There is No Science of Consciousness; Or, Talking Animals

What follows is either a piece of grammatical / ontological speculation, or a shaggy dog story1–probably the latter. I was reading this report of a conference on the nature of consciousness in the NY Times when it occurred to me that there can be no “science of consciousness” because science is a product of consciousness. We can & do have consciousness of science, because science is a product of consciousness–an aspect–not the other way around. Maybe it’s just a trick of grammar & cannot be generalized, but it’s a trick that reveals something important. One does not say “the science of earth” for Geology (though we might well say Earth Science, which is itself revealing); nor does one say “the science of animals” for Zoology. Should one consider nouns like geology & zoology as highly compressed forms of apposition? If so, what does that imply? And why has no one yet proposed Consciousology as a name for this new science?

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  1. Scouting around for a brief definition of the phrase shaggy dog story, I found Wikipedia straightforward but appreciated the compact irony of the Urban Dictionary: “A joke, usually long, with a silly premise, often involving talking animals.”

Mindfulness & the Chaos of Voices

Even a little experience trying to cultivate what the Buddhists (and others) call “mindfulness” demonstrates one thing for certain: the mind is a chaos of voices. At least mine is. If the goal is to observe and ultimately come into some kind of harmony with the chaos of voices, that is a robustly active attitude that paradoxically emerges from what appears to be passivity; on the other hand, the Western materialist approach to the mind, which sees it as some kind of epiphenomenon of a biological system, is strangely passive, leaving one powerless over the voices because one has denied their existence as real things.