Chapter 1

Consciousness: an Ancient and Current Topic of Study

1.1. Multidisciplinarity of the subject

The subject relating to the study of consciousness covers a great many disciplines, which reflects the complexity of the concept, and makes it a multidisciplinary concept. From ancient times right up until the present day, thinkers, scientists and engineers wondered about the reality of thought, examining it through the lens of people’s actions in their existence and the surrounding society. Philosophers have investigated the field of metaphysics; psychologists the role of the subconscious and the machinery of learning; computer scientists the possible modeling of an artificial plan of action; biologists the cerebral location for the process of decision-making; sociologists an organization of interpersonal interactions; managers a means of personal development; and engineers an optimization of the autonomy of automatons.

A number of factors contributed to a certain reticence to rationally study consciousness before the beginning of the 20th Century. One of the main factors relates to the dissociation of body and mind, which enabled the mind to be given a political and mystical interpretation in its religious form: the soul. The establishment of a stable secular republic in France on 31 August 1871 gave rise to a new era of thinking. Jean-Martin Charcot expounded his theory on hysteria in 1882. At the government’s request, Alfred Binet created a metric intelligence scale in the ...

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