The study of human consciousness is one of science's last great frontiers. After being neglected for many years (i.e. during a period of dominance by behaviorism in psychology), interest in the science of consciousness exploded in the last decades, with much progress in neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and other areas. The University of Arizona has been at the center of these developments. The 1994 Tucson conference on "Toward a Science of Consciousness" is widely regarded as a landmark event, and the subsequent series of biennial conferences in Tucson have attracted extraordinary interest.
The Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona was formed in 1998 with a seed grant from the Fetzer Institute. The Center is a unique institution whose aim is to bring together the perspectives of philosophy, the cognitive sciences, neuroscience, the social sciences, medicine, and the physical sciences, the arts and humanities, to move toward an integrated understanding of human consciousness. The Center is unique in its broad spectrum approach. Other groups tend focus either on cognitive neuroscience, philosophy or purely phenomenal experiential approaches, whereas the Center not only integrates these areas, but "thinks outside the box" of conventional wisdom which has thus far, at least, failed to make significant breakthroughs. The Center has also inspired other groups such as the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness and those who organize other conferences.
In addition to organizing the biennial conferences, the Center has engaged in activities such as:
- Supporting original research in Consciousness Studies
- Establishing a lecture series in Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona
- Developing interdisciplinary graduate courses in Consciousness Studies
- Holding Summer Institutes in Consciousness Studies
- Holding small focused workshops and conferences on specific topics
- Sponsorship of consciousness panels at professional meetings
- Fostering of interdisciplinary communications inside and outside the University of Arizona
- Developing a Center website with online courses, conferences and more
- Holding bimonthly Consciousness Discussion Forums on campus
- Sponsor/partner with Science & Consciousness Review
An eventual goal of the Center is a graduate level program in Consciousness Studies, both on campus and offered through web-based courses. Most importantly, The Center for Consciousness Studies is a forum for original thinking on the nature of our existence.