Goodbye to reductionism

Velmans, Max. 1998. Goodbye to reductionism. In: Stuart R. Hameroff; Alfred W. Kaszniak and Alwyn C. Scott, eds. Towards a Science of Consciousness II: The Second Tucson Discussions and Debates. MIT Press, pp. 45-52. ISBN 9780262082624 [Book Section]

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This paper argues that within consciousness studies, dualist vs. reductionist debates typically characterise experience in ways which do not correspond to ordinary experience, and that to understand consciousness one must start with an accurate description of its phenomenology. Only then can one develop an understanding of how experiences viewed from a first-person perspective relate to events in the brain viewed from a third-person perspective. The paper then lists some common arguments for conscious experiences (accurately described) being nothing more than brain states along with their fallacies. It concludes that there are fundamental problems with ontological reductionism of conscious experiences to brain states. The paper is based on a plenary talk given at a conference on "Toward a Science of Consciousness: The Second Tucson Discussions and Debates" at the University of Arizona in 1996, which was followed by a public debate with the philosopher John Searle. Given the predominance of physicalist reductionism within consciousness studies at that time, the anti-reductionist approach taken in this talk and paper was quite radical. However, the challenges posed to reductionism were very simple ones--which, in my view, have never been adequately addressed.

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25 Apr 2019 10:58

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25 Apr 2019 10:58


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