Publication 2871

Gasparyan D. (2016) Consciousness as Self-Description in Differences. Constructivist Foundations 11(3): 539–549. Fulltext at
Context: Contemporary philosophy of consciousness has not yet come up with an acceptable theory of consciousness. Philosophers are still not able to reach agreement, and have come to a deadlock, since all possible approaches seem to have been exhausted and all the arguments repeatedly discussed. Problem: It may be assumed that the crisis has been caused by factors rooted in initial, wrong attitudes to knowledge or, more specifically, in epistemology focused on first-order cybernetics. The situation might be altered if philosophy of consciousness can be refocused on second-order cybernetics. This means that any attempt to apply the subject-object model to consciousness and specifically to reflection should be given up, while consciousness should not be seen as a certain objective essence observable by a researcher. It also means that the principles underlying theories of consciousness should be revised: any attempts that aim to explain the mechanism of generating consciousness through non-consciousness should be abandoned. The purpose of this article is methodological, pointing out the approaches to studying consciousness that might be more effective. It also gives the author’s vision of a new way of treating consciousness, taking into account the stated methodology. Method: Theoretical conceptual methods of argumentation, such as logical (deduction) and philosophical (phenomenology) kinds of proof. Results: The research shows that the epistemology underlying second-order cybernetics can eliminate many of the paradoxes typical of present-day theories of consciousness that are related to different versions of reductionism. It also explains that, in contrast to the dualistic subject-object model used for description of consciousness, the latter can and should be seen as a strictly self-describing system, where the diversity of forms and states is explained by inherent differences. Implications: The article could be productive for epistemic theories, philosophy of mind theories, mind-body theories, and phenomenological theories of consciousness. Constructivist content: The research applies the principles of von Foerster’s second-order cybernetics, von Glasersfeld’s radical constructivism, and some of Bateson’s ideas about difference, information, and mind structure directly to the epistemological assumptions underlying philosophy of consciousness.


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