https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/phenomenology/ says: "According to classical Husserlian phenomenology, our experience is directed toward—represents or “intends”—things only through particular concepts, thoughts, ideas, images, etc. These make up the meaning or content of a given experience, and are distinct from the things they present or mean." This is a long article, but there is no mention of Dennett, Keith Frankish, nor even of John B Watson, or even of the word "heterophenomenolalism".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenomenology_(philosophy) Is quite a long article but mentions Dennett only once and gives him point of view just one short sentence, and doesn't mention Frankish or John B. Watson. The word "heterophenomenonalism" is found in the article exactly once, but it is buried in the thirty-one-item-long list of "see also" topics appended to the article.

A short paragraph supposedly shows the falsity of Dennett's view: "The phenomenological analysis of objects is notably different from traditional science. However, several frameworks do phenomenology with an empirical orientation or aim to unite it with the natural sciences or with cognitive science.

For a classical critical point of view, Daniel Dennett argues for the wholesale uselessness of phenomenology considering phenomena as qualia, which cannot be the object of scientific research or do not exist in the first place. Liliana Albertazzi counters such arguments by pointing out that empirical research on phenomena has been successfully carried out employing modern methodology. Human experience can be investigated by surveying, and with brain scanning techniques. For example, ample research on color perception suggests that people with normal color vision see colors similarly and not each in their own way. Thus, it is possible to universalize phenomena of subjective experience on an empirical scientific basis.[49]

Notwithstanding, the scope of phenomenology is gravely restricted by bracketing. Phenomenology's aim is to study experience itself avoiding evolutionary or causal explanations.[50] Husserl himself spoke strongly against the naturalization of phenomenology to fight the reduction of consciousness to psychology.[51]

In the early twenty-first century, phenomenology became a trend in cognitive science and philosophy of mind. Some approaches to the naturalization of phenomenology reduce consciousness to the physical-neuronal level and are therefore not universally acknowledged as representing phenomenology. These include the frameworks of neuro-phenomenology, embodied constructivism, and the cognitive neuroscience of phenomenology. Other likewise controversial approaches aim to explain life-world experience on a sociological or anthropological basis despite phenomenology being mostly considered descriptive rather than explanatory.[49]"

The "[49]" refers to "Naturalizing Phenomenology: A Must Have?" Liliana Albertazzi https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6204367/

The abstract is: "Quite a few cognitive scientists are working toward a naturalization of phenomenology. Looking more closely at the relevant literature, however, the ‘naturalizing phenomenology’ proposals show the presence of different conceptions, assumptions, and formalisms, further differentiated by different philosophical and/or scientific concerns. This paper shows that the original Husserlian stance is deeper, clearer and more advanced than most supposed contemporary improvements. The recent achievements of experimental phenomenology show how to ‘naturalize’ phenomenology without destroying the guiding assumptions of phenomenology. The requirements grounding the scientific explanation of subjective experience are discussed, such as the nature of the stimuli, their variables, and their manipulation by properly phenomenological methods."

Here's a quote from the body of the article:

"In recent years declaring oneself a phenomenologist, or of a phenomenological persuasion, has become a rather fashionable attitude among philosophers and scientists of cognitive neuroscience. Apparently, it is a sort of must have, in order to refresh the dated and unpopular role of reductionism. Both philosophers and scientists pay increasing attention to the perspectival nature of perceiving [...]"

Not the most powerful argument. A low-effort argument, one might say.

Thus it seems that heterophenonalism is largely getting ignored by those who write encyclopedia articles about phenomenalism.

So my question is, Why are Dan Dennett and his heterophenomenonology largely ignored by the Wikipedia and Stanford articles on phenomenology?

  • 5
    Probably because "leading phenomenologists signaled openly both Dennett’s arrogant misrepresentation of phenomenology and his notorious lack of familiarity with the object of his criticism, that is, the phenomenological tradition" (Masis). That was in essays here. So in the context of classical phenomenology Dennett is not useful even as a critic. Heterophenomenology for its own sake has far fewer followers, but there is a Wikipedia article on it.
    – Conifold
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 13:20
  • 2
    Dennett's approach, of using cross-check and multiple reports to validate what internal phenomenology may consist of, is a useful mental trick for 3rd person/behaviorist-leaning psychologists to address internal states. However, Dennett then uses what should be a useful trick for HIM, to try to bludgeon "theory of mind" thinking into a behaviorist paradigm. He asserts explicitly that under heterophenomenology that one may treat mental phenomenon as identical to verbalizations about them. But anyone who tries to describe a sunset, knows this is untrue -- words have too little bandwidth.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 13:40
  • 4
    I'm not sure speculating on the SEP's intentions is a worthwhile philosophical topic?
    – Frank
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 14:06
  • 3
    @AmeetSharma - Ultimately, he is asserting behaviorism -- that consciousness is identical to our 3rd person observations of others. Note, contrary to Dennett and the OP's claim, this is NOT how the rest of science is done. Science hypothesizes a reality behind the data we have. Quark theory, or relativity theory, or ecosystems, are postulated reality, which we have only incomplete observations of. Dennett's behaviorism is CONTRARY to science, not how it is done in any other field than behaviorist psychology.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 14:17
  • 2
    You might want to try to talk about it on its Wikipedia article.
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 7:08

2 Answers 2


There is absolutely nothing which necessitates that Wikipedia articles are accurate, let alone balanced and/or comprehensive. It is a site that relies upon user input and moderator checks which the site itself acknowledges as under-resourced.

If you believe that the page is lacking, you might wish to contribute any information you believe is pertinent, along with careful citations.

Nothing about the absence of the material you cite should lead anyone to conclude that the material is deficient or even controversial. The reasons for the neglect may have nothing at all to do with the quality of the work. Even if work is lacking, it is frequently included and presented along with relevant rebuttals, a la the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. This approach ensures people are exposed to as much information as possible in order that they are better equipped to draw their own conclusions, which is of course quute important in philosophy, where one person's trash is often another's treasure.

  • "There is absolutely nothing which necessitates that Wikipedia articles are accurate, let alone balanced and/or comprehensive" Not nothing. There extensive guidelines & communuty developed context specufuc criteria, as well as tidying & maintenance projects that move through topics. The weaknesses of Wikipedia are only yo a small extent lack of human editor & researcher time. The difficulty is more on hard to reference matetial, niche subjects or living people. On an easily referenced topic where disputes can be settled just by searching texts, you can expect it be on point.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 19:29
  • This is illustrated by it being the most accurate encyclopedia on math & science topics. I would recommend especially as a new editor on Wikipedia, without accumulated work to indicate reliability, to begin by posing the core questions on the 'Talk' tab of the relevant article. They will be looking for 'notability' by their guidelines, so journals books & articles in media of note, to justify the change. Otherwise edits are very likely to get instantly rolled back, often without discussion, if the context that went into the articles development isn't shown to have been absorbed by an editor.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 19:31
  • @CriglCragl. Fair points. Cheers. Commented Mar 30, 2023 at 1:54
  • @CriglCragl. Given the post has been voted on, it seems wrong to add such a substantial edit, as initial voters might not agree with you. I think what you say makes sense though, so do you think it's appropriate to delete in such a circumstance? Commented Mar 30, 2023 at 2:23
  • 2
    No don't delete! Clearly it's a popular answer. I downvoted because you don't get in to heterophenomenology & it's relationship to phenomenology, which is the core of the question.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Mar 30, 2023 at 15:22

I'm just going to affirm what's in the comments. Neither the IEP's article on Phenomenology nor the SEP's article on Phenomenology contain references to Dennett at all, and the reason is simple. Dennett is not a phenomenologist nor does heterophenomenology really relate to phenomenology other than a superficial reading of the body of literature. Obviously, he wasn't involved in the historical movement regarding Husserl, and as a contemporary philosopher, he is part of the analytical tradition, not the Continental tradition that includes not only phenomenology, but existentialism, and others. Dennett's relationship to phenomenology is through the philosophy of mind in the analytic tradition, a lot like Ryle before him. Dennett studied under Ryle at Oxford, in fact. From SEP:

The tradition of analytic philosophy began, early in the 20th century, with analyses of language, notably in the works of Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Then in The Concept of Mind (1949) Gilbert Ryle developed a series of analyses of language about different mental states, including sensation, belief, and will. Though Ryle is commonly deemed a philosopher of ordinary language, Ryle himself said The Concept of Mind could be called phenomenology. In effect, Ryle analyzed our phenomenological understanding of mental states as reflected in ordinary language about the mind. From this linguistic phenomenology Ryle argued that Cartesian mind-body dualism involves a category mistake (the logic or grammar of mental verbs—“believe”, “see”, etc.—does not mean that we ascribe belief, sensation, etc., to “the ghost in the machine”). With Ryle’s rejection of mind-body dualism, the mind-body problem was re-awakened: what is the ontology of mind vis-à-vis body, and how are mind and body related?

Dennett discusses heterophenomenology in Consciousness Explained, where he treats testimony as a fiction (he is after all a self-proclaimed eliminative materialist), but it should be considered that his take on phenomenology is not derived from the discipline, but is rather a nod to the utility of introspection and inner monologue on studying the mind in the same vein as cognitive psychologists who are deeply devoted to partially reducing conscious activity to psychological principles. This is in stark contrast to behaviorism which in radical forms denies the existence of consciousness, and phenomenology itself which is hostile to seeing consciousness as being capable of being reduced. Thus, while philosophers like Dennett and much more closely Searle look to phenomenology, there is a deep divide between their analytical discipline in rooting conscious experience in natural science, and traditional notions set out by Husserl. From SEP:

The analysis of consciousness and intentionality is central to phenomenology as appraised above, and Searle’s theory of intentionality reads like a modernized version of Husserl’s. (Contemporary logical theory takes the form of stating truth conditions for propositions, and Searle characterizes a mental state’s intentionality by specifying its “satisfaction conditions”). However, there is an important difference in background theory. For Searle explicitly assumes the basic worldview of natural science, holding that consciousness is part of nature. But Husserl explicitly brackets that assumption, and later phenomenologists—including Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty—seem to seek a certain sanctuary for phenomenology beyond the natural sciences. And yet phenomenology itself should be largely neutral about further theories of how experience arises, notably from brain activity.

WP's inclusion of heterophenomenology in phenomenology is best understood as philosophers' ancient use of the Greek terms phenomenon and noumenon, which goes back to Ancient Greek itself:

Kant was heavily influenced by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in this part of his philosophy, in which phenomenon and noumenon serve as interrelated technical terms. Far predating this, the ancient Greek Pyrrhonist philosopher Sextus Empiricus also used phenomenon and noumenon as interrelated technical terms.

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