Correspondence with Max Velmans

SMN Science Initiative

Dear All

My field is Consciousness Studies and, for this field, the questions we are being asked have rather complex answers. So I can’t do more in a few paragraphs than provide a few pointers to where my own versions of the answers (with the background, evidence, and arguments) might be found.

To begin with though, a few, very simple answers might suffice to indicate where (in my view) the field needs to go.

Q1: In your own field, and in general, what do you consider to be the major limitations of science, as it is currently understood and practised? A1: It is often said that consciousness is the hardest problem in science. Although the field of Consciousness Studies is now large and thriving, the dominant, reductionist ontology, epistemology and associated methodologies still fail to fully account for both ordinary conscious experiences and extraordinary conscious experiences.

Q2: How would you like to see these limitations addressed? A2: The problems of consciousness interconnect. So, to resolve them, one needs to show how they interconnect. One then needs to enter into a process of intellectual reconstruction that provides an ontology that preserves phenomenal appearances (rather than reducing them to something other than they seem to be), an epistemology that accepts the central role of conscious experiences in all scientific observations (there are no observations in any area of science that are “observer-free”), and methodologies tailored to the subject matter that they address, i.e. first-person as well as third-person observations and systematic ways of relating these to each other that, together, can (in principle) provide an integrated understanding of the nature of mind.

Q3. What new methodologies and ontology would you propose? A3. My publications on these issues are fairly extensive, so the most useful approach, for me, might be to give a few links to where the main works can be found. The single best source for my own version of an ‘integrated understanding’ would be Understanding Consciousness Second Edition (2009) along with Towards a —which extends some of that material and also gives quite a few personal details about my own journeys around this terrain [ Deeper Understanding of Consciousness (2017)) Towards a Deeper Understanding of Consciousness: Selected … [] In the World Library of Psychologists series, international experts themselves present career-long collections of what they judge to be their finest pieces – extracts …