Correlating consciousness: A vew from empirical science

Revue Internationale de Philosophie 3 (209):387-420 (1999)
Research on consciousness is currently enjoying a spectacular revival of interest in the cognitive sciences. From an empirical point of view, the NCC program — the search for the “Neural Correlates of Consciousness” — holds the promise of establishing correlations between physiological and phenomenal states in a way that directly resembles G. T. Fechner´s (1860) so-called “inner psychophysics”. Should the NCC program be entirely successful, we would thus be able to predict phenomenal states based on physiological states. we would be able to predict phenomenal states based on physiological states. In this paper, we explore some of the conceptual and methodological difficulties of this approach. In both neurobiology and psychology, there are serious measurement problems that stand in the way of correlation research, even after the “hard problem” has been set aside. Thus, even if one had identified certain internal functional states as indicators of phenomenal states, the empirical psychologist would still be confronted with fundamental problems, such as determining the absence or presence of these functional states. In this respect, philosophy of science may help and provide a metatheoretical framework for the current interdisciplinary project
Keywords Cognitive Science  Consciousness  Correlation  Measurement  Metaphysics
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