Consciousness: The Science of Subjectivity

Consciousness: The Science of Subjectivity

Consciousness: The Science of Subjectivity

Consciousness: The Science of Subjectivity


The study of consciousness is recognized as one of the biggest remaining challenges to the scientific community. This book provides a fascinating introduction to the new science that promises to illuminate our understanding of the subject.

Consciousness covers all the main approaches to the modern scientific study of consciousness, and also gives the necessary historical, philosophical and conceptual background to the field. Current scientific evidence and theory from the fields of neuropsychology, cognitive neuroscience, brain imaging and the study of altered states of consciousness such as dreaming, hypnosis, meditation and out-of-body experiences is presented. Revonsuo provides an integrative review of the major existing philosophical and empirical theories of consciousness and identifies the most promising areas for future developments in the field.

This textbook offers a readable and timely introduction to the science of consciousness for anyone interested in this compelling area, especially undergraduates studying psychology, philosophy, cognition, neuroscience and related fields.


Consciousness and its place in the scientific view of the world

To study consciousness is to study a deep mystery about ourselves. It is to study the nature of our existence, but not the kind of existence that physics and the other sciences study because they study the objective existence of atoms, galaxies, oceans, cells, time and space, among other things. To study consciousness is to study the fundamental nature of our personal existence, our subjective existence, our life as a sequence of subjective experiences. In this new field of science, we want to understand ourselves not only as entities that are alive and behave or interact with their environment, like bacteria or trees or dragonflies do, but also as beings who directly experience or feel or sense their own existence, who are alive in a sense fundamentally different from the ordinary biological notion of “being alive”.

Being alive as a conscious subject is something much more than being alive in the purely objective biological sense. A conscious being is not merely alive in the sense of realizing a collection of physiological processes and capacities (such as growth or self-replication) that separate biological organisms from nonliving physical systems. A conscious being is mentally, internally alive. Unlike physical objects and simple biological organisms, a being who possesses a conscious mind also senses or feels or experiences its own existence. To crystallize this idea: A conscious being has an internal psychological reality, a mental life consisting of subjective experiences, with a stream of consciousness flowing within. The inner stream of subjective experience, which is directly present for us and continuously revealing itself to us, is consciousness.

Consciousness as the seat of our subjective experiences is the mystery to be solved by science. In particular, it is the very phenomenon to be described and explained by the science of consciousness, which is why we may call this new science by the name “The Science of Subjective Experience”, or “The Science of Subjectivity” as in the subtitle of this book.

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