On the Science of Consciousness: Epistemological Reflections and Clinical Implications

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Consciousness has been one of the most important and tantalizing issues ever since the origin of philosophy and medicine. The concept of consciousness and the so-called “hard problem” (i.e., the mind–brain relationship) are highly complex topics that have yet to be elucidated, involving the realms of both science and philosophy with profound epistemological implications. In the lively debate on the foundations of the science of consciousness there are several potential biases of an essentially philosophical nature, such as those related to the paradigm and axioms adopted, and the ostensible logical contradiction between monism and dualism. Their origin dates back largely to Descartes′ thinking and the birth of the new sciences as a compromise with the Inquisition, but they have been handed down through the Enlightenment and Positivism. A proper investigation of consciousness and the world of subjectivity demands a careful reflection on the paradigm of scientific medicine to identify possible flaws and overcome the limits of the mechanistic-reductionist approach.

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