Advancing the dialogue between inner and outer empiricism.
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Hogan, M.J. (2008) 'Advancing the dialogue between inner and outer empiricism'. New Ideas In Psychology, 26 :55-68.
In a recent contribution to New Ideas in Psychology, Seán Ó Nualláin draws out a distinction between inner and outer empiricism, and suggests that consciousness research can benefit from analysis in both directions, that is, via the exploration of facts and relations that facilitate a third-person understanding of consciousness (by reference to an analysis of the structures, processes, and functions of the brain) and via the direct exploration of conscious experience itself, both in terms of its computational (content filled) and non-computational (content empty) aspects. In positing a substrate of subjectivity independent of the contents of consciousness (and, more specifically, a state of "nothingness"), Ó Nualláin follows a long tradition deeply rooted in mythical, religious, and esoteric schools of belief and practice. Although there is considerable debate amongst philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists as to whether or not a non-computational view of consciousness is viable, Ó Nualláin accepts that such a possibility does exist. Further, he suggests that a dialogue between the inner and outer empiricists will be fruitful. In this comment I, critique Ó Nualláin's initial thoughts on the subject and draw out a series of useful distinctions that will help to advance the dialogue between inner and outer empiricism. Critical amongst these distinctions is explicit reference to (1) ontological and epistemological interdependencies in consciousness research, and (2) states of consciousness that describe the transition from "mindfulness" through "nothingness" to "no-mind".