Consciousness Modeled: Reification and Promising Pluralism

Pensamiento 67 (254):617-630 (2011)
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Paradoxically, explorers of the territory of consciousness seem to be studying consciousness out of existence, from inside the field of "consciousness studies". How? Through their love of the phenomenon/process, they have developed powerful single models or lenses through which to understand consciousness. But in doing so, they also seek to destroy the other /equally useful/ lenses. Our opportunity lies in halting the vendettas and cross-speakings/cross-fire. The imploration is to stop the dichotomous thinking and pernicious reification of single models, and instead search for divisions of labor, complementarities, and legitimate redescriptions among the various extant models. In other words, what would happen if we reimagined the conceptual classifications of the various models of consciousness, classifications based on general philosophical dichotomies (e.g., representational/non-representational and individualist/non-individualist), as a variety of compatible and even complementary perspectives on the same complex phenomenon and process? What would happen if rather than dig in our heels vis-à-vis our favorite theory of consciousness, at the exclusion of all the others, we saw our perceived enemy as an actual, indeed necessary, friend-in-waiting? What would it take to see a battlefield as a collaborative opportunity, to see a promising pluralism rather than an endless state space of conflict?

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Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther
University of California, Santa Cruz


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