University of Twente Student Theses


Phenomenology and Neuroscience A Comparison of Their Views on Consciousness

Stadlander, Martha (2011) Phenomenology and Neuroscience A Comparison of Their Views on Consciousness.

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Abstract:In this thesis we take a look at the way phenomenology and neuroscience see consciousness. On the surface they seem to be incompatible, but are both views really that different? Phenomenology says consciousness is the start of all our knowledge, and examine consciousness from a first person point of view. They look within to find the invariant structures of consciousness and find that consciousness is always about something; consciousness is intentional. The surroundings of something influence how we experiences it; our previous experiences color how we experience something now. On the other hand, neuroscience and Lamme in particular, takes a different view to consciousness, seeing it as another function of our body that needs to be explained. Lamme uses neurological means to do so, he shows that recurrent processing (a specific kind of neural activity) is necessary for consciousness. Here technology is used to look at brain activity, which makes it a third person view of consciousness. In Lamme's view too, previous experiences influence what we will notice later on, which is a remarkable similarity between two very different views. Some efforts have been made to combine both views – first and third person – for instance by using a formulaic language, changing the setup of experiments, or training subjects for experiments. These have in common that they take the first person information of a subjects experience and try to make it more objective, for example by verifying it using behavior, or by coming up with an experiment that allows the researchers to measure the difference between two phenomena. These attempts show that although the different views appear to be completely different, they can be made compatible. Another way to view the differences is from a post-phenomenological perspective, which says that both views constitute each other. The third person view that is technologically mediated needs the first person view of the scientist to exist, the scientist interprets the results the technological instrument gives him or her. The first person view is in turn influenced by the data we get from those technological instruments, giving us terms like 'brain waves' or the brain 'lighting up' which are used when talking about brain activity and consciousness.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:08 philosophy
Programme:Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society MSc (60024)
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