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Consciousness and Human Identity

Science and Human Dimension 1996

Consciousness has puzzled philosophers, naturalists, and theologians down the ages. Now, and belatedly, it had caught the interest of contemporary scientists, some of whom believe they are on the brink of discovering its basis in neurobiological processes. This meeting of neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers, theologians and novelists, discussed the prospects and consequences for finding a scientific explanation of consciousness.
  • Margaret Boden provided a survey of research programmes
  • John Searle explored his ideas on the so-called ‘hard problem’ of qualia and the philosophical limits of probing consciousness
  • Steven Rose warned against neurogenetic determinism.

Other speakers included: Mary Midgely, Jeremy Butterfield, Peter Lipton and Bernard Balleine. Two Cambridge University theologians, Professor Nicholas Lash and Fraser Watts, spoke of traditions of understanding consciousness and personhood in philosophy of religion.

An unscheduled intervention by novelist David Lodge related recent images in neuroscience (proposed, for example, by Daniel C. Dennett) to ideas in deconstructionist literary theory.

The conference proceedings are published as Consciousness and Human Identity edited by John Cornwell, Oxford University Press, 1998.