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AN EPISTEMOLOGY FOR THE STUDY OF CONSCIOUSNESS

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Document pages: 17 pages

Abstract: This is a prepublication version of the final chapter from the Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. In it I re-examine the basic conditions required for a study of conscious experiences in the light of progress made in recent years in the field of consciousness studies. I argue that neither dualist nor reductionist assumptions about subjectivity versus objectivity and the privacy of experience versus the public nature of scientific observations allow an adequate understanding of how studies of consciousness actually proceed. The chapter examines the sense in which the experimenter is also a subject, the sense in which all experienced phenomena are private and subjective, the different senses in which a phenomenon can nevertheless be public and observations of it objective, and the conditions for intra-subjective and intersubjective repeatability. The chapter goes on to re-examine the empirical method and how methods used in psychology differ from those used in physics. I argue that a reflexive understanding of these relationships supports a form of “critical phenomenology” that fits consciousness studies smoothly into science.

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