The Place of Consciousness in Science

  • Jeffrey Foss


Is a science of consciousness possible? Most scientific thinkers believe that consciousness is an effect, attribute, or function of the brain. They do not believe that it requires anything beyond the brain, much less anything beyond the ken of science, such as an immaterial soul or ethereal substance. So it should be possible to study consciousness — and explain it — scientifically. But despite more than a century of systematic study of the brain, and a remarkably detailed understanding of its components and their operation, consciousness remains a scientific riddle. Why? Is it because there is some secret of the brain we have not yet discovered? Much remains to be learned about the brain, to be sure, but there is a glaring disproportion between our relatively good understanding of the brain and our negligible understanding of consciousness. It is not merely that we do not have a good scientific theory of consciousness, but that we do not even have an idea what such a theory might look like. Nor do we know what it is we should be looking for in the brain. Science has no vision to steer its research. Undaunted by this history of failure — or perhaps goaded into action by it — increasing numbers of talented, scientifically-trained minds are now turning to the task of explaining consciousness. But there is striking disagreement about how to proceed, where to head, or even what the problem to be addressed really is.1 We all know what consciousness is like in our own experience, but what it would or could look like under the scientific gaze seems a mystery. The purpose of this book is to solve this mystery.


Visual Experience Conscious Experience Color Perception Color Experience Identity Principle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey Foss
    • 1
  1. 1.University of VictoriaCanada

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