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The hard problem: closing the empirical gap

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It stands to reason that full understanding of what is involved in the ‘hard problem’ will emerge only on the basis of systematic scientific investigation of the subjective phenomena of consciousness, as well as the objective phenomena of matter. Yet the idea of such a systematic scientific investigation of the subjective phenomena of consciousness has largely been absent from discussions of the ‘hard problem’. This is due, apparently, both to philosophical objections to the possibility of such a science of consciousness, and to the absence of appropriate subjective investigative methodologies. The present paper argues (1) that cognitive-developmental research on the development of the mental/physical distinction in young children undercuts standard philosophical objections to the possibility of an appropriate scientific study of the phenomena of consciousness, (2) that methodologies for exploring the contents and dynamics of onsciousness akin to those developed in Eastern cultures could play a significant role in the development of such a science of consciousness, and (3) that the experience of ‘pure consciousness’ often reported in association with these methodologies suggests reformulation of our ordinary ideas about the relationships between consciousness, qualia, and the objective world that may prove particularly useful for resolution of the ‘hard problem’.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Philosophy, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23284-2025, USA.

Publication date: January 1, 1996

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