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March 03, 2005



I would think that Brentano, Merleau-Ponty and Kant are mandatory. Likely choices, depending on exactly how broadly you construe "consciousness", are Piaget, Kohler, and Vygotsky.


What does 'consciousness' include?
Are we talking about only those specific individuals that dealt with consciousness as an emergence of the brain, and thus implicitly with consciousness as a privileged phenomena --OR-- is the application of the term broad, to the nature of consciousness as a primary arising?
If the latter case, I would argue that many Hindu/Buddhist philosophers qualify, starting with Siddartha Gautama.


should it be assumed that we aren't talking only about a particular concept of consciousness, or tracing the development or evolution of a particular concept of consciousness? George Berkeley and G.W.F. Hegel and Sartre


How about Alan Turing and B.F. Skinner? I realize they are specifically not talking about consciousness as others do, but they are at least as important as the people on that list (if not more so) in giving us the tools to talk about consciousness intelligently.


"...relevant figures include philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, and others..."

Could any "no longer living" neuroscientists possibly be among the top 20-25 major deceased contributors to the study of consciousness?


In the list above, Penfield, Crick, and Sperry are all neuroscientists of one sort or another. Charles Sherrington is a plausible candidate from an earlier era, and I can imagine people making a case for Ramon y Cajal or Paul Broca or Hughlings Jackson (though probably none of these three focused enough on consciousness to make the top 25). Other neuroscientists?

Since we're not getting a whole lot of suggestions, here's a second ten to go along with the ten I suggested above: Immanuel Kant, Hermann von Helmholtz, Ernst Mach, Edward Bradford Titchener, Carl Gustav Jung, Charles Sherrington, Wolfgang Kohler, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Francisco Varela. Call that a tentative top 20. I guess it includes six philosophers, four neuroscientists, and around eight psychologists (with Mach and Varela hard to classify).

Philosophers on the edge include Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Russell, Whitehead, Broad, and Sartre -- all contenders for the top 25, but hard to decide just which to include. Then there are 20th-century psychologists such as Wertheimer, Koffka, Lashley, and plenty of others I'm sure I'm overlooking -- suggestions for other psychologists are particularly welcome. It would be nice to include some figures from Eastern traditions, but I don't have the expertise to know who's most deserving.

Kent Gustavsson

Someone from the phenomenological tradition should certainly be on the list. But I would choose Husserl before Merleau-Ponty (and Sartre).

Joseph Jedwab

John C Eccles


I guess choosing the last few among philosophers would be difficult. I might go for most unique or interesting, most historically influential, most widely read, most likely right, and most difficult to believe.


For eastern philosophy first and foremost is Siddartha Gautama. I just can't think any other single person from Asia having more influence in both western and Asian philosophies of mind/consciousness. For example Varela and Blackmore have clearly been influenced by Buddhism. For some reasons it seems that westeners try to avoid mentioning Asian orgins of their thinking.

Gautama and his successors were first (that I know of) to introduce ground breaking ideas as: humans having no permanent soul or self-substance, mind as a process, unconsciousness, conditioning/addiction as major reason for human behavior.

Abhidhamma texts and their commentaries can be still relevant to modern consciousness studies. For example in future it might be possible to experimentally test first person claims that consciousness is fundamentally stream of small discrete thought-moments (cittas).

Andrés Eugui

What about Alexander Luria?


Hobbes: I am told that he was a "mechanist", though I do not know how much his views influenced people.

Ryle: "The Concept of Mind" seems pretty important.


Platon, Aristoteles (?), Berkeley, Locke, Hume, Descartes, Kant, Schopenhauer, Spinoza, Fichte, Hegel, Merleau-Ponty, Husserl, Heidegger (?), Sartre (?), Freud, Adler (?), Jung, Varela/ Maturana (?), Bergson, James, Wittgenstein, Joyce and Musil (one might see good literature as the better "philosophy"...)

Varol Akman

Moses Maimonides?


I know he is - thank God! - still alive, but because of his enormous importance to the field, why not include Chomsky?



Of course also Leibniz should be in the list. And, as another example for literature connected to this field (I think that's not irrelevant, even if it might seem a bit strange at first glance), is Proust.

Ignacio Prado

Are we supposed to be mentioning contemporary philosophers / psychologists /neuro-scientists, as well?

If so, then: Armstrong, Kripke, Thomas Nagel, Shoemaker, Libet, Frank Jackson, the host of this blog, Edelman, Penrose, Dennett, McGinn, Daniel Wegner, Ned Block, Rosenthal, Brian O'Shaughnessy.

Peli Grietzer

Ignacio- Unless some terrible fire I'm unaware of broke loose in a major philosophy conference lately, I think these people fail to answer to the "people who are no longer living" demand.

Joao Fonseca

Some names I would include in the list are:
Alan Turing
Francisco Varela
Hilary Putnam


Since my faulty reading comprehension skills have become a subject of conversation, I will ask that my earlier post not be deleted and that it be considered instead as an advance notice of the kind of updates that will need to be made to Oxford Companion by the time of its Fifth Edition, published around 2080.

Strange Doctrines

I might argue Darwin, even if his influence is a bit, well...mediate. (That consciousness had to have arisen by the slow modification and integration of phenomenally void, selectable mental functions seems pretty central to our understanding of consciousness itself.)

But, hey, at least he's dead.


von Hayek!


How about Julian Jaynes? A distinctive point of view (and he's dead).

Ben Price

Claude Shannon, who delineated Information Theory, and I second the inclusion of Julian Jaynes, who offered simultaneously a compelling, if humbling, version of a specialized instantation of consiousness--modern human subjective experience.


I like Julian Jaynes too. I can't quite tell, though, whether Ben Price's comment about "modern human subjective experience" implies that *only* modern humans have subjective experience or just that modern humans have a *different* subjective experience than Jaynes' bicamerals.


Charles Sanders Peirce (semeiotics) - David Hilbert (what we can know)


René Descartes
Gottfrief Wilhem Leibniz
Charles Darwin
Gustav Theodor Fechner
Franz Brentano
Wilhelm Wundt
William James
Narziss Ach
Sigmund Freud
Charles Sherrington
John C. Eccles
Karl Popper
Roger Sperry
Francis Crick


If somebody has intrest in classics of phenomenology. There is one 2250 year old classic. Major figures behind the text are anonymous.

Here is compact 21 page introduction for philosophers and neuroscientists alike: The Abhidhamma Model of Consciousness and some of its Consequences (PDF) Paper for ICCP05.

Jennifer Nielsen

Roger Penrose and Hammeroff

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