Max Velmans

Max Velmans

Max Velmans is a Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London. From 2003 to 2006 he was Chair of the Consciousness and Experiential Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society (an organisation he co-founded) and has been involved in many other initiatives to encourage studies in consciousness. He is known for the theory of consciousness called "reflexive monism", in which the materialist/dualist gap is bridged by placing aspects of human consciousness in the experienced world, rather than within the brain; the theory also combines facets of realism with facets of idealism, though it falls short of avowing the necessity of perception to the existence of reality per se (the principle of "esse est percipi").

Velmans is the author and editor of numerous books and papers on consciousness including Understanding Consciousness (Routledge/Psychology Press, London, 2000), Understanding Consciousness, Edition 2 (Routledge/Psychology Press, London, 2009)The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness (Blackwell, 2007), The Science of Consciousness (Routledge, 1996), Investigating Phenomenal Consciousness (John Benjamins, 2000) and How Could Conscious Experiences Affect Brains? (Imprint, 2003).

Understanding Consciousness, arguably his most important work thus far, is a comprehensive summary of his theoretical work concerning consciousness, and introduces "reflexive monism". This theory of consciousness presents itself as an alternative to both dualism and reductionism that is arguably consistent both with the findings of science and with common sense. Briefly, this theory states that it is nonsensical to speak of phenomenological experiences of reality as occurring within the brain, given that some of them quite clearly occur within the experienced world itself (that is, asked to point to the light they experience, almost all rational subjects would point to the light that is experienced rather than to the brain, which is where, according to dualists and reductionists, the experience actually takes place). Thus, Velmans argues, the relationship between subjects and experienced reality is reflexive: some experiences apprehended by the subject are quite clearly placed "in the world" by the perceiving mind. The contents of consciousness are, thus, not exclusively in the brain, but often in the perceived physical world itself; in fact, in terms of phenomenology, there is no clear and distinct difference between what we normally think of as the "physical world", the "phenomenal world" and the "world as perceived". In Velmans' own words "Reflexive Monism [is] a modern version of the ancient view that humans are differentiated parts of a unified, reflexive universe".[1] [2]

  1. ^ [1], List of Max Velmans' Selected Publications on Consciousness.
  2. ^ [2]>Velmans lecture on "The Unconscious Ground of Being", Cortona, Italy, 2009.


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