Beliefs about consciousness and reality: Clarification of the confusion concerning consciousness

Journal of Consciousness Studies 15 (10-11):277-292 (2008)
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There is considerable confusion surrounding the notion of consciousness. This confusion can be partially resolved by clarifying the referents of the word 'consciousness'. Doing so, however, reveals a more insidious problem, namely, the role played by personal beliefs in understanding consciousness. In particular, as revealed by a comprehensive survey, such beliefs range along a material- transcendent dimension, with the choice of notions of consciousness corresponding to materialist, conservatively transcendent, or extraordinarily transcendent positions. Further empirical research has revealed that those with more transcendent beliefs tend to have a more rational and curious approach to the world than those with more materialist beliefs. And, indeed, transcendent beliefs are also associated with greater intelligence. Although the possibility of a developmental sequence from materialist to transcendent beliefs is suggested, given the nature of fundamental beliefs, it does not appear that reconciliation between them is possible. Thus, although the confusion surrounding the study of consciousness can be clarified, the situation giving rise to the confusion cannot be eliminated.



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