Homonymous mistakes with ontological aspirations. The persisting problem with the word "consciousness"

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology and Social Science




Becerra, R. (2004). Homonymous Mistakes with Ontological Aspirations. The Persisting Problem with the Word «Consciousness». SORITES, 11.


In order to understand consciousness one would benefit from developing a more eclectic intellectual style. Consciousness is, as proposed by almost everyone except the stubborn reductionists, a truly mysterious concept. Its study and dissection merits a multidisciplinary approach. Waving this multidisciplinary flag has positively enlarged the discussion and neurologists, psychiatrists, mathematicians, and so on, have moved to the philosophy of mind arena, first with caution and now with a more powerful voice. This is, to be sure, a welcome phenomenon for several reasons. First, it reminds us of those old timers who used to be all in one (mathematician-philosopher-political commentators, etc.) and their natural preoccupation with grand themes rather than with specific disciplinary boundaries. It demands from philosophers a sharper rigour when dealing with specific scientific sub-areas. It demands from scientists a more global picture and intellectual projection of their specific findings. Collectively taken, these processes will advance the study of consciousness. However, the negative side of this exercise is that this collaboration may lead to an overinclusion which at times might mislead the direction and make us feel as if we are getting closer to solve the mystery, the hard problem, but in fact we might be sometimes getting away from it. Common sense also warns us against this intrusion by advice epitomized in sayings such as «can't see the wood from the trees. We are all familiar with the story of the drunk who is looking for something under the lamppost and someone asks him, what are you looking for? My keys. Where did you drop them? Back in the alley. Why are you looking for them here then? Because there is more light here.