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A New Science of Consciousness? SC IENC E


Mankind is gaining a wholly new understanding of the mind and of reality itself. Intriguingly, these discoveries were intimated in the ancient Upanishads.


T By Varun Khanna, India


he study of consciousness has been of interest to scientists, philosophers and laypeople alike for millennia. But ô 3 55 ô


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has been more perplexing than productive, due to its intangible nature. How can we describe something that we


cannot perceive with our senses? We can know what it is like to perceive, and what it is like to have consciousness, but for thousands of years scientists have failed to pinpoint with any measure of certainty what con- sciousness actually is. Furthermore, when at- tempting to study consciousness, the method by which we can study it is elusive. Is it nec- essarily limited to the philosophical realm? Can there be a hard science of consciousness? ñU


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tively and holistically because either we do not know enough about the brain or there are seemingly nonphysical components to consciousness that are rendered totally sub- ô


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ask: Must the methods employed to study consciousness be borrowed from the natural 3


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or physics, or can it be studied by the psycho- logical or philosophical disciplines, with an independent epistemology and methodology? And do we know that the questions we are asking are valid, or are we missing something altogether? + ô Rô U õô^


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challenge, because different worldviews use similar terms to mean disparate things. Hu- mans may have some common experience of ô


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sciousness and its origin differ, based as they are on divergent philosophies. In the West alone, varying theories regarding conscious- ness have been proposed by philosophers in the last several centuries—from Descartes (1596-1650) and Spinoza (1632-1677) to Nagel (b. 1937) and Chalmers (b. 1966). Today we have multiple distinct and arguable philoso-


It’s not all in your head: Science is ñ ó 3 öï ï


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phies of consciousness. !


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ing meaningful research on consciousness. 0ô L ô


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note, we begin a review of the various con- temporary theories, theories which will lead 3


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investigation—the Upanishadic approach to consciousness. When studying consciousness from a ô ^ ô 3 ô


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pirical method, which asks questions of an evidence-based kind, seeking to locate con- 3


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or to identify consciousness as a product of brain activity. This approach asks questions like “What parts of the brain are associated with conscious experience?” or “What does brain activity look like in different states of consciousness, like dream sleep and dream- less sleep?” or “When does a conscious ex- perience arise, in relation to the associated neurological change?” Such a third-person ô


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U3 - cal changes and characteristics in exqui-


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