Man has lived a long time on earth and with the passing of centuries and epochs his notions of himself and his abilities to think have changed. At each new departure it seems to him that the time of real knowledge has come, and that people have till now roamed in the darkness of ignorance and superstition. But as a poet once said, superstitions are but the ruins of old truths! Everything that is new brings with it a new confidence in the idea that the time of superstition is past, and that we have now begun to penetrate the mysteries of existence and our own mysteriousness as thinking creatures.
And today, once again we seem to be on the threshold of the truest possible knowledge of the soul, of consciousness. Do not many people today believe that not the abstract speculations of philosophers but precise mathematical calculation based on cybernetics and information theory, electronics and the intricacies of integral circuits are about to show us that there is now a real possibility of constructing an artificial intellect? But to make a soul, to make a Reason, even an artificial one, we must first discover its nature and essence, the principle of a device that can think. From this standpoint all the truths discovered by philosophers must once again appear to be mere superstitions.
But do we really know the principles on which the reason works? There is no simple answer to this question.
Some natural scientists, unwittingly extending their professional methods of studying the spatial interaction of bodies to the study of man and his consciousness believe that this principle is already known and that only a few, albeit important particulars of its application and realisation in the machine called man have yet to be discovered. They take a very sceptical view of all forms of philosophising and are convinced that in this day and age the question of the soul, of consciousness, of the Self now falls within the domain of natural science. And even philosophy itself is regarded by such scientists as at best something derivative of “real, scientific knowledge”, knowledge of phenomena and processes existing outside man and his consciousness. Philosophy, they believe, can develop only by generalising that which science discovers in the world of objects. Man and his consciousness are for them just as much an object as any others, and the same methods by which science today studies matter may be applied to them. If the mind in general and human consciousness in particular are a fit subject for scientific research, the riddle of consciousness will be solved by positive science, and philosophy will have nothing to do with it.