Consciousness as a Central Problem of Modern Psychology

By Akopov, Garnik, V | Psychology in Russia, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Consciousness as a Central Problem of Modern Psychology


Akopov, Garnik, V, Psychology in Russia


The special status of the theme of consciousness in modern science is caused by a number of circumstances. The first of them is a considerable growth of scientific papers in the last quarter of XX and the beginning of XXI centuries. The new surge of scientific interest to the consciousness problem, considerably surpassing all the previous, may be explained mainly by the transition of modern society from the postindustrial phase to the informative, and also by the newest philosophy, new scientific ideology, ideas of postmodernism, etc.; there appeared such new integrated fields of knowledge as neuroscience, cognitive science, science of consciousness. In practice one can see a more active and purposeful intervention of a man to the processes of the physical, biological and social world and not always distinct comprehension of the long-term consequences of such intervention.

Another prominent feature of the problem of consciousness is the impossibility of reference of this theme only to one particular area of science or to one psychological direction since consciousness including human thinking is included to every sphere of human activity. In psychology particularly consciousness is represented in all psychological schools and guidelines - from behaviorism with its negation of consciousness to humanistic psychology with its highly utilitarian attitude to consciousness.

Foreign studies on the consciousness problem can be regarded as a continuum, starting from neuroscientific approaches to mechanisms and functions of consciousnesses to cognitive approaches in the description of consciousness functioning types. The attempts to study consciousness by means of physical variables (quantum, wave and molecular mechanisms) and computer programs on artificial intelligence adjoin the margins of this continuum. In explanatory schemes of foreign authors an extreme biologism (Searle, 1997; 2000) as well as systematic substantialism (Chalmers, 1996; 1997) can be seen. In general, the modern space of consciousness studies can be represented in two dimensions: the "continuum" of unitary-interdisciplinary researches, with its extremes of phenomenalism (introspection) and phisicalism; and a value-utilitarian dimension with extremes of mystical spirituality and manipulation, this may also correspond to the positions of teleologism (pre-established harmony) and social constructionism.

High theoretical engagement and insignificant demand of consciousness in applied works may not be casual for the existing system of psychological knowledge and practice. Moreover, in a number of new directions of Russian psychology consciousness "works" not only as a basic category, but also as a distinct operational concept. In particular, such new trends are: the psychosemantic concept of consciousness developed by V.F. Petrenko both in theoretical and in highly applicable aspects; psychologics of consciousness as a new general basis of psychology developed by the scientific school under the guidance of V.M. Allakhverdov; vast series of research by V.V. Znakov on the psychology of understanding and self-understanding as the major display of human consciousness and life; V.A. Labunskaya's new studies on realised and non-realised components of nonverbal expression of a person; A.O. Prokhorov's unique researches on the problem of semantic determination of mental conditions; historic and psychological as well as paradigmatic approaches by V.A. Shkuratov, particularly, to the problem of connection between the dissociation of a person and consciousness genesis; E.A. Sergienko's cognitive platform of consciousness study in early ontogenesis of a person; V.E. Semenov's original concept of polymental types of consciousness in modern society, etc. It is clear from the list above, that in most cases theoretic and applied researches develop successfully, when not all the consciousness categories but only their certain aspect is mentioned, be it psychosemantic turn, cognitive turn, etc. …

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