Consciousness is one of those kind of words. You know what I mean by those kind of words? I mean words like love and God. Those kind of words are usually short, used often in a wide variety of contexts have a myriad of different meanings depending on those contexts.
They are words that may represent one idea, image or set of ideas and images to the person who speaks the word, and represent a somewhat different or completely different notion to those who hear the them. Usually the ideas the words are intended to convey are powerful but they deliver an ambiguous message.
Another of those kind of words is consciousness. I admit that its not used nearly as much as those more likely culprits but it is one of those words that everyone who hears it have a different notion of what it means.
Indeed consciousness is so lacking in a definition that it has been the subject of a growing number of books, each of which tries to put an end to the confusion.
When I first began studying psychology back in 1977, any mention of the word consciousness was out of bounds. Consciousness had been of interest to the first psychologists, a few individuals in Germany and the United States who started psychology as an academic discipline separate from philosophy.in the middle of the 29th Century.
These early psychologists main methodology consisted using the same of of intensely analytical process of examining the contents of their mind as other philosophers that came before them they had used to dissect and categorize other parts of the natural world.
So psychology started as “the science for the study of the mind” and consciousness was part of what people were studying. By the time the Twentieth Century rolled around, psychologists were getting their own offices at colleges and universities. Psychologists defined their study as a science but physicists, biologists and other academics from the hard sciences regarded them as a bunch of “wannabes.”
In order to turn psychology into a real science (and hopefully add a new wing to the psychology building) psychologists set out to make their science respectable. The hard sciences used systematic observation using scientific instruments and conducting experiments to gain academic status, psychologists decided to start making systematic observations and conducting experiments.
The problem they ran into was that it was difficult to measure mental things like mind and consciousness with instruments. Nobody was sure where mind was located exactly. A lot of people suspected that it had something to do with the brain Even if it was in our heads, it would be hard to observe, measure and qualify.
biologists interested in the subject of perception, cognitive psychologists philosophers given rise to what come somewhat inappropriately to be called the ‘science of consciousness.’ I will look at this new study in a later section of the book.