Professor Max Velmans

Staff details

PositionEmeritus Professor
Department Psychology
Email m.velmans (
Phone+44 (0)20 7919 7870
Professor Max Velmans

BSc PhD CPsychol FBPsS FAcSS

Consciousness, mind/body interactions, philosophy of psychology


My main research interest is in the area of consciousness studies, with a particular focus on integrating work in philosophy, cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, and mind/body relationships in clinical practice. From 1990 onwards, I have around 100 publications in this area, mostly addressing the trickier theoretical problems of consciousness in ways that try to bridge science, philosophy and "common-sense" (over 70 of these papers and chapters are available on-line, with explanatory comments at Many of the issues addressed are foundational for psychological science, for example, the relation of brain studies to individual experience, the nature of subjectivity, intersubjectivity and objectivity, how to avoid the mysteries of dualism and the implausibilities of reductionism, how to develop methodologies appropriate to the study of experience, and so on. Overall this amounts to a programme for a nonreductionist science of consciousness. Understanding Consciousness (Routledge/Psychology Press, 2000) (UK, USA) is my main book. This provides an appraisal of Consciousness Studies at the beginning of the 21st Century, along with an analysis of reflexive monism, a novel resolution of the "hard" problems of consciousness.  This work has now been deepened and updated for a 2009 second edition (reviews). How to Understand the Causal Relationship of Consciousness and Brain (Imprint, 2003) (UK, USA) provides additional in-depth discussions of one of the hardest problems. My jointly edited The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness (Blackwell, 2007) ( UK, USA) surveys current scientific and philosophical thinking in this area, and the 1996 edited text, The Science of Consciousness (UK, USA), provides tutorial reviews for students and researchers. The edited collection Investigating Phenomenal Consciousness: New Methodologies and Maps (John Benjamins, 2000) (UK, USA) also examines methodological issues and suggests ways of integrating this interdisciplinary field. One of my recent projects focused on fostering "Monist Alternatives to Physicalism" which formed the basis of a Special Issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2012, 19(9-10).  My research interests include the therapeutic and medical aspects of the mind/body relationship, the puzzles surrounding free will, the relation of psychology to physics, and, increasingly, how to relate Western to Eastern views of the nature of mind, consciousness and self. In 2014 for example I organised an International workshop on this last subject with a range of cutting-edge talks that are now online here. I am fascinated by the breadth and depth of this topic and enjoy the "grand debates."  I helped to form and, from 2003 to 2006, chaired the Consciousness and Experiential Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society (CEP). In 2007 I also co-founded a new form of “Consciousness Cafe”, in Totnes, where I now live. I have given over 150 papers and invited talks at national and international conferences in this area. One of these, on the "Unconscious Ground of Being", given at Cortona in Italy in 2009 can be seen here and another on "From West towards East in five simple steps" can be seen here. At present I am also Visiting Professor of Consciousness Studies in the School of Psychology, University of Plymouth and have been National Visiting Professor for 2010-2011 of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, Ministry of Human Resources, Government of India.

My earlier research interests and publications include extensive work with the deaf resulting in around 20 publications. For example, I invented a new frequency transposing hearing aid, patented in 1974 in the UK, USA, and Japan, which was the subject of an extensive evaluation over a 10-year period (funded by the British Technology Group, The Department of Health and Social Security, and the Medical Research Council).