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Editorial Introduction: The Study of Consciousness and the Reinvention of the Wheel

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Many scientists have until recently considered consciousness to be unsuitable for scientific research. As Damasio remarks, 'studying consciousness was simply not the thing to do before you made tenure, and even after you did it was looked upon with suspicion' (Damasio, 1999, p. 7). Prompted by technological developments as well as conceptual changes, this attitude has changed within the last decade or so, and an explanation of consciousness is currently seen by many as one of the few remaining major unsolved problems of modern science. It has become customary to describe this change in terms of an ongoing 'Consciousness Boom'. What is occasionally forgotten, however, is that although contemporary main stream neuroscience might only recently have started to investigate consciousness, the topic is by no means a terra incognita for those familiar with the philosophical tradition. Since the beginning of the modern era, consciousness has been subjected to intense investigations by such diverse thinkers as Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, James, Dilthey, Bergson and many others. As for more recent times, consciousness and subjectivity have been of main concern to phenomenologists throughout the twentieth century, whereas the interest in these issues in analytical philosophy has only been particularly evident in the last ten to fifteen years. The majority of the systematic investigations in analytical philosophy have moreover been conducted in a rather ahistorical manner, with no particular attention being paid to the possible resources of the tradition. But by ignoring the tradition one might miss out on important insights that in the best of circumstances end up being rediscovered decades or centuries later (cf. Zahavi, 2002).

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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