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Published: Don’t Say “Consciousness”

by Bill Meacham on December 10th, 2016

I am happy to announce that my paper, “Don’t Say ‘Consciousness’: Toward a Uniform Vocabulary of Subjectivity,” has been published in Sociology and Anthropology, an online open-access journal. Earlier this year I gave a presentation on the same subject at the Science of Consciousness Conference in Tucson, and this is the corresponding paper.

You can view the article information here: The paper itself is freely available at

The language we use to talk about consciousness, experience, mind, subjectivity and the like is ambiguous. Different people use common terms in different ways without realizing it, and thereby foster confusion. In this paper a terminology is proposed for speaking of subjectivity. An operational definition is given of the term “subjectivity,” and from that standpoint usages of the terms “experience,” “consciousness” and “awareness” are proposed. The approach is both phenomenological in the tradition of Husserl, examining that which is given directly from a first-person point of view while holding in abeyance interpretive theories, and analytic in the British tradition, attempting to clarify terminology used to discuss what is found in such phenomenological investigation. After proposing definitions of salient terms, suggestions are given for reframing confusing language. To make the speaker’s meaning clear it is recommended to avoid the term “consciousness” altogether.

Consciousness, Subjectivity, Philosophy of Mind

Cite this paper
Bill Meacham (2016). Don’t Say “Consciousness”: Toward a Uniform Vocabulary of Subjectivity. Sociology and Anthropology, 4 , 1099 – 1107. doi: 10.13189/sa.2016.041209. Online publication

From → Philosophy

  1. Congratulations, Bill. But you take all the fun out of it and strip it from the current cultural-linguistic context, which has moved consciousness–in the sense of deep inner awareness–to front and center. If we only had the words to capture Goethe’s ‘seeing’, or Heidegger’s ‘Dasein’, or Bortoft’s ‘presencing the whole’ or Gadamer’s ‘aletheia’ or the neurophenomenology of Varela and Maturana, then we would be able to talk about consciousness in the current context.

    • Bill Meacham permalink

      Hmm. Aren’t ‘seeing,’ ‘Dasein,’ ‘presencing the whole,’ ‘alethia’ and ‘neurophenomenology’ words?

      You speak of consciousness as deep inner awareness. Do ‘consciousness’ and ‘awareness’ mean the same thing? If so, you have a circular definition. If not, what is the difference?

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