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The question of conscious or unconscious is one of the most slippery terms in modern psychology, biology and philosophy. For many years the term consciousness, like the term mind, was avoided whenever possible by practitioners of the hard sciences. In recent years, however, a push has emerged to better explain and understand the process known as consciousness.

Philosophically, at its most basic level, consciousness may be said to be the process of a thinker focusing the thought on some aspect of existence. This may be external or internal, and may exist in the realm we think of as the subconscious (such as dream states). These experiences are collectively known as qualia, and are the building blocks of the philosophical discussion surrounding consciousness.
Physiologically, a number of processes have been identified with what we consider consciousness. Specifically, interfacing between layers of the brain is considered crucial to conscious activity, and when this interaction is impaired (as in deep sleep), consciousness is considered to be absent.
Psychologically, it is important to distance consciousness from its more colloquial use as meaning simply "awake". Some psychologists and psychiatrists would assert that while dreaming, for example, we are conscious, even though we are not in a waking state. This is complete different form other modern neurological and psychiatric theories of mind.
Medically, or better neurologically, consciousness represents a construct used to describe mental activity whose assets and drawbacks span a range from self-healing to psychiatric disorders and dementia. Consciousness and unconsciousness link to effect physiological processes or be imbalanced in mental diseases from Autism to Schizophrenias.
Finally in art the study of consciousness is an integral component of the field in three ways. Perception of art is a conscious process linked to subliminal structures, esthetics can thus also be seen as the regularities in these links. Finally creativity can be interpreted as the conscious perception of environmental information and the novel subconscious reconstruction of their components.


The study of consciousness has been greatly enhanced by the understanding of neurological processes associated with perception and thought. Still there are great misunderstandings with regard to what consciousness is, how we can describe it scientifically and last but not least what one could do with this new information in medicine, psychology, philosophy and the arts.
The organizers of the VCC would like to take a novel approach here by asking international experts to answer four specific questions about: the neurobiology of the phenomenon; its relationship with unconsciousness; its place in art; and its expression in health and disease.
Combining these answers with a group of interdisciplinary discussants has the promise of making the meeting a profitable conscious(ness) experience for everyone.





Vienna Conference on Consciousness 2007

©epo-film/Franz Vana
Vienna Conference on Consciousness
Department für Verhaltensbiologie
Universität Wien

T: +43-1-4277-54460
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