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Trends Cogn Sci. 2011 Aug;15(8):358-64. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2011.06.008.

Consciousness cannot be separated from function.

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Vision Sciences Laboratory, Department of Psychology, William James Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Numerous theories of consciousness hold that there are separate neural correlates of conscious experience and cognitive function, aligning with the assumption that there are 'hard' and 'easy' problems of consciousness. Here, we argue that any neurobiological theory based on an experience/function division cannot be empirically confirmed or falsified and is thus outside the scope of science. A 'perfect experiment' illustrates this point, highlighting the unbreachable boundaries of the scientific study of consciousness. We describe a more nuanced notion of cognitive access that captures personal experience without positing the existence of inaccessible conscious states. Finally, we discuss the criteria necessary for forming and testing a falsifiable theory of consciousness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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