And I don't think religion has answered this any better than science.
It all depends on what you mean. You could say that religion as it has been imposed on Western civilization by the Catholic Church
, was fixed at a certain state of development. There were many completely alternative views of what it meant, that were more or less bulldozered out of the way by the establishment. Most people are only familiar with the dominant version. Some of the alternative versions are as different from the dominant version, as science now is from religion.
---------- Post added 05-25-2010 at 04:08 PM ----------
Furthermore, I don't know if philosophy itself is trying to desconstruct the raw material of sensation, thought, etc, as you suggest. Certainly that has been a guiding principle of phenomenology
, (for example in Merleau Ponty) but I don't think analytical
philosophy deals with it, does it?
---------- Post added 05-25-2010 at 04:13 PM ----------
Here is a sketch I contributed in June last year to provide some orientation about the different schools/models/traditions that intersect in these discussions of consciousness:
One is the 'objective' accounts of consciousness based on a neuro-sciences approach. It refers to computational models, findings from neuro-science research, and comparative studies of humans and other animal species to describe consciousness. It seems to me that the neuoro-scientific account generally views humans 'biologically', that is as a species to be examined in relationship to its environment, and consciousness as an object to be described in relation to brain functions. I would think Dennett's 'Consciousness Explained' is an example of this approach. Its main criterion of truth is rigorous objectivity and an insistence on scientific rigor.
An alternative account is the approach of phenomenal psychology. "In psychology, phenomenology is used to refer to subjective experiences or their study. The experiencing subject can be considered to be the person or self, for purposes of convenience. In phenomenological philosophy (and particularly in the work of Husserl, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty) 'experience' is a considerably more complex concept than it is usually taken to be in everyday use. Instead, experience (or Being, or existence itself) is an 'in-relation-to' phenomena, and it is defined by qualities of directedness, embodiment and worldliness which are evoked by the term 'Being-in-the-World'. Source
. It insists that subjectivity
is an irreducible component of conscious experience. An important text for a lot of this type of understanding is Merleau Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception.
It also incorporates a lot of insights from existentialism.
Then you have various approaches from the broad spectrum of 'consciousness studies' which has roots in those Indian philosophical and yogic traditions which have taken root in the West (Buddhism, Vedanta, and others), and also in the Counter- Culture (Roszak et al) and the New England transcendentalists (Emerson, Thoreau). This area includes studies of mystical states, altered states, meditative techniques, and so on. This has its own specialized sub-vocabularies to describe not only various states of conscious experience but also attributes of consciousness and awareness as constituents of 'spiritual reality' and 'levels of reality'. I think William James could be regarded as one of the founders but if you include the various schools of transpersonal and integral psychology (i.e. Ken Wilber et al), and possibly also Jung, Hillman, etc.
last but not least the eternal dialog between Plato and Aristotle or idealism vs materialism, which gets re-invented every generation or so and which still a major influence.
As should be clear to everyone, I am mainly out of (3) but am also interested in (2) and (4) to defeat (1).