Conceptual and empirical pinpointing of consciousness

Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics 9 (1):51-65 (2023)
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Consciousness is targeted by both philosophers and neuroscientists; but different methodological premises and even different conceptions about what conscious experience is and how the challenges and potential problems associated with consciousness research should be formulated underlie the different approaches. Namely, whereas empirical data and the constant refinement of experimental procedures to expand and modify this body of empirical data and resulting empirical theories are crucial to neuroscience, the significance of empirical knowledge to philosophy is less clear: Although empirical data certainly can influence philosophical concepts, the latter are nonetheless prerequisites of empirical research itself and thus may themselves not be empirically testable. The present paper elaborates from a multidisciplinary, neuroscientist-philosopher’s perspective the relation of philosophical concepts and empirical research on consciousness, drawing on two exemplary controversies from the philosophy of mind – on the ontological status of experiential properties and on free will. Consequences from both the scientific and the philosophical standpoint are discussed.

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Tobias A. Wagner-Altendorf
University of Lübeck


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