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The Problem of Consciousness

For much of the present century, the various phenomena related to human consciousness have been ignored by many sectors of the scientific community as unsuited to empirical investigation and inappropriate for scientific study. Recently this picture has been changing due to a variety of factors.

Researchers from a wide variety of backgrounds and professional disciplines including psychology, neurobiology, philosophy, cognitive science, physics, medicine, anthropology, mathematics, molecular biology and art are now asking such questions as:

  • What is consciousness?
  • Can subjective experience be explained in physical terms?
  • What are appropriate and potentially fruitful methods for studying consciousness?
  • What are the neural correlates of consciousness?
  • Can new methods of brain imaging help clarify the nature and mechanisms of consciousness?
  • What is the relationship between conscious and unconscious processes in perception, memory, learning, and other domains?
  • What are the properties of conscious experience in specific domains such as vision, emotion, and metacognition?
  • How can we understand disorders and unusual forms of consciousness, as found in blindsight, synesthesia, and other syndromes?
  • Does consciousness play a functional role, and if so what is that role?
  • Can we develop rigorous methods for investigating and formalizing data about conscious experience from the first-person perspective?
  • What role does subjective experience play in existing theories within modern science?
  • What would be the implications of a science of consciousness for ethics and society?
  • Can the study of consciousness provide any clarification of ideas derived from contemplative traditions, and vice versa?
  • Must the purview of science be expanded in order to capture the essential elements of conscious phenomena, or are traditional methods sufficient?

The Center for Consciousness Studies would like to facilitate a dialogue in an international community of scholars, students and researchers. This dialogue will be characterized by openness, mutual respect, inclusiveness, and rigor.

We support the development of an international and interdisciplinary science of consciousness, which would seek new ways to understand consciousness through a variety of activities including: international conferences, Web-based information, and scholarly publications in the Journal of Consciousness Studies and elsewhere.