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An Embarrassment of Theories

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Abstract:

The sheer number of theories of consciousness, an abundance that may be unprecedented in the history of science, suggests a profound problem in this domain. This paper attempts to pinpoint the source of the difficulty, beyond the obvious complications associated with explaining the presence of mind in a world of matter. In particular, the argument is put forth that consciousness, when viewed as a binary category (i.e. present or absent) with respect to state or content, will of necessity engender compatibility with any number of possible hypotheses. Moreover, it will be difficult to distinguish between these competing accounts, especially when they differ in type as well as in form. To remedy this, it is suggested that a bolder approach is needed, and one in which the proposed theory is consistent with a more traditional scientific template; that is, one that describes more precisely how some aspect of consciousness varies as the underlying variables change. Theories of this type will be more easily falsified, and thus the pantheon of competing accounts can be winnowed more readily. The paper concludes with an example of such a theory in the domain of colour perception, demonstrating that it is indeed possible to make strong claims in spite of the difficulties attending this field

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Drexel University, Email: bkatz@coldlight.com

Publication date: 2013-01-01

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