The Minimal Phenomenal Experience

I’m part of the Minimal Phenomenal Experience Project, a research project founded by Prof Thomas Metzinger (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz).

The Minimal Phenomenal Experience (MPE) is described as the ‘simplest form of conscious experience’ (Metzinger, 2019:1). The term ‘MPE’ was originally coined by Jennifer Windt (2015) to describe the experience had during conscious dreamless sleep. According to Windt, the minimal phenomenal experience occurs when even the simplest form of self-consciousness (or minimal phenomenal selfhood; Blanke & Metzinger, 2009) disappears.

“The key idea is that while even the simplest forms of dreaming are characterized by phenomenal selfhood or the experience of being or having a self, the transition from dreaming to dreamless sleep experience occurs when even this minimal form of phenomenal selfhood is lost. While the analysis of dreaming can help identify the conditions for minimal phenomenal selfhood, the analysis of dreamless sleep experience may provide a glimpse of an even simpler (and perhaps even minimal) form of phenomenal experience (Windt, 2015:3)”.

For Windt, dreamless sleep experiences, in particular, lucid dreamless sleep, can be an excellent case study to investigate the minimal phenomenal experience. According to her, lucid dreamless sleep should be better described as an experience of ‘pure temporality’ or bare ‘nowness’ (2015:22).

The MPE research project is a multidisciplinary network of philosophers, neuroscientists and psychologists that have the common aim to develop a minimal model of conscious experience; that’s it, to establish the core causal factors for a minimal form of consciousness to take place.

My contribution to the MPE network is my work on conscious dreamless sleep experiences, in particular, the investigation on the phenomenon of ‘lucid dreamless sleep’. With this aim, I’m currently carrying out an empirical and conceptual project that aims at investigating the phenomenal character of this particular experience had during sleep.

For more information about the MPE project, and the work of the other researchers involved, you can check the official website.

Bibliography

Metzinger, T. (2019). Minimal Phenomenal Experience. 1-38. 10.31231/osf.io/5wyg7

Windt, Jennifer M. (2015). Just in Time—Dreamless Sleep Experience as Pure Subjective Temporality. In T. K. Metzinger & J. M. Windt (Eds.), Open MIND. Frankfurt am Main: MIND Group.