that it is really fundamental to take into account the action in subjectivity.

I did something quite innovative : I got interested in the progress of the action and in the subjectivity of mental actions, goals, intentions, schemes.

And also, I believe I came out onto subjectivity with this basic methodological idea: the explicitation allows for the explicitation of the explicitation. In doing so, we could approach the study in actions implemented by the explicitation, and be fully opened to an epistemological dimension. So basically, to answer the initial question, the concept of subjectivity did not interested me, I was not thinking about subjectivity, I was rather in the methodical exercise of accessing to subjectivity. I was in the action of aiming subjectivity and it is step by step that I targeted it and got innovative results; I began to thematize subjectivity. And consequently it has actually become a central concept in relation to my research activities.

 

2. In your book « Explicitation and phenomenology » you emphasize that the history of Western thought has always wanted to respond concretely to the creation of a science of subjectivity but could not do so until today. According to you what are the contextual conditions, in terms of scientific thought,that will permit to achieve this aim?

 

This is a question that interests me a lot, I was thinking about it for a draft article. I read, I have always been reading many ancient texts from late 18th, 19th century and early 20th century. Particularly I take up again the whole constitution of psychology in the nineteenth century to see how have emerged the favorable conditions for the recognition of subjectivity in psychology. For example, it has been forgotten that, from the point of view of scientific thought, these conditions were fully combined, in the early twentieth century in Germany. In particular by the Würzburg school between 1901 and 1910 (see Burloud 1927), the work of Binet in France (Binet 1922), the work of Titchener in the US (Titchener 1912), then was constituted the ability to describe the acting subjectivity. In fact, in the 1910s, when everything was starting to stop, and would be completely stopped by the First World War, all these researchers were just beginning to ask new methodological issues to refine the methods of collecting verbalizations. They were wondering about the possibility to ask questions, how, what risks? They would have inevitably resulted in one form or another of systematic interview. Then, twenty years later, there was an interesting resurgence in the years 25/30, but the Second World War halted all! And after the Second World War, the American style of thought, i.e. behaviorism, temporarily crushed any reference to subjectivity, and more, in fact, so introspection as a research method has become totally taboo. Thus, when I was studying psychology in Aix, in the late 60s, introspection was a forbidden concept, an aberration of the previous century. The word consciousness was of no use, and Piaget, to make it acceptable, spoke only of « awareness ».

 

We see, by stepping back, that the conditions for the a scientific study of subjectivity began to be combined in the late eighteenth century, especially with all the thought movements of the “Lumières” and the fact that people got released from constraints of religious thought. The nineteenth century was completely open to the questions posed by subjectivity connected to the experiments of magnetism, somnambulism, hypnotism, but with a dominant focus on mental pathology and some exceptional experiences. Then came the extraordinary emergence of « experimental introspection » in the early 20th century, and its premature cessation. Finally, in the twentieth century, one could say from the years 80-90, very marginal first, something really culturally new happened: the development of inner practices which were non religious, non spiritual, not curative referred, not facing the pathologies, wich were NLP (neuro Linguistic Programming), Ericksonian hypnosis, Gestalt, Guided waking dream, all kinds of inner practices that enabled to open secular experiment, without curative referrence, so, away from psychotherapy. And that has created, for example for me and for others, the conditions to turn to research integrating subjectivity, by familiarizing oneself with the “secular”experiences of one’s self. (I take the “secular” term loosely, to denote practices beyond any setting overlooking the practices, as are religion, spirituality, therapy, Sloterdijk would say « no vertical tension »). And so, in the 90s institutional conditions and the scientific advances conditions were finally reunited, it implied that there were scientists who had familiarity with experience ofinner practice, as well of others, which was outside therapy, apart from religion, outside militant ideological indoctrination. That is to say, they were not only researchers but also they had become expert practitioners of secular subjectivity; which is the condition for doing research which integrates subjectivity, and knows how to document about it. This last point is really important, because I’ve read lots of project ideas of thesis from people who said:  » Would it be a good idea to work on this or that which is right in subjectivity ?” and they found themselves destitute, that is to say in fact they did not know how to get the information for their plan. They had no method for collecting the description of subjectivity.

 

Moreover, with the 90, has emerged (and I contributed) a psychologizing of phenomenology, that is to say, we realized that Husserl was a resource to study subjectivity to categorize, provided you read him in a proper manner, that is to say to take phenomenology as a psychology in first person perspective, from what he has always vigorously defended for half-epistemological reasons, and half- institutional ones. This is when I started to work with Francisco Varela and the philosopher Natalie Depraz, we wrote a book and held together a seminar about practical phenomenology for several years. Later, we even had official requests on the theme  » propose us projects for institutional research programs on subjectivity. »

 

Finally, the hard sciences like neurophysiology, have found themselves faced with the need to know what the subject was experiencing, according to him, in order to relate neurophysiological signals and subjectivity, as these signals alone do not provide the semantics of the corresponding lived experience. If the subject is conscious, he must be able to tell! And that eventually causes, sooner or later, a mutation in the most serious science laboratories since one must learn to question the subject, to find out what he experienced according to him.

 

At the same time, we see the multiplication of international discussions on the possibility, the validity of introspection, the conditions taken into account in first person perspective (see among others the Journal of Consciousness Studies, but also all the update news daily online of articles, chapters, unpublished, available free on the academia.edu network or Research Gates).

 

So I just outlined how are built the conditions of inclusion of subjectivity, even if these conditions were already gathered in the early twentieth century, and it took 70 years, and the invention of the inner exercises, which are secular, unusual but normal, for the conditions be recreated again. I am fascinated by it all and I deeply believe that this is the first time in the history of Western culture that the conditions are gathered to conduct systematic research on subjectivity: we emerged from the grip of religion, mechanical crushing of positivism, rational scientism, and we have expert practitioners in the field of research.

 

3/ Indeed, you put light on the fact that the explicitation interview was not only a means among others; it was held by an epistemology of the study of subjectivity that exceeded its tool status.

 

I created an interview with researcher motivations. I was not a practitioner. What I wanted was to get information that I had not got before, even with the video. But as soon as I started to get this information, practitioners have come to me because they found that gathering information from the students, for example, was useful to them, it was completely suited to their goals on finalized mental acts (the exercises).

But I, as a researcher, what was I doing?

 

As soon as I got this new information, I realized that I was creating new knowledge and above all I was creating a new reflexive epistemological posture. That is to say, I positioned myself immediately into the explicitation of the explicitation. I could study the actions implemented in the explicitation interview (evocation, fragmentation, perlocutionary effects, direction of attention, mode of consciousness) by the explicitation itself! Once the tool has been developed, it has become a subject of study.

 

4. About that, how do you situate explicitation in relation to the analysis of practices? Under what conditions can this tool it be a training resource?

 

It is important to distinguish between gathering information and helping to change.

For me, practices analysis, coaching, supervision, are basically reflective practices which postulate that becoming aware of what we did can improve ourselves, can regulate ourselves, and opens up the opportunity to socialize our practice, especially in groups.

Socialize our practice, that is to say, to share practice with others and discover the practice of others. How extraordinary! There are so many relation practitioners that are alone by the time of their practice, alone with the person they care for. A teacher is alone in his class, a superviser, someone who intervenes, a counselor is alone with people he receives. The possibility to socialize our practice by group sharing is extremely important. And the explicitation interview allows to exchange something else than opinions and comments, it invites, guides, deepens the sharing of the acts effectively implemented, the catching of information, the goals, the speeches. To share at this level requires a facilitator who guides to an embodied speech position and does not let the professional in a meta discourse upon his practice (with his consent as always).

 

But it must be clear that the explicitation interview is only one side of the of practice analysis, that is to say, it fits only to document the existing fact. “What happened ?” “How have you been proceeding?”

The practice analysis often includes a second side i.e. help to change. And now that the activity has been documented, what will I do to help to change? Is it going to be an advice? But if there is a problem of limiting belief (“I am not able”, for example), the advice is not enough. If there is a problem of identity (« but who am I to do that? ») The advice is not enough either. For helping, it is necessary to implement techniques of help to change that are different from those of the explicitation interview. It is important to distinguish them.

 

Last, there are lots of techniques of help to change that does not take into account the awareness of what we did, as Focusing, or Ericksonian hypnosis, which are techniques that will help to change without using the description of the practice, without the need for the explicitation.

Help to change involves a different approach from the only descriptive explicitation of the lived experience.

 

What is your opinion about the conditions for using this tool as training resource?

 

1 / For the teacher, to know the subjectivity in action is part of the project of a reflexive pedagogy.

The fundamental resource is reflexivity, i.e. the explicitation interview will provide concrete means to practice a pedagogy of reflexivity. This is where I take place. The teacher will be able to get information about what the student is doing during his activity, not just the end result, and this is a revolution. At that point, the contribution of the explicitation interview is essential: learning to listen, of course, but also learn to ask the right questions, but equally changing habits, not being lead by spontaneity, so learning to refrain from asking certain questions that are counter-productive.
2 / For the student: to discover the way he thinks and the means to access to his thought.The student will discover that he can examine it, he can become self informed. And the teacher can help him to get aware of his inner cognitive world, for that, he will ask more questions not to inform himself more (sometimes he recognized immediately what it was about) but to help the student become aware of his actions. This is another facet of reflective pedagogy.

The teacher has understood, but he will not say it immediately to the student, he will continue to question him so the student discovers by himself what he did. He will ask him questions, but in addition to information, so doing, student will discover that he can go back to what he did, and that he can become aware of his own thought, his mental acts … wow, that’s amazing for people in difficulty who find they can get informed about themselves.

 

3 / For the trainings, the transfer effect.
And the third thing I find extraordinary is that when you propose, in a follow-up group to relate to your own thinking and find your own mind, you’re trying to build a transfer tool for any learning process, that is to say that maybe you do that in math, but you will discover that you could do it in technical, in french, in history … Because actually, I think that to question the trainee that way, more than discovering his own mind, it also leads him to discover the intellectual tools to find out his own thought. The transfer capacity is much broader.

 

5. Can you elaborate on the concept of lived experience as it is approached through the explicitation interview?


For me, the lived experience is initially what belongs to the life of a person (cf. Vermersch. 2014). This is the first fundamental point and more specifically to a single person (not a team or a group). It means that the lived experience is what belongs to me, what belongs to you, and it is linked to a single person. The second quality is that the lived experience concept is always bound to a specified time. The lived experience is lived only at the moment it is lived. « Every time you made coffee, » this is not an experience, it is an experience of a class of lived experience, it is an abstraction. These are the two fundamental criteria : it belongs to one person and it belongs to a specific time. It always belongs to a targeted time. After we can develop that any lived experience can be described, any lived experience is basically organized by its temporal structure. It has a beginning, a development, an end.

 

But what is interesting is not only the stated positive criteria but also their negative formulation. Take the first criterion, « it belongs only to one person. » It means negatively that if I talk about what others have done, I do not talk about my experience. If I say « we have done … » it does not inform the lived experience. The second criterion is that of the specified time, if I hear the person talking in general, I do not have her lived experience. If she comments, I do not have her experience, I have a speech about her experience. It’s always interesting to see the positive intrinsic criteria as well as the negative criteria, because often, what we need to train people is that they become aware of the negative criteria, because these are much easier to spot in listening. It’s part of our basic training, learn to spot what shows that the verbalization does not relate to a lived experience.

 

Under what conditions can this tool it be a training resource?

 To become a resource, the essential point is that we must make an experiential learning ; I, myself, must have become the resource, and therefore I need to become, me, a practitioner. Read, hear about it, is useless, because subjectivity can only be reached if I am practicing subjectivity. Then, you have to know how to question and learn as much how to refrain from asking certain questions. I must know how to listen, not just because I am empathetic, but listen to identify what information are missing, hollow listening: what have not yet been said? What is missing inside the speech?

 

Then, to become a training resource we must make it as a group culture, a school culture. In a school where you have a teacher practitioner of the explicitation interview, after a time, even teachers who do not use it know about it; even students not included are informed of it. And group culture is something extraordinary. For this being a training resource, it must ideally be a shared culture between the student and the teacher, which means that sooner or later students will ask similar questions to prof. « Sir or Madam, when you say that, you want to tell …? « And on the other hand, the entire school, including the principal, including the coaching staff, should know and share that vision. And there, really, it becomes an extraordinary educational resource.

 

6. This folder Research & Training brings together articles by researchers who show the interest to consider subjectivity as a resource within the training. In your opinion, what are the implications and prospects for research on education and training?

 

I would like to distinguish two types of research program: the first, direct, on what happens in the classroom if we introduce the explicitation: what is happening when …? The second, indirect or meta: for example, how the explicitation interview could help to document the subjective perlocutionary effects, that is to say, « What am I doing to the other with my words « , » do my words, my orders, produce the effects I want?  » But also become aware of my own perlocutionary aims:  » What effects I wanted to produce when I used a direction formulated in a certain way or another? « .

 

All relation practioners, such as teachers, for example, pass through the implementation of instructions, I ask things, I tell people what to do, people answer me. The teacher’s activity, the training activity, are based on it and linguistics has not worked much on the perlocutionary effects. With the explicitation interview, I can document the perlocutionary intention of the practitioner. And then I’ll go with the student to see how he received what I told him. That’s subjectivity. And then, still in the perlocutionary effects, I can discover and clarify why some formulations are undesirable, ineffective or against productive. Perlocutionary effects are the meta research program which we need as a matter of priority.

 

The second theme is to go really further in the discovery of the conditions of the becoming of awareness, and of the suitability of the experience. We must discover by going further in subjectivity, that experiencing an exercice is not enough. We must also operate its reflection, i.e. have a reflexive pedagogical activity. When the student, when the trainee, have exercised, we need to take the time to have him described, teach him to describe how he did what he did and learn from it, not necessarily to analyze some problems, but for him to discover that he can become aware of what he has learned and how he managed for it. And there, I find that there, really, is a huge program of research, that is to say to show that reflective teaching is not a luxury, it really is a necessary complement.

A final theme is the one about the effects of reflective activities in the long term? What transfer effects?

Here are some research themes that, I think, are important.

7. What would you like to say in conclusion?

 

I see two ideas that are close to my heart: 1 / researchers must become expert practitioners of subjectivity, 2 / purely exploratory research should be permitted.

 

I have already got this theme in the beginning of this interview, and often I have concluded my recent articles on this: whether the researcher or the user, if he wants to take into account the subjectivity, he must himself change, extend his experience to become an expert practitioner. While I’m practicing, I’m practicing, okay, I’m a trainer, I teach, I … OK. You want to take into account the subjectivity? So become an expert in subjectivity.

 

But becoming expert in subjectivity, what does that mean? It means exploring guided situations where we discover our inner possibilities, inner-exploration, which are unusual but without being stuck in therapy or spirituality. This can lead to training periods that give the opportunity to inner practice, as Guided waking dream, Focusing, NLP, rebirthing, meditation, mindfullness, TIPI, ISF and many other anthropotechnique ( inner techniques, I borrow this term to the German philosopher Sloterdijk). In doing so, I am discovering myself. I discover how the other is functioning. I discover the richness of subjectivity and the opportunity to explore it easily out of the usual daily experiences. But I do not discover through reading, I discover by doing, practicing, exercising me. And as I go multiplying this kind of experience, I also develope an experiential and methodological knowledge of subjectivity. And then I become an expert practitioner. There are so many researchers who wanted to do research on subjectivity and were unknowingly just naive and inexperienced. What does that mean, they were naive? That means they did not practice themselves. You can not study subjectivity if you do not have an inner-practice, and you get inner-practice by practicing with others!

 

The second idea is to promote, or at least allow, in the area of the discovery of subjectivity, merely exploratory academic research. i.e.research that seem a priori without widespread reach, with purely descriptive methodologies, without regard to the sample size, which will respond to seemingly modest questions: “what is it to …?” “What will happen when …?”

 

We are so late in the knowledge of subjectivity that we must explore, botanize, describe, identify alternatives and in doing that… upstream discover what is to describe, what are the descriptive categories which offer to get in the privacy of subjectivity. In the research work of GREX, we do not stop, year after year, to face the need to invent new descriptive concepts for simply name what appears to us in our exploratory activities.

 

Selected bibliography

 

Burloud, A. (1927). La pensée d’après les recherches expérimentales de H-J. Watt, de Messer et de Bühler. Paris, Alcan.

 

Binet, A. (1922). L’intelligence. Paris, Costes.

 

Depraz, N., Varela, F., Vermersch, P. , (2003). On becoming aware A pragmatic of experiencing. Amsterdam, Benjamin.

 

Sloterdijk, P., (2011). Tu dois changer ta vie.  De l’anthropotechnique, Libella-Maren Sell.

 

Titchener, E. B. (1912). « The schema of introspection. » American Journal of Psychology 23: 485-508.

 

Vermersch, P. (1994, 2014). L’entretien d’explicitation, ESF.

 

Vermersch, P. (2012). Explicitation et phénoménologie: vers une psychophénoménologie, Presses universitaires de France.

 

Vermersch, P. (2014). Le dessin de vécu dans la recherche en première personne. Pratique de l’auto-explicitation. Première, deuxième, troisième personne. N. Depraz. Bucarest, Zetabooks: 195-233.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subjectivity and action : the explicitation interview

By Pierre Vermersch

Ex CNRS researcher, author of the explicitation interview, founder of the GREX

(traduction en anglais du post déjà publié en français Subjectivité agissante et entretien d’explicitation http://wp.me/p4AqKY-4E)

 

Pierre Vermersch interviewed by Elisa CATTARUZZA and Alain MOUCHET

 

  1. Subjectivity is a central point in your course as a researcher. When and how has it begun ?

In fact I have not started (1969) by the notion of subjectivity. It only appeared, as such, latter, throught my contacts whith phenomenologist philosophers during the years 90. As a psychologist, I was motivated and I worked mainly to understand the cognitive functioning. So what did I do ?  I started by adding Video to gather all available observable elements, and so to get visible traces of cognitive ongoing process, in addition to the final result. And then it was not enough: at the same time, traces were insufficient to infer in detail all the stages of thought, but again, many mental activities were not translated into visible behaviors and thus remained inaccessible to the researcher. It was then that I started to create the explicitation interview, and used retrospective introspection so that the subject could describe what appeared to him about his activity. And as I was developing this technique, I realized that it provided access to subjectivity in its detail, and in a way made inescapable to think subjectivity in addition to thinking about techniques. I came gradually to the idea of ​​a psycho phenomenology, as a discipline which would complete behavioral science in the third person position, by a subjective approach based on the collection in terms of first and second person position by  introspective verbalization.

At the same time, I’ve realized that I had a restrictive use of the study of subjectivity, in the sense that I worked and I was still working mainly on the action in subjectivity. That is to say, in subjectivity, there are many different facets: emotion, beliefs, identity, imagination, physical and mental action, and I was only interested in the subjectivity of the individual engaged in a finalized and productive action. This choice of the primacy of the reference to the action, had absolutely extraordinary effects because, consequently, I avoided numerous pitfalls. All my objects of study are embodied in a finalized action, a process, a generation from the start to the result. It is clear that the philosophers who were interested in subjectivity have not considered the incarnation of subjectivity as expressed in the temporal progression towards achieving a goal. They take a small local example, summarized in an instant without genesis; that is to say decontextualized, not finalized, not involved in production, and therefore they do not catch much, and above all they learn nothing new … the examples then are only as illustrations, they are never sources of new knowledge. We see it clearly in the examples from Sartre, or Merleau-Ponty. I believe that it is really fundamental to take into account the action in subjectivity.

I did something quite innovative : I got interested in the progress of the action and in the subjectivity of mental actions, goals, intentions, schemes.

And also, I believe I came out onto subjectivity with this basic methodological idea: the explicitation allows for the explicitation of the explicitation. In doing so, we could approach the study in actions implemented by the explicitation, and be fully opened to an epistemological dimension. So basically, to answer the initial question, the concept of subjectivity did not interested me, I was not thinking about subjectivity, I was rather in the methodical exercise of accessing to subjectivity. I was in the action of aiming subjectivity and it is step by step that I targeted it and got innovative results; I began to thematize subjectivity. And consequently it has actually become a central concept in relation to my research activities.

 

2. In your book « Explicitation and phenomenology » you emphasize that the history of Western thought has always wanted to respond concretely to the creation of a science of subjectivity but could not do so until today.  According to you what are the contextual conditions, in terms of scientific thought,that will permit to achieve this aim?

 

This is a question that interests me a lot, I was thinking about it for a draft article. I read, I have always been reading many ancient texts from late 18th, 19th century and early 20th century. Particularly I take up again the whole constitution of psychology in the nineteenth century to see how have emerged the favorable conditions for the recognition of subjectivity in psychology. For example, it has been forgotten that, from the point of view of scientific thought, these conditions were fully combined, in the early twentieth century in Germany. In particular by the Würzburg school between 1901 and 1910 (see Burloud 1927), the work of Binet in France (Binet 1922), the work of Titchener in the US (Titchener 1912), then was constituted the ability to describe the acting subjectivity. In fact, in the 1910s, when everything was starting to stop, and would be completely stopped by the First World War, all these researchers were just beginning to ask new methodological issues to refine the methods of collecting verbalizations. They were wondering about the possibility to ask questions, how, what risks? They would have inevitably resulted in one form or another of systematic interview. Then, twenty years later, there was an interesting resurgence in the years 25/30, but the Second World War halted all! And after the Second World War, the American style of thought, i.e. behaviorism, temporarily crushed any reference to subjectivity, and more, in fact, so introspection as a research method has become totally taboo. Thus, when I was studying psychology  in Aix, in the late 60s, introspection was a forbidden concept, an aberration of the previous century. The word consciousness was of no use, and Piaget, to make it acceptable, spoke only of « awareness ».

 

We see, by stepping back, that the conditions for the a scientific study of subjectivity began to be combined in the late eighteenth century, especially with all the thought movements of the “Lumières” and the fact that people got released from constraints of religious thought. The nineteenth century was completely open to the questions posed by subjectivity connected to the experiments of magnetism, somnambulism, hypnotism, but with a dominant focus on mental pathology and some exceptional experiences. Then came the extraordinary emergence of « experimental introspection » in the early 20th century, and its premature cessation. Finally, in the twentieth century, one could say from the years 80-90, very marginal first, something really culturally new happened: the development of inner practices which were non religious, non spiritual, not curative referred, not facing the pathologies, wich were NLP (neuro Linguistic Programming), Ericksonian hypnosis, Gestalt, Guided waking dream, all kinds of inner practices that enabled to open secular experiment, without curative referrence, so, away from psychotherapy. And that has created, for example for me and for others, the conditions to turn to research integrating subjectivity, by familiarizing oneself with the “secular”experiences of one’s self. (I take the “secular” term loosely, to denote practices beyond any setting overlooking the practices, as are religion, spirituality, therapy, Sloterdijk would say « no vertical tension »). And so, in the 90s institutional conditions and the scientific advances conditions were finally reunited, it implied that there were scientists who had familiarity with experience ofinner practice, as well of others, which was outside therapy, apart from religion, outside militant ideological indoctrination. That is to say, they were not only researchers but also they had become expert practitioners of secular subjectivity; which is the condition for doing research which integrates subjectivity, and knows how to document about it. This last point is really important, because I’ve read lots of project ideas of thesis from people who said:  » Would it be a good idea to work on this or that which is right in subjectivity ?” and they found themselves destitute, that is to say in fact they did not know how to get the information for their plan. They had no method for collecting the description of subjectivity.

 

Moreover, with the 90, has emerged (and I contributed) a psychologizing of phenomenology, that is to say, we realized that Husserl was a resource to study subjectivity to categorize, provided you read him in a proper manner, that is to say to take phenomenology as a psychology in first person perspective, from what he has always vigorously defended  for half-epistemological reasons, and half- institutional ones. This is when I started to work with Francisco Varela and the philosopher Natalie Depraz, we wrote a book and held together a seminar about practical phenomenology for several years. Later, we even had official requests on the theme  » propose us projects for institutional research programs on subjectivity. »

 

Finally, the hard sciences like neurophysiology, have found themselves faced with the need to know what the subject was experiencing, according to him, in order to relate neurophysiological signals and subjectivity, as these signals alone do not provide the semantics of the corresponding lived experience. If the subject is conscious, he must be able to tell! And that eventually causes, sooner or later, a mutation in the most serious science laboratories since one must learn to question the subject, to find out what he experienced according to him.

 

At the same time, we see the multiplication of international discussions on the possibility, the validity of introspection, the conditions taken into account in first person perspective (see among others the Journal of Consciousness Studies, but also all the update news daily online of articles, chapters, unpublished, available free on the academia.edu network or Research Gates).

 

So I just outlined how are built the conditions of inclusion of subjectivity, even if these conditions were already gathered in the early twentieth century, and it took 70 years, and the invention of the inner exercises, which are secular, unusual but normal, for the conditions be recreated again. I am fascinated by it all and I deeply believe that this is the first time in the history of Western culture that the conditions are gathered to conduct systematic research on subjectivity: we emerged from the grip of religion, mechanical crushing of positivism, rational scientism, and we have expert practitioners in the field of research.

 

3/ Indeed, you put light on the fact that the explicitation interview was not only a means among others; it was held by an epistemology of the study of subjectivity that exceeded its tool status.

 

I created an interview with researcher motivations. I was not a practitioner. What I wanted was to get information that I had not got before, even with the video. But as soon as I started to get this information, practitioners have come to me because they found that gathering information from the students, for example, was useful to them, it was completely suited to their goals on finalized mental acts (the exercises).

But I, as a researcher, what was I doing?

 

As soon as I got this new information, I realized that I was creating new knowledge and above all I was creating a new reflexive epistemological posture. That is to say, I positioned myself immediately into the explicitation of the explicitation. I could study the actions implemented in the explicitation interview (evocation, fragmentation, perlocutionary effects, direction of attention, mode of consciousness) by the explicitation itself! Once the tool has been developed, it has become a subject of study.

 

4. About that, how do you situate explicitation in relation to the analysis of practices? Under what conditions can this tool it be a training resource?

 

It is important to distinguish between gathering information and helping to change.

For me, practices analysis, coaching, supervision, are basically reflective practices which postulate that becoming aware of what we did can improve ourselves, can regulate ourselves, and opens up the opportunity to socialize our practice, especially in groups.

Socialize our practice, that is to say, to share practice with others and discover the practice of others. How extraordinary! There are so many relation practitioners that are alone by the time of their practice, alone with the person they care for. A teacher is alone in his class, a superviser, someone who intervenes, a counselor is alone with people he receives. The possibility to socialize our practice by group sharing is extremely important. And the explicitation interview allows to exchange something else than opinions and comments, it invites, guides, deepens the sharing of the acts effectively implemented, the catching of information, the goals, the speeches. To share at this level requires a facilitator who guides to an embodied speech position and does not let the professional in a meta discourse upon his practice (with his consent as always).

 

But it must be clear that the explicitation interview is only one side of the of practice analysis, that is to say, it fits only to document the existing fact. “What happened ?” “How have you been proceeding?”

The practice analysis often includes a second side i.e. help to change. And now that the activity has been documented, what will I do to help to change? Is it going to be an advice? But if there is a problem of limiting belief (“I am not able”, for example), the advice is not enough. If there is a problem of identity (« but who am I to do that? ») The advice is not enough either. For helping, it is necessary to implement techniques of help to change that are different from those of  the explicitation interview. It is important to distinguish them.

 

Last, there are lots of techniques of help to change that does not take into account the awareness of what we did, as Focusing, or Ericksonian hypnosis, which are techniques that will help to change without using the description of the practice, without the need for the explicitation.

Help to change involves a different approach from the only descriptive explicitation of the lived experience.

 

What is your opinion about the conditions for using this tool as training resource?

 

1 / For the teacher, to know the subjectivity in action is part of the project of a reflexive pedagogy.

The fundamental resource is reflexivity, i.e. the explicitation interview will provide concrete means to practice a pedagogy of reflexivity. This is where I take place. The teacher will be able to get information about what the student is doing during his activity, not just the end result, and this is a revolution. At that point, the contribution of the explicitation interview is essential: learning to listen, of course, but also learn to ask the right questions, but equally changing habits, not being lead by spontaneity, so learning to refrain  from asking certain questions that are counter-productive.
2 / For the student: to discover the way he thinks and the means to access to his thought.The student will discover that he can examine it, he can become self informed. And the teacher can help him to get aware of his inner cognitive world, for that, he will ask more questions not to inform himself more (sometimes he recognized immediately what it was about) but to help the student become aware of his actions. This is another facet of reflective pedagogy.

The teacher has understood, but he will not say it immediately to the student, he will continue to question him so the student discovers by himself what he did. He will ask him questions, but in addition to information, so doing, student will discover that he can go back to what he did, and that he can become aware of his own thought, his mental acts … wow, that’s amazing for people in difficulty who find they can get informed about themselves.

 

3 / For the trainings, the transfer effect.
And the third thing I find extraordinary is that when you propose, in a follow-up group to relate to your own thinking and find your own mind, you’re trying to build a transfer tool for any learning process, that is to say that maybe you do that in math, but you will discover that you could do it in technical, in french, in history … Because actually, I think that to question the trainee that way, more than discovering his own mind, it also leads him to discover the intellectual tools to find out his own thought. The transfer capacity is much broader.

 

5. Can you elaborate on the concept of lived experience as it is approached through the explicitation interview?


For me, the lived experience is initially what belongs to the life of a person (cf. Vermersch. 2014). This is the first fundamental point and  more specifically to a single person (not a team or a group). It means that the lived experience is what belongs to me, what belongs to you, and it is linked to a single person. The second quality is that the lived experience concept is always bound to a specified time. The lived experience is lived only at the moment it is lived. « Every time you made coffee, » this is not an experience, it is an experience of a class of lived experience, it is an abstraction. These are the two fundamental criteria : it belongs to one person and it belongs to a specific time. It always belongs to a targeted time. After  we can develop that any lived experience can be described, any lived experience is basically organized by its temporal structure. It has a beginning, a development, an end.

 

But what is interesting is not only the stated positive criteria but also their negative formulation. Take the first criterion, « it belongs only to one person. » It means negatively that if I talk about what others have done, I do not talk about my experience. If I say « we have done … » it does not inform the lived experience. The second criterion is that of the specified time, if I hear the person talking in general, I do not have her lived experience. If she comments, I do not have her experience, I have a speech about her experience. It’s always interesting to see the positive intrinsic criteria as well as the negative criteria, because often, what we need to train people is that they become aware of the negative criteria, because these are much easier to spot in listening. It’s part of our basic training, learn to spot what shows that the verbalization does not relate to a lived experience.

 

Under what conditions can this tool it be a training resource?

 To become a resource, the essential point is that we must make an experiential learning ; I, myself,  must have become the resource, and therefore  I need to become, me,  a practitioner. Read, hear about it, is useless, because subjectivity can only be reached if I am practicing subjectivity.  Then, you have to know how to question and learn as much how to refrain from asking certain questions. I must know how to listen, not just because I am empathetic, but listen to identify what information are missing, hollow listening: what have not yet been said? What is missing inside the speech?

 

Then, to become a training resource we must make it as a group culture, a school culture. In a school where you have a teacher practitioner of the explicitation interview, after a time, even teachers who do not use it know about it; even students not included are informed of it. And group culture is something extraordinary. For this being a training resource, it must ideally be a shared culture between the student and the teacher, which means that sooner or later students will ask similar questions to prof. « Sir or Madam, when you say that, you want to tell …? « And on the other hand, the entire school, including the principal, including the coaching staff, should know and share that vision. And there, really, it becomes an extraordinary educational resource.

 

6. This folder Research & Training brings together articles by researchers who show the interest to consider subjectivity as a resource within the training. In your opinion, what are the implications and prospects for research on education and training?

 

I would like to distinguish two types of research program: the first, direct, on what happens in the classroom if we introduce the explicitation: what is happening when …? The second, indirect or meta: for example, how the explicitation interview could help to document the subjective perlocutionary effects, that is to say, « What am I doing to the other with my words « , » do my words, my orders, produce the effects I want?  » But also become aware of my own perlocutionary aims:  » What effects I wanted to produce when I used a direction formulated in a certain way or another? « .

 

All relation practioners, such as teachers, for example, pass through the implementation of instructions, I ask things, I tell people what to do, people answer me. The teacher’s activity, the training activity, are based on it and linguistics has not worked much on the perlocutionary effects. With the explicitation interview, I can document the perlocutionary intention of the practitioner. And then I’ll go with the student to see how he received what I told him. That’s subjectivity. And then, still in the perlocutionary effects, I can discover and clarify why some formulations are undesirable, ineffective or against productive. Perlocutionary effects are the meta research program which we need as a matter of priority.

 

The second theme is to go really further in the discovery of the conditions of the becoming of awareness, and of the suitability of the experience. We must discover by going further in subjectivity, that experiencing an exercice is not enough. We must also operate its reflection, i.e. have a reflexive pedagogical activity. When the student, when the trainee, have exercised, we need to take the time to have him described, teach him to describe how he did what he did and learn from it, not necessarily to analyze some problems, but for him to discover that he can become aware of what he has learned and how he managed for it. And there, I find that there, really, is a huge program of research, that is to say to show that reflective teaching is not a luxury, it really is a necessary complement.

A final theme is the one about the effects of reflective activities in the long term? What transfer effects?

Here are some research themes that, I think, are important.

7. What would you like to say in conclusion?

 

I see two ideas that are close to my heart: 1 / researchers must become expert practitioners of subjectivity, 2 / purely exploratory research should be permitted.

 

I have already got this theme in the beginning of this interview, and often I have concluded my recent articles on this: whether the researcher or the user, if he wants to take into account the subjectivity, he must himself change, extend his experience to become an expert practitioner. While I’m practicing, I’m practicing, okay, I’m a trainer, I teach, I … OK. You want to take into account the subjectivity? So become an expert in subjectivity.

 

But becoming expert in subjectivity, what does that mean? It means exploring guided situations where we discover our inner possibilities, inner-exploration, which are unusual but without being stuck in therapy or spirituality. This can lead to training periods that give the opportunity to inner practice, as Guided waking dream, Focusing, NLP, rebirthing, meditation, mindfullness, TIPI, ISF and many other anthropotechnique ( inner techniques, I borrow this term to the German philosopher Sloterdijk). In doing so, I am discovering myself. I discover how the other is functioning. I discover the richness of subjectivity and the opportunity to explore it easily out of the usual daily experiences. But I do not discover through reading, I discover by doing, practicing, exercising me. And as I go multiplying this kind of experience, I also develope an experiential and methodological knowledge of subjectivity. And then I become an expert practitioner. There are so many researchers who wanted to do research on subjectivity and were unknowingly just naive and inexperienced. What does that mean, they were naive? That means they did not practice themselves. You can not study subjectivity if you do not have an inner-practice, and you get inner-practice by practicing with others!

 

The second idea is to promote, or at least allow, in the area of the discovery of subjectivity, merely exploratory academic research. i.e.research that seem a priori without widespread reach, with purely descriptive methodologies, without regard to the sample size, which will respond to seemingly modest questions: “what is it to …?” “What will happen when …?”

 

We are so late in the knowledge of subjectivity that we must explore, botanize, describe, identify alternatives and in doing that… upstream discover what is to describe, what are the descriptive categories which offer to get in the privacy of subjectivity. In the research work of GREX, we do not stop, year after year, to face the need to invent new descriptive concepts for simply name what appears to us in our exploratory activities.

 

Selected bibliography

 

Burloud, A. (1927). La pensée d’après les recherches expérimentales de H-J. Watt, de Messer et de Bühler. Paris, Alcan.

 

Binet, A. (1922). L’intelligence. Paris, Costes.

 

Depraz, N., Varela, F., Vermersch, P. , (2003). On becoming aware A pragmatic of experiencing. Amsterdam, Benjamin.

 

Sloterdijk, P., (2011). Tu dois changer ta vie.  De l’anthropotechnique, Libella-Maren Sell.

 

Titchener, E. B. (1912). « The schema of introspection. » American Journal of Psychology 23: 485-508.

 

Vermersch, P. (1994, 2014). L’entretien d’explicitation, ESF.

 

Vermersch, P. (2012). Explicitation et phénoménologie: vers une psychophénoménologie, Presses universitaires de France.

 

Vermersch, P. (2014). Le dessin de vécu dans la recherche en première personne. Pratique de l’auto-explicitation. Première, deuxième, troisième personne. N. Depraz. Bucarest, Zetabooks: 195-233.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Subjectivity and action : the explicitation interview

By Pierre Vermersch

Ex CNRS researcher, author of the explicitation interview, founder of the GREX

(traduction en anglais du post déjà publié en français  « Subjectivité agissante et entretien d’explicitation » dont voici le lien http://wp.me/p4AqKY-4E)

 

Pierre Vermersch interviewed by Elisa CATTARUZZA and Alain MOUCHET

 

  1. Subjectivity is a central point in your course as a researcher. When and how has it begun ?

In fact I have not started (1969) by the notion of subjectivity. It only appeared, as such, latter, throught my contacts whith phenomenologist philosophers during the years 90. As a psychologist, I was motivated and I worked mainly to understand the cognitive functioning. So what did I do ? I started by adding Video to gather all available observable elements, and so to get visible traces of cognitive ongoing process, in addition to the final result. And then it was not enough: at the same time, traces were insufficient to infer in detail all the stages of thought, but again, many mental activities were not translated into visible behaviors and thus remained inaccessible to the researcher. It was then that I started to create the explicitation interview, and used retrospective introspection so that the subject could describe what appeared to him about his activity. And as I was developing this technique, I realized that it provided access to subjectivity in its detail, and in a way made inescapable to think subjectivity in addition to thinking about techniques. I came gradually to the idea of ​​a psycho phenomenology, as a discipline which would complete behavioral science in the third person position, by a subjective approach based on the collection in terms of first and second person position by introspective verbalization.

At the same time, I’ve realized that I had a restrictive use of the study of subjectivity, in the sense that I worked and I was still working mainly on the action in subjectivity. That is to say, in subjectivity, there are many different facets: emotion, beliefs, identity, imagination, physical and mental action, and I was only interested in the subjectivity of the individual engaged in a finalized and productive action. This choice of the primacy of the reference to the action, had absolutely extraordinary effects because, consequently, I avoided numerous pitfalls. All my objects of study are embodied in a finalized action, a process, a generation from the start to the result. It is clear that the philosophers who were interested in subjectivity have not considered the incarnation of subjectivity as expressed in the temporal progression towards achieving a goal. They take a small local example, summarized in an instant without genesis; that is to say decontextualized, not finalized, not involved in production, and therefore they do not catch much, and above all they learn nothing new … the examples then are only as illustrations, they are never sources of new knowledge. We see it clearly in the examples from Sartre, or Merleau-Ponty. I believe that it is really fundamental to take into account the action in subjectivity.

I did something quite innovative : I got interested in the progress of the action and in the subjectivity of mental actions, goals, intentions, schemes.

And also, I believe I came out onto subjectivity with this basic methodological idea: the explicitation allows for the explicitation of the explicitation. In doing so, we could approach the study in actions implemented by the explicitation, and be fully opened to an epistemological dimension. So basically, to answer the initial question, the concept of subjectivity did not interested me, I was not thinking about subjectivity, I was rather in the methodical exercise of accessing to subjectivity. I was in the action of aiming subjectivity and it is step by step that I targeted it and got innovative results; I began to thematize subjectivity. And consequently it has actually become a central concept in relation to my research activities.

 

2. In your book « Explicitation and phenomenology » you emphasize that the history of Western thought has always wanted to respond concretely to the creation of a science of subjectivity but could not do so until today. According to you what are the contextual conditions, in terms of scientific thought,that will permit to achieve this aim?

 

This is a question that interests me a lot, I was thinking about it for a draft article. I read, I have always been reading many ancient texts from late 18th, 19th century and early 20th century. Particularly I take up again the whole constitution of psychology in the nineteenth century to see how have emerged the favorable conditions for the recognition of subjectivity in psychology. For example, it has been forgotten that, from the point of view of scientific thought, these conditions were fully combined, in the early twentieth century in Germany. In particular by the Würzburg school between 1901 and 1910 (see Burloud 1927), the work of Binet in France (Binet 1922), the work of Titchener in the US (Titchener 1912), then was constituted the ability to describe the acting subjectivity. In fact, in the 1910s, when everything was starting to stop, and would be completely stopped by the First World War, all these researchers were just beginning to ask new methodological issues to refine the methods of collecting verbalizations. They were wondering about the possibility to ask questions, how, what risks? They would have inevitably resulted in one form or another of systematic interview. Then, twenty years later, there was an interesting resurgence in the years 25/30, but the Second World War halted all! And after the Second World War, the American style of thought, i.e. behaviorism, temporarily crushed any reference to subjectivity, and more, in fact, so introspection as a research method has become totally taboo. Thus, when I was studying psychology in Aix, in the late 60s, introspection was a forbidden concept, an aberration of the previous century. The word consciousness was of no use, and Piaget, to make it acceptable, spoke only of « awareness ».

 

We see, by stepping back, that the conditions for the a scientific study of subjectivity began to be combined in the late eighteenth century, especially with all the thought movements of the “Lumières” and the fact that people got released from constraints of religious thought. The nineteenth century was completely open to the questions posed by subjectivity connected to the experiments of magnetism, somnambulism, hypnotism, but with a dominant focus on mental pathology and some exceptional experiences. Then came the extraordinary emergence of « experimental introspection » in the early 20th century, and its premature cessation. Finally, in the twentieth century, one could say from the years 80-90, very marginal first, something really culturally new happened: the development of inner practices which were non religious, non spiritual, not curative referred, not facing the pathologies, wich were NLP (neuro Linguistic Programming), Ericksonian hypnosis, Gestalt, Guided waking dream, all kinds of inner practices that enabled to open secular experiment, without curative referrence, so, away from psychotherapy. And that has created, for example for me and for others, the conditions to turn to research integrating subjectivity, by familiarizing oneself with the “secular”experiences of one’s self. (I take the “secular” term loosely, to denote practices beyond any setting overlooking the practices, as are religion, spirituality, therapy, Sloterdijk would say « no vertical tension »). And so, in the 90s institutional conditions and the scientific advances conditions were finally reunited, it implied that there were scientists who had familiarity with experience ofinner practice, as well of others, which was outside therapy, apart from religion, outside militant ideological indoctrination. That is to say, they were not only researchers but also they had become expert practitioners of secular subjectivity; which is the condition for doing research which integrates subjectivity, and knows how to document about it. This last point is really important, because I’ve read lots of project ideas of thesis from people who said:  » Would it be a good idea to work on this or that which is right in subjectivity ?” and they found themselves destitute, that is to say in fact they did not know how to get the information for their plan. They had no method for collecting the description of subjectivity.

 

Moreover, with the 90, has emerged (and I contributed) a psychologizing of phenomenology, that is to say, we realized that Husserl was a resource to study subjectivity to categorize, provided you read him in a proper manner, that is to say to take phenomenology as a psychology in first person perspective, from what he has always vigorously defended for half-epistemological reasons, and half- institutional ones. This is when I started to work with Francisco Varela and the philosopher Natalie Depraz, we wrote a book and held together a seminar about practical phenomenology for several years. Later, we even had official requests on the theme  » propose us projects for institutional research programs on subjectivity. »

 

Finally, the hard sciences like neurophysiology, have found themselves faced with the need to know what the subject was experiencing, according to him, in order to relate neurophysiological signals and subjectivity, as these signals alone do not provide the semantics of the corresponding lived experience. If the subject is conscious, he must be able to tell! And that eventually causes, sooner or later, a mutation in the most serious science laboratories since one must learn to question the subject, to find out what he experienced according to him.

 

At the same time, we see the multiplication of international discussions on the possibility, the validity of introspection, the conditions taken into account in first person perspective (see among others the Journal of Consciousness Studies, but also all the update news daily online of articles, chapters, unpublished, available free on the academia.edu network or Research Gates).

 

So I just outlined how are built the conditions of inclusion of subjectivity, even if these conditions were already gathered in the early twentieth century, and it took 70 years, and the invention of the inner exercises, which are secular, unusual but normal, for the conditions be recreated again. I am fascinated by it all and I deeply believe that this is the first time in the history of Western culture that the conditions are gathered to conduct systematic research on subjectivity: we emerged from the grip of religion, mechanical crushing of positivism, rational scientism, and we have expert practitioners in the field of research.

 

3/ Indeed, you put light on the fact that the explicitation interview was not only a means among others; it was held by an epistemology of the study of subjectivity that exceeded its tool status.

 

I created an interview with researcher motivations. I was not a practitioner. What I wanted was to get information that I had not got before, even with the video. But as soon as I started to get this information, practitioners have come to me because they found that gathering information from the students, for example, was useful to them, it was completely suited to their goals on finalized mental acts (the exercises).

But I, as a researcher, what was I doing?

 

As soon as I got this new information, I realized that I was creating new knowledge and above all I was creating a new reflexive epistemological posture. That is to say, I positioned myself immediately into the explicitation of the explicitation. I could study the actions implemented in the explicitation interview (evocation, fragmentation, perlocutionary effects, direction of attention, mode of consciousness) by the explicitation itself! Once the tool has been developed, it has become a subject of study.

 

4. About that, how do you situate explicitation in relation to the analysis of practices? Under what conditions can this tool it be a training resource?

 

It is important to distinguish between gathering information and helping to change.

For me, practices analysis, coaching, supervision, are basically reflective practices which postulate that becoming aware of what we did can improve ourselves, can regulate ourselves, and opens up the opportunity to socialize our practice, especially in groups.

Socialize our practice, that is to say, to share practice with others and discover the practice of others. How extraordinary! There are so many relation practitioners that are alone by the time of their practice, alone with the person they care for. A teacher is alone in his class, a superviser, someone who intervenes, a counselor is alone with people he receives. The possibility to socialize our practice by group sharing is extremely important. And the explicitation interview allows to exchange something else than opinions and comments, it invites, guides, deepens the sharing of the acts effectively implemented, the catching of information, the goals, the speeches. To share at this level requires a facilitator who guides to an embodied speech position and does not let the professional in a meta discourse upon his practice (with his consent as always).

 

But it must be clear that the explicitation interview is only one side of the of practice analysis, that is to say, it fits only to document the existing fact. “What happened ?” “How have you been proceeding?”

The practice analysis often includes a second side i.e. help to change. And now that the activity has been documented, what will I do to help to change? Is it going to be an advice? But if there is a problem of limiting belief (“I am not able”, for example), the advice is not enough. If there is a problem of identity (« but who am I to do that? ») The advice is not enough either. For helping, it is necessary to implement techniques of help to change that are different from those of the explicitation interview. It is important to distinguish them.

 

Last, there are lots of techniques of help to change that does not take into account the awareness of what we did, as Focusing, or Ericksonian hypnosis, which are techniques that will help to change without using the description of the practice, without the need for the explicitation.

Help to change involves a different approach from the only descriptive explicitation of the lived experience.

 

What is your opinion about the conditions for using this tool as training resource?

 

1 / For the teacher, to know the subjectivity in action is part of the project of a reflexive pedagogy.

The fundamental resource is reflexivity, i.e. the explicitation interview will provide concrete means to practice a pedagogy of reflexivity. This is where I take place. The teacher will be able to get information about what the student is doing during his activity, not just the end result, and this is a revolution. At that point, the contribution of the explicitation interview is essential: learning to listen, of course, but also learn to ask the right questions, but equally changing habits, not being lead by spontaneity, so learning to refrain from asking certain questions that are counter-productive.
2 / For the student: to discover the way he thinks and the means to access to his thought.The student will discover that he can examine it, he can become self informed. And the teacher can help him to get aware of his inner cognitive world, for that, he will ask more questions not to inform himself more (sometimes he recognized immediately what it was about) but to help the student become aware of his actions. This is another facet of reflective pedagogy.

The teacher has understood, but he will not say it immediately to the student, he will continue to question him so the student discovers by himself what he did. He will ask him questions, but in addition to information, so doing, student will discover that he can go back to what he did, and that he can become aware of his own thought, his mental acts … wow, that’s amazing for people in difficulty who find they can get informed about themselves.

 

3 / For the trainings, the transfer effect.
And the third thing I find extraordinary is that when you propose, in a follow-up group to relate to your own thinking and find your own mind, you’re trying to build a transfer tool for any learning process, that is to say that maybe you do that in math, but you will discover that you could do it in technical, in french, in history … Because actually, I think that to question the trainee that way, more than discovering his own mind, it also leads him to discover the intellectual tools to find out his own thought. The transfer capacity is much broader.

 

5. Can you elaborate on the concept of lived experience as it is approached through the explicitation interview?


For me, the lived experience is initially what belongs to the life of a person (cf. Vermersch. 2014). This is the first fundamental point and more specifically to a single person (not a team or a group). It means that the lived experience is what belongs to me, what belongs to you, and it is linked to a single person. The second quality is that the lived experience concept is always bound to a specified time. The lived experience is lived only at the moment it is lived. « Every time you made coffee, » this is not an experience, it is an experience of a class of lived experience, it is an abstraction. These are the two fundamental criteria : it belongs to one person and it belongs to a specific time. It always belongs to a targeted time. After we can develop that any lived experience can be described, any lived experience is basically organized by its temporal structure. It has a beginning, a development, an end.

 

But what is interesting is not only the stated positive criteria but also their negative formulation. Take the first criterion, « it belongs only to one person. » It means negatively that if I talk about what others have done, I do not talk about my experience. If I say « we have done … » it does not inform the lived experience. The second criterion is that of the specified time, if I hear the person talking in general, I do not have her lived experience. If she comments, I do not have her experience, I have a speech about her experience. It’s always interesting to see the positive intrinsic criteria as well as the negative criteria, because often, what we need to train people is that they become aware of the negative criteria, because these are much easier to spot in listening. It’s part of our basic training, learn to spot what shows that the verbalization does not relate to a lived experience.

 

Under what conditions can this tool it be a training resource?

 To become a resource, the essential point is that we must make an experiential learning ; I, myself, must have become the resource, and therefore I need to become, me, a practitioner. Read, hear about it, is useless, because subjectivity can only be reached if I am practicing subjectivity. Then, you have to know how to question and learn as much how to refrain from asking certain questions. I must know how to listen, not just because I am empathetic, but listen to identify what information are missing, hollow listening: what have not yet been said? What is missing inside the speech?

 

Then, to become a training resource we must make it as a group culture, a school culture. In a school where you have a teacher practitioner of the explicitation interview, after a time, even teachers who do not use it know about it; even students not included are informed of it. And group culture is something extraordinary. For this being a training resource, it must ideally be a shared culture between the student and the teacher, which means that sooner or later students will ask similar questions to prof. « Sir or Madam, when you say that, you want to tell …? « And on the other hand, the entire school, including the principal, including the coaching staff, should know and share that vision. And there, really, it becomes an extraordinary educational resource.

 

6. This folder Research & Training brings together articles by researchers who show the interest to consider subjectivity as a resource within the training. In your opinion, what are the implications and prospects for research on education and training?

 

I would like to distinguish two types of research program: the first, direct, on what happens in the classroom if we introduce the explicitation: what is happening when …? The second, indirect or meta: for example, how the explicitation interview could help to document the subjective perlocutionary effects, that is to say, « What am I doing to the other with my words « , » do my words, my orders, produce the effects I want?  » But also become aware of my own perlocutionary aims:  » What effects I wanted to produce when I used a direction formulated in a certain way or another? « .

 

All relation practioners, such as teachers, for example, pass through the implementation of instructions, I ask things, I tell people what to do, people answer me. The teacher’s activity, the training activity, are based on it and linguistics has not worked much on the perlocutionary effects. With the explicitation interview, I can document the perlocutionary intention of the practitioner. And then I’ll go with the student to see how he received what I told him. That’s subjectivity. And then, still in the perlocutionary effects, I can discover and clarify why some formulations are undesirable, ineffective or against productive. Perlocutionary effects are the meta research program which we need as a matter of priority.

 

The second theme is to go really further in the discovery of the conditions of the becoming of awareness, and of the suitability of the experience. We must discover by going further in subjectivity, that experiencing an exercice is not enough. We must also operate its reflection, i.e. have a reflexive pedagogical activity. When the student, when the trainee, have exercised, we need to take the time to have him described, teach him to describe how he did what he did and learn from it, not necessarily to analyze some problems, but for him to discover that he can become aware of what he has learned and how he managed for it. And there, I find that there, really, is a huge program of research, that is to say to show that reflective teaching is not a luxury, it really is a necessary complement.

A final theme is the one about the effects of reflective activities in the long term? What transfer effects?

Here are some research themes that, I think, are important.

7. What would you like to say in conclusion?

 

I see two ideas that are close to my heart: 1 / researchers must become expert practitioners of subjectivity, 2 / purely exploratory research should be permitted.

 

I have already got this theme in the beginning of this interview, and often I have concluded my recent articles on this: whether the researcher or the user, if he wants to take into account the subjectivity, he must himself change, extend his experience to become an expert practitioner. While I’m practicing, I’m practicing, okay, I’m a trainer, I teach, I … OK. You want to take into account the subjectivity? So become an expert in subjectivity.

 

But becoming expert in subjectivity, what does that mean? It means exploring guided situations where we discover our inner possibilities, inner-exploration, which are unusual but without being stuck in therapy or spirituality. This can lead to training periods that give the opportunity to inner practice, as Guided waking dream, Focusing, NLP, rebirthing, meditation, mindfullness, TIPI, ISF and many other anthropotechnique ( inner techniques, I borrow this term to the German philosopher Sloterdijk). In doing so, I am discovering myself. I discover how the other is functioning. I discover the richness of subjectivity and the opportunity to explore it easily out of the usual daily experiences. But I do not discover through reading, I discover by doing, practicing, exercising me. And as I go multiplying this kind of experience, I also develope an experiential and methodological knowledge of subjectivity. And then I become an expert practitioner. There are so many researchers who wanted to do research on subjectivity and were unknowingly just naive and inexperienced. What does that mean, they were naive? That means they did not practice themselves. You can not study subjectivity if you do not have an inner-practice, and you get inner-practice by practicing with others!

 

The second idea is to promote, or at least allow, in the area of the discovery of subjectivity, merely exploratory academic research. i.e.research that seem a priori without widespread reach, with purely descriptive methodologies, without regard to the sample size, which will respond to seemingly modest questions: “what is it to …?” “What will happen when …?”

 

We are so late in the knowledge of subjectivity that we must explore, botanize, describe, identify alternatives and in doing that… upstream discover what is to describe, what are the descriptive categories which offer to get in the privacy of subjectivity. In the research work of GREX, we do not stop, year after year, to face the need to invent new descriptive concepts for simply name what appears to us in our exploratory activities.

 

Selected bibliography

 

Burloud, A. (1927). La pensée d’après les recherches expérimentales de H-J. Watt, de Messer et de Bühler. Paris, Alcan.

 

Binet, A. (1922). L’intelligence. Paris, Costes.

 

Depraz, N., Varela, F., Vermersch, P. , (2003). On becoming aware A pragmatic of experiencing. Amsterdam, Benjamin.

 

Sloterdijk, P., (2011). Tu dois changer ta vie.  De l’anthropotechnique, Libella-Maren Sell.

 

Titchener, E. B. (1912). « The schema of introspection. » American Journal of Psychology 23: 485-508.

 

Vermersch, P. (1994, 2014). L’entretien d’explicitation, ESF.

 

Vermersch, P. (2012). Explicitation et phénoménologie: vers une psychophénoménologie, Presses universitaires de France.

 

Vermersch, P. (2014). Le dessin de vécu dans la recherche en première personne. Pratique de l’auto-explicitation. Première, deuxième, troisième personne. N. Depraz. Bucarest, Zetabooks: 195-233.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subjectivity and action : the explicitation interview

By Pierre Vermersch

Ex CNRS researcher, author of the explicitation interview, founder of the GREX

(traduction en anglais du post déjà publié en français Subjectivité agissante et entretien d’explicitation http://wp.me/p4AqKY-4E)

 

Pierre Vermersch interviewed by Elisa CATTARUZZA and Alain MOUCHET

 

  1. Subjectivity is a central point in your course as a researcher. When and how has it begun ?

In fact I have not started (1969) by the notion of subjectivity. It only appeared, as such, latter, throught my contacts whith phenomenologist philosophers during the years 90. As a psychologist, I was motivated and I worked mainly to understand the cognitive functioning. So what did I do ?  I started by adding Video to gather all available observable elements, and so to get visible traces of cognitive ongoing process, in addition to the final result. And then it was not enough: at the same time, traces were insufficient to infer in detail all the stages of thought, but again, many mental activities were not translated into visible behaviors and thus remained inaccessible to the researcher. It was then that I started to create the explicitation interview, and used retrospective introspection so that the subject could describe what appeared to him about his activity. And as I was developing this technique, I realized that it provided access to subjectivity in its detail, and in a way made inescapable to think subjectivity in addition to thinking about techniques. I came gradually to the idea of ​​a psycho phenomenology, as a discipline which would complete behavioral science in the third person position, by a subjective approach based on the collection in terms of first and second person position by  introspective verbalization.

At the same time, I’ve realized that I had a restrictive use of the study of subjectivity, in the sense that I worked and I was still working mainly on the action in subjectivity. That is to say, in subjectivity, there are many different facets: emotion, beliefs, identity, imagination, physical and mental action, and I was only interested in the subjectivity of the individual engaged in a finalized and productive action. This choice of the primacy of the reference to the action, had absolutely extraordinary effects because, consequently, I avoided numerous pitfalls. All my objects of study are embodied in a finalized action, a process, a generation from the start to the result. It is clear that the philosophers who were interested in subjectivity have not considered the incarnation of subjectivity as expressed in the temporal progression towards achieving a goal. They take a small local example, summarized in an instant without genesis; that is to say decontextualized, not finalized, not involved in production, and therefore they do not catch much, and above all they learn nothing new … the examples then are only as illustrations, they are never sources of new knowledge. We see it clearly in the examples from Sartre, or Merleau-Ponty. I believe that it is really fundamental to take into account the action in subjectivity.

I did something quite innovative : I got interested in the progress of the action and in the subjectivity of mental actions, goals, intentions, schemes.

And also, I believe I came out onto subjectivity with this basic methodological idea: the explicitation allows for the explicitation of the explicitation. In doing so, we could approach the study in actions implemented by the explicitation, and be fully opened to an epistemological dimension. So basically, to answer the initial question, the concept of subjectivity did not interested me, I was not thinking about subjectivity, I was rather in the methodical exercise of accessing to subjectivity. I was in the action of aiming subjectivity and it is step by step that I targeted it and got innovative results; I began to thematize subjectivity. And consequently it has actually become a central concept in relation to my research activities.

 

2. In your book « Explicitation and phenomenology » you emphasize that the history of Western thought has always wanted to respond concretely to the creation of a science of subjectivity but could not do so until today.  According to you what are the contextual conditions, in terms of scientific thought,that will permit to achieve this aim?

 

This is a question that interests me a lot, I was thinking about it for a draft article. I read, I have always been reading many ancient texts from late 18th, 19th century and early 20th century. Particularly I take up again the whole constitution of psychology in the nineteenth century to see how have emerged the favorable conditions for the recognition of subjectivity in psychology. For example, it has been forgotten that, from the point of view of scientific thought, these conditions were fully combined, in the early twentieth century in Germany. In particular by the Würzburg school between 1901 and 1910 (see Burloud 1927), the work of Binet in France (Binet 1922), the work of Titchener in the US (Titchener 1912), then was constituted the ability to describe the acting subjectivity. In fact, in the 1910s, when everything was starting to stop, and would be completely stopped by the First World War, all these researchers were just beginning to ask new methodological issues to refine the methods of collecting verbalizations. They were wondering about the possibility to ask questions, how, what risks? They would have inevitably resulted in one form or another of systematic interview. Then, twenty years later, there was an interesting resurgence in the years 25/30, but the Second World War halted all! And after the Second World War, the American style of thought, i.e. behaviorism, temporarily crushed any reference to subjectivity, and more, in fact, so introspection as a research method has become totally taboo. Thus, when I was studying psychology  in Aix, in the late 60s, introspection was a forbidden concept, an aberration of the previous century. The word consciousness was of no use, and Piaget, to make it acceptable, spoke only of « awareness ».

 

We see, by stepping back, that the conditions for the a scientific study of subjectivity began to be combined in the late eighteenth century, especially with all the thought movements of the “Lumières” and the fact that people got released from constraints of religious thought. The nineteenth century was completely open to the questions posed by subjectivity connected to the experiments of magnetism, somnambulism, hypnotism, but with a dominant focus on mental pathology and some exceptional experiences. Then came the extraordinary emergence of « experimental introspection » in the early 20th century, and its premature cessation. Finally, in the twentieth century, one could say from the years 80-90, very marginal first, something really culturally new happened: the development of inner practices which were non religious, non spiritual, not curative referred, not facing the pathologies, wich were NLP (neuro Linguistic Programming), Ericksonian hypnosis, Gestalt, Guided waking dream, all kinds of inner practices that enabled to open secular experiment, without curative referrence, so, away from psychotherapy. And that has created, for example for me and for others, the conditions to turn to research integrating subjectivity, by familiarizing oneself with the “secular”experiences of one’s self. (I take the “secular” term loosely, to denote practices beyond any setting overlooking the practices, as are religion, spirituality, therapy, Sloterdijk would say « no vertical tension »). And so, in the 90s institutional conditions and the scientific advances conditions were finally reunited, it implied that there were scientists who had familiarity with experience ofinner practice, as well of others, which was outside therapy, apart from religion, outside militant ideological indoctrination. That is to say, they were not only researchers but also they had become expert practitioners of secular subjectivity; which is the condition for doing research which integrates subjectivity, and knows how to document about it. This last point is really important, because I’ve read lots of project ideas of thesis from people who said:  » Would it be a good idea to work on this or that which is right in subjectivity ?” and they found themselves destitute, that is to say in fact they did not know how to get the information for their plan. They had no method for collecting the description of subjectivity.

 

Moreover, with the 90, has emerged (and I contributed) a psychologizing of phenomenology, that is to say, we realized that Husserl was a resource to study subjectivity to categorize, provided you read him in a proper manner, that is to say to take phenomenology as a psychology in first person perspective, from what he has always vigorously defended  for half-epistemological reasons, and half- institutional ones. This is when I started to work with Francisco Varela and the philosopher Natalie Depraz, we wrote a book and held together a seminar about practical phenomenology for several years. Later, we even had official requests on the theme  » propose us projects for institutional research programs on subjectivity. »

 

Finally, the hard sciences like neurophysiology, have found themselves faced with the need to know what the subject was experiencing, according to him, in order to relate neurophysiological signals and subjectivity, as these signals alone do not provide the semantics of the corresponding lived experience. If the subject is conscious, he must be able to tell! And that eventually causes, sooner or later, a mutation in the most serious science laboratories since one must learn to question the subject, to find out what he experienced according to him.

 

At the same time, we see the multiplication of international discussions on the possibility, the validity of introspection, the conditions taken into account in first person perspective (see among others the Journal of Consciousness Studies, but also all the update news daily online of articles, chapters, unpublished, available free on the academia.edu network or Research Gates).

 

So I just outlined how are built the conditions of inclusion of subjectivity, even if these conditions were already gathered in the early twentieth century, and it took 70 years, and the invention of the inner exercises, which are secular, unusual but normal, for the conditions be recreated again. I am fascinated by it all and I deeply believe that this is the first time in the history of Western culture that the conditions are gathered to conduct systematic research on subjectivity: we emerged from the grip of religion, mechanical crushing of positivism, rational scientism, and we have expert practitioners in the field of research.

 

3/ Indeed, you put light on the fact that the explicitation interview was not only a means among others; it was held by an epistemology of the study of subjectivity that exceeded its tool status.

 

I created an interview with researcher motivations. I was not a practitioner. What I wanted was to get information that I had not got before, even with the video. But as soon as I started to get this information, practitioners have come to me because they found that gathering information from the students, for example, was useful to them, it was completely suited to their goals on finalized mental acts (the exercises).

But I, as a researcher, what was I doing?

 

As soon as I got this new information, I realized that I was creating new knowledge and above all I was creating a new reflexive epistemological posture. That is to say, I positioned myself immediately into the explicitation of the explicitation. I could study the actions implemented in the explicitation interview (evocation, fragmentation, perlocutionary effects, direction of attention, mode of consciousness) by the explicitation itself! Once the tool has been developed, it has become a subject of study.

 

4. About that, how do you situate explicitation in relation to the analysis of practices? Under what conditions can this tool it be a training resource?

 

It is important to distinguish between gathering information and helping to change.

For me, practices analysis, coaching, supervision, are basically reflective practices which postulate that becoming aware of what we did can improve ourselves, can regulate ourselves, and opens up the opportunity to socialize our practice, especially in groups.

Socialize our practice, that is to say, to share practice with others and discover the practice of others. How extraordinary! There are so many relation practitioners that are alone by the time of their practice, alone with the person they care for. A teacher is alone in his class, a superviser, someone who intervenes, a counselor is alone with people he receives. The possibility to socialize our practice by group sharing is extremely important. And the explicitation interview allows to exchange something else than opinions and comments, it invites, guides, deepens the sharing of the acts effectively implemented, the catching of information, the goals, the speeches. To share at this level requires a facilitator who guides to an embodied speech position and does not let the professional in a meta discourse upon his practice (with his consent as always).

 

But it must be clear that the explicitation interview is only one side of the of practice analysis, that is to say, it fits only to document the existing fact. “What happened ?” “How have you been proceeding?”

The practice analysis often includes a second side i.e. help to change. And now that the activity has been documented, what will I do to help to change? Is it going to be an advice? But if there is a problem of limiting belief (“I am not able”, for example), the advice is not enough. If there is a problem of identity (« but who am I to do that? ») The advice is not enough either. For helping, it is necessary to implement techniques of help to change that are different from those of  the explicitation interview. It is important to distinguish them.

 

Last, there are lots of techniques of help to change that does not take into account the awareness of what we did, as Focusing, or Ericksonian hypnosis, which are techniques that will help to change without using the description of the practice, without the need for the explicitation.

Help to change involves a different approach from the only descriptive explicitation of the lived experience.

 

What is your opinion about the conditions for using this tool as training resource?

 

1 / For the teacher, to know the subjectivity in action is part of the project of a reflexive pedagogy.

The fundamental resource is reflexivity, i.e. the explicitation interview will provide concrete means to practice a pedagogy of reflexivity. This is where I take place. The teacher will be able to get information about what the student is doing during his activity, not just the end result, and this is a revolution. At that point, the contribution of the explicitation interview is essential: learning to listen, of course, but also learn to ask the right questions, but equally changing habits, not being lead by spontaneity, so learning to refrain  from asking certain questions that are counter-productive.
2 / For the student: to discover the way he thinks and the means to access to his thought.The student will discover that he can examine it, he can become self informed. And the teacher can help him to get aware of his inner cognitive world, for that, he will ask more questions not to inform himself more (sometimes he recognized immediately what it was about) but to help the student become aware of his actions. This is another facet of reflective pedagogy.

The teacher has understood, but he will not say it immediately to the student, he will continue to question him so the student discovers by himself what he did. He will ask him questions, but in addition to information, so doing, student will discover that he can go back to what he did, and that he can become aware of his own thought, his mental acts … wow, that’s amazing for people in difficulty who find they can get informed about themselves.

 

3 / For the trainings, the transfer effect.
And the third thing I find extraordinary is that when you propose, in a follow-up group to relate to your own thinking and find your own mind, you’re trying to build a transfer tool for any learning process, that is to say that maybe you do that in math, but you will discover that you could do it in technical, in french, in history … Because actually, I think that to question the trainee that way, more than discovering his own mind, it also leads him to discover the intellectual tools to find out his own thought. The transfer capacity is much broader.

 

5. Can you elaborate on the concept of lived experience as it is approached through the explicitation interview?


For me, the lived experience is initially what belongs to the life of a person (cf. Vermersch. 2014). This is the first fundamental point and  more specifically to a single person (not a team or a group). It means that the lived experience is what belongs to me, what belongs to you, and it is linked to a single person. The second quality is that the lived experience concept is always bound to a specified time. The lived experience is lived only at the moment it is lived. « Every time you made coffee, » this is not an experience, it is an experience of a class of lived experience, it is an abstraction. These are the two fundamental criteria : it belongs to one person and it belongs to a specific time. It always belongs to a targeted time. After  we can develop that any lived experience can be described, any lived experience is basically organized by its temporal structure. It has a beginning, a development, an end.

 

But what is interesting is not only the stated positive criteria but also their negative formulation. Take the first criterion, « it belongs only to one person. » It means negatively that if I talk about what others have done, I do not talk about my experience. If I say « we have done … » it does not inform the lived experience. The second criterion is that of the specified time, if I hear the person talking in general, I do not have her lived experience. If she comments, I do not have her experience, I have a speech about her experience. It’s always interesting to see the positive intrinsic criteria as well as the negative criteria, because often, what we need to train people is that they become aware of the negative criteria, because these are much easier to spot in listening. It’s part of our basic training, learn to spot what shows that the verbalization does not relate to a lived experience.

 

Under what conditions can this tool it be a training resource?

 To become a resource, the essential point is that we must make an experiential learning ; I, myself,  must have become the resource, and therefore  I need to become, me,  a practitioner. Read, hear about it, is useless, because subjectivity can only be reached if I am practicing subjectivity.  Then, you have to know how to question and learn as much how to refrain from asking certain questions. I must know how to listen, not just because I am empathetic, but listen to identify what information are missing, hollow listening: what have not yet been said? What is missing inside the speech?

 

Then, to become a training resource we must make it as a group culture, a school culture. In a school where you have a teacher practitioner of the explicitation interview, after a time, even teachers who do not use it know about it; even students not included are informed of it. And group culture is something extraordinary. For this being a training resource, it must ideally be a shared culture between the student and the teacher, which means that sooner or later students will ask similar questions to prof. « Sir or Madam, when you say that, you want to tell …? « And on the other hand, the entire school, including the principal, including the coaching staff, should know and share that vision. And there, really, it becomes an extraordinary educational resource.

 

6. This folder Research & Training brings together articles by researchers who show the interest to consider subjectivity as a resource within the training. In your opinion, what are the implications and prospects for research on education and training?

 

I would like to distinguish two types of research program: the first, direct, on what happens in the classroom if we introduce the explicitation: what is happening when …? The second, indirect or meta: for example, how the explicitation interview could help to document the subjective perlocutionary effects, that is to say, « What am I doing to the other with my words « , » do my words, my orders, produce the effects I want?  » But also become aware of my own perlocutionary aims:  » What effects I wanted to produce when I used a direction formulated in a certain way or another? « .

 

All relation practioners, such as teachers, for example, pass through the implementation of instructions, I ask things, I tell people what to do, people answer me. The teacher’s activity, the training activity, are based on it and linguistics has not worked much on the perlocutionary effects. With the explicitation interview, I can document the perlocutionary intention of the practitioner. And then I’ll go with the student to see how he received what I told him. That’s subjectivity. And then, still in the perlocutionary effects, I can discover and clarify why some formulations are undesirable, ineffective or against productive. Perlocutionary effects are the meta research program which we need as a matter of priority.

 

The second theme is to go really further in the discovery of the conditions of the becoming of awareness, and of the suitability of the experience. We must discover by going further in subjectivity, that experiencing an exercice is not enough. We must also operate its reflection, i.e. have a reflexive pedagogical activity. When the student, when the trainee, have exercised, we need to take the time to have him described, teach him to describe how he did what he did and learn from it, not necessarily to analyze some problems, but for him to discover that he can become aware of what he has learned and how he managed for it. And there, I find that there, really, is a huge program of research, that is to say to show that reflective teaching is not a luxury, it really is a necessary complement.

A final theme is the one about the effects of reflective activities in the long term? What transfer effects?

Here are some research themes that, I think, are important.

7. What would you like to say in conclusion?

 

I see two ideas that are close to my heart: 1 / researchers must become expert practitioners of subjectivity, 2 / purely exploratory research should be permitted.

 

I have already got this theme in the beginning of this interview, and often I have concluded my recent articles on this: whether the researcher or the user, if he wants to take into account the subjectivity, he must himself change, extend his experience to become an expert practitioner. While I’m practicing, I’m practicing, okay, I’m a trainer, I teach, I … OK. You want to take into account the subjectivity? So become an expert in subjectivity.

 

But becoming expert in subjectivity, what does that mean? It means exploring guided situations where we discover our inner possibilities, inner-exploration, which are unusual but without being stuck in therapy or spirituality. This can lead to training periods that give the opportunity to inner practice, as Guided waking dream, Focusing, NLP, rebirthing, meditation, mindfullness, TIPI, ISF and many other anthropotechnique ( inner techniques, I borrow this term to the German philosopher Sloterdijk). In doing so, I am discovering myself. I discover how the other is functioning. I discover the richness of subjectivity and the opportunity to explore it easily out of the usual daily experiences. But I do not discover through reading, I discover by doing, practicing, exercising me. And as I go multiplying this kind of experience, I also develope an experiential and methodological knowledge of subjectivity. And then I become an expert practitioner. There are so many researchers who wanted to do research on subjectivity and were unknowingly just naive and inexperienced. What does that mean, they were naive? That means they did not practice themselves. You can not study subjectivity if you do not have an inner-practice, and you get inner-practice by practicing with others!

 

The second idea is to promote, or at least allow, in the area of the discovery of subjectivity, merely exploratory academic research. i.e.research that seem a priori without widespread reach, with purely descriptive methodologies, without regard to the sample size, which will respond to seemingly modest questions: “what is it to …?” “What will happen when …?”

 

We are so late in the knowledge of subjectivity that we must explore, botanize, describe, identify alternatives and in doing that… upstream discover what is to describe, what are the descriptive categories which offer to get in the privacy of subjectivity. In the research work of GREX, we do not stop, year after year, to face the need to invent new descriptive concepts for simply name what appears to us in our exploratory activities.

 

Selected bibliography

 

Burloud, A. (1927). La pensée d’après les recherches expérimentales de H-J. Watt, de Messer et de Bühler. Paris, Alcan.

 

Binet, A. (1922). L’intelligence. Paris, Costes.

 

Depraz, N., Varela, F., Vermersch, P. , (2003). On becoming aware A pragmatic of experiencing. Amsterdam, Benjamin.

 

Sloterdijk, P., (2011). Tu dois changer ta vie.  De l’anthropotechnique, Libella-Maren Sell.

 

Titchener, E. B. (1912). « The schema of introspection. » American Journal of Psychology 23: 485-508.

 

Vermersch, P. (1994, 2014). L’entretien d’explicitation, ESF.

 

Vermersch, P. (2012). Explicitation et phénoménologie: vers une psychophénoménologie, Presses universitaires de France.

 

Vermersch, P. (2014). Le dessin de vécu dans la recherche en première personne. Pratique de l’auto-explicitation. Première, deuxième, troisième personne. N. Depraz. Bucarest, Zetabooks: 195-233.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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