How to Study Human Consciousness Empirically or Nothing Comes to Mind
Dennett (Daniel)
Source: Synthese, Vol. 53, No. 2, Matters of the Mind (Nov., 1982), pp. 159-180
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. Consciousness is making a comeback in psychology, but there is still residual skepticism, anxiety, and confusion about how to approach this perilous phenomenon scientifically. There are those, after all, such as Thomas Nagel, who have argued that approaching consciousness must inevitably involve leaving science behind - the objective world of science recedes as we close in on the subjective world of consciousness, on what it's like to be a conscious being.
  2. There may in the end be something to this suspicion, but I will try to show how little it could come to. It is perfectly possible to study consciousness, carefully conceived, empirically. I will support this claim by describing a method, and giving its rationale.
  3. Versions of the method are familiar in experimental psychology, though it is never, I think, practiced with attention to quite the set of principles and constraints I will describe. The method has close kin in the history of philosophy and psychology. There is little that is new in it; it looks a bit like Wundtian introspectionism, a bit like Husserlian - or better, Schutzian - phenomenology, and even like Quine's imagined exercises in "radical translation".


See "Rorty (Richard) - Comments on Dennett's 'How to Study Human Consciousness Empirically'" for a response.

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