International Journal of Transpersonal Studies


Block (2002) has argued that the multiplicity of meanings ascribed to consciousness is due

to the erroneous treatment of very different concepts as a single concept. Block distinguished

four notions of consciousness intended to encapsulate the various meanings attributed to

the term: phenomenal, access, self, and monitoring consciousness. We argue that what is

common to all of these definitions is the implicit distinction between consciousness and the

content of consciousness. We critically examine the term “altered state of consciousness”

and argue that affixing the qualifier “altered state” to consciousness results in a theoretical

confusion of consciousness and its content, that is, consciousness is mistaken for the content

of consciousness. We refer to this as the consciousness/content fallacy and argue that

it may be avoided if one supplants “altered states of consciousness” with “altered pattern of

phenomenal properties,” an extrapolation of the term “phenomenal field.” Implications of

the consciousness/content fallacy for theory and research are also considered.

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