Saturday, October 16, 2004

anu gets consciousness

It's official, today the Australian National University inaugurated it's own Centre for (the study of) Consciousness. One might wonder why it took so long, given that most prestigious universities had been researching consciousness for more than a decade. But ANU, which anyway is well-centred had it's own Centre for the Mind, a joint venture with the University of Sydney (directed by Alan Snyder). ANU sharing its mind with the University of Sydney? Well, you have to if you're in the business of producing champions in the rather arcane fashion of strapping magnets to their brain (read more). With its own Centre for Consciousness, largely an initiative of the Philosophy Program in the Research Schools of Social Sciences, now ANU has it's own first person perspective on things, philosophically speaking. No more cognitive processing in the dark, churning books, research papers, and scores of graduates to advance Australia fair. 'Consciousness Studies' is all about knowing the knower, knowing why you get that fuzzy feeling when you see a flower in full bloom or a glowing orange red sun setting on the outback desert. Or, if neither of the above apply to you, then it's about knowing why you have that unpleasant feeling called pain when you injure yourself (since pain is what philosophers worry about most of time). It's also about why you're suddenly filled with existential angst for no particular reason. Ultimately, it's about the best kind of scientifically informed philosophy of mind. So how about this new motto for ANU's new Centre for Consciousness: naturam primum cognoscere ipsum?

The ANU's Centre for Consciousness is headed by David Chalmers, the hard and easy man of consciousness, whose Conscious Mind, in his own words, argues that "a reductive explanation of consciousness is impossible" (alas!), and so, if we are to take consciousness seriously, we must go beyond a strict materialist framework."

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