The fall and rise of consciousness science

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Description: At the birth of psychology as a science, consciousness was its central problem. But throughout the twentieth century, ideological and methodological concerns pushed the explicit empirical study of consciousness to the sidelines. Since the 1990s, studying consciousness has regained a legitimacy and impetus befitting its status as the central feature of our mental lives. Nowadays consciousness science encompasses a rich interdisciplinary mixture drawing together philosophical, theoretical, computational, experimental, and clinical perspectives. While solving the metaphysically ‘hard’ problem of why consciousness is part of the universe may seem as intractable as ever, scientists have learned a great deal about the neural mechanisms underlying conscious states. Further progress will depend on specifying closer explanatory mappings between (first person subjective) phenomenological descriptions and (third person objective) descriptions of biological and physical processes. Such progress will help reframe our understanding of our place in nature, and may also accelerate clinical approaches to a wide range of psychiatric and neurological disorders.

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