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Beliefs Concerning the Nature of Consciousness

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The opinions that people hold about the nature of consciousness are important not 2686. only to researchers in philosophy and science, but also in many professional fields such as clinical medicine, law, and education. However, in spite of this importance and how controversial the topic is, there is remarkably little empirical data concerning what these opinions are. Here we describe the results of a multi-year survey of university students concerning their beliefs about the nature of consciousness and about what entities (other people, animals, computers, etc.) are conscious. We find that these students are split fairly evenly between dualists and materialists, and that they also include a significant number of idealists. Almost all of the participants attribute consciousness to other people, and the vast majority attributes it to at least some animal species but not to computers. These results, especially when combined with those from the few existing previous surveys that we review, do not support past statements in the consciousness studies literature that dualism is by far the dominant viewpoint in the general population (or at least for that portion of the population that goes on to a university education). The results also indicate that most people resolve the problem of other minds in a way that includes some animals as being conscious.
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Keywords: experimental philosophy; mind-brain problem;; nature of consciousness; philosophical preconceptions; problem of other minds; survey

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Computer Science and UMIACS, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA., Tel: 301-405-, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 January 2015

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