Whitehead's unique approach to the topic of consciousness

In Michel Weber & Anderson Weekes (eds.), Process Approaches to Consciousness in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Philosophy of Mind. Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. 137-172 (2010)
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Conventional approaches to consciousness assume that our current science tells us within tolerable limits what physical nature is. Because nature so understood cannot explain consciousness as we seem to experience it ourselves, explaining consciousness becomes a problem. One solution is to rethink what consciousness is so that it becomes the sort of thing our current natural science could in principle explain. Whitehead takes the opposite approach, using the existence of consciousness as a clue to what nature must be if it can generate something like consciousness. The justification for this approach can be found in Whitehead’s implicit indictment of descriptive phenomenology. According to Whitehead, the seemingly insoluble problem of explaining consciousness naturalistically is an artifact created by the assumption that consciousness faithfully samples the world, when in fact it obscures the very aspects of nature that are indispensable to understanding how anything, including consciousness itself, could emerge through a physical process.

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Anderson Weekes
Fairfield University


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