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Context: Linguists and philosophers, as well as psychologists, have not yet offered a coherent explanation of the logic behind the intricate grammar of counterfactuals, the meaning of irreality and the role of this concept in human life. Problem: I investigate the role and mechanisms of irreality as a special form of experience. Method: Based upon the results of the philosophical analysis, I introduce the principles of experiential methodology grounded on the open-ended reflective approach to human experience proposed by Varela, Thompson and Rosch. Results: I show that counterfactuals are the experiencer’s non-linear counterbalancing of the intentional and attentional directions of her perceptual activity. Counterfactuals occur in and through the reflected abstractions from the bodily movement in which one attentional object follows another. Reflecting upon the sequence of attentional objects, the experiencer reorganizes the sequence and experiences the difference as a relational change. As a result, new experience is constructed out of the changed value of the lived past. Implications: The epistemological insight into counterfactual ways of acting helps reconsider many semantic, particularly grammatical, problems of counterfactuals in terms of the subjunctive and the so-called “irrealis.” Besides, the findings of the research have implications for psychological studies of communicative behavior. Constructivist content: To explore the problem of irreality, I offer a detailed philosophical analysis of key constructivist and enactive concepts such as reality, experience, languaging, scientific method and others.
Key words: Experiential analysis, time reversibility, counterbalancing reality, reflected abstraction, languaging, reference, attentional direction.
Handling Editor: Alexander Riegler
Druzhinin A. S. (2020) Construction of irreality: An enactive-constructivist stance on counterfactuals. Constructivist Foundations 16(1): 069–080. https://constructivist.info/16/1/069
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