Paolo Pecere

Phenomenal Consciousness between Neurosciences and Metaphysics. Du Bois Reymond's «Ignorabimus» and the Future of the «Science of Consciousness»

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In this paper I offer an interpretation of du Bois-Reymond's thesis on the impossibility of a scientific explanation of consciousness and of its present importance. I argue first that late 19th C. Germany is the neglected context of the emergence of what David Chalmers has called the «hard problem of consciousness», and I show that many contemporary thought experiments and arguments find their first formulation in that very context. Then I examine du Bois-Reymond's position, which turns out to be grounded on an epistemological argument and to be characterized by a metaphysical skepticism, motivated by the speculative attitude of German philosophy and natural science. In the final sections I show how the revival of metaphysics in contemporary research on consciousness can benefit from a reconsideration of this position and from the context where it came out.


  • Phenomenal Consciousness
  • Neuroscience
  • Materialism
  • Kantianism


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