The Impossibility of a Science of Conscious Experience

Because so much of our conscious experience consists of secondary qualities, and because such qualities can never be described and understood mathematically, Galileo believed that consciousness could never be studied by the objec- tive methods of science. Galileo’s position marked a major philosophical shift concerning man’s place in the world. Almost without exception, all philosophers and theologians prior to Galileo gave humans a prominent position in the world. Humans were viewed as a microcosm that reflected the vast macrocosm: “Till the time of Galileo it had always been taken for granted that man and nature were both integral parts of a larger whole, in which man’s place was the more fundamental”. With Galileo, this view of humans changed. Those experiences that are most human— our pleasures; our disappointments; our passions; our ambitions; our visual, auditory, and olfactory experiences—were now considered inferior to the real world outside of human experience.


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At best, humans can come to know the world of astronomy and the world of resting and moving terrestrial objects (physics). However, this knowl- edge can never be attained by sensory experience alone. It can be attained only by rationally grasp- ing the mathematical laws that exist beyond sen- sory experience. With Galileo we have a view of human conscious experience as secondary and totally dependent on the senses, which are deceitful. What is real, important, and dignified was the world outside of man: “Man begins to appear for the first time in the history of thought as an irrelevant spec- tator and insignificant effect of the great mathemat- ical system which is the substance of reality”.

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