Philosophy of Consciousness

What is Consciousness and how is it produced by the brain? We take an interdisciplinary approach, including recent work (2019) in philosophy of mind, neuroscience, sociobiology and medicine to assess the current state of knowledge on what consciousness is; how it functions to produce the ‘reality’ of ourselves; and how it mediates our understanding of the world around us. We will also look at the impact of Quantum theory on theories of mind and the unity of consciousness. Other issues will be creative/artistic consciousness, and imagistic representation. We will be using material from many different sources including three new books published in 2019: Rethinking Consciousness by Michael S.A. Graziano; The Feeling of Life Itself, by Christof Koch; and The Case Against Reality: How Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes by Donald D. Hoffman. Graziano is a psychologist and neuroscientist at Princeton, he argues that there is no ‘ghost in the machine’, but his theory offers an explanation for why we might imagine/feel that there is. His work is in the area of social consciousness theory. In this theory consciousness arises from a complex web of social and environmental pathways; the brain may be the hub of that structure but it could not produce consciousness without that greater structural connectivity.


DELIVERY MODE

  • This class will be delivered online via the online platform Zoom.
  • This course requires students to have an email, a reliable internet connection, a microphone/speakers and access to a tablet, smartphone or computer.


COURSE OUTLINE

  • Introduction: We will discuss what consciousness is and the different kinds of consciousness. Included in this discussion will be Metacognitive judgements, which are the mind’s ability to self-reflect on its own abilities. We will also discuss phenomenological consciousness which is an awareness of subjective experiences. We will then discuss Christof Koch book: The Feeling of Life Itself (2019). Koch is one of today’s leading thinkers on the problem of consciousness and chief scientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. He attempts to measure consciousness to show that it has levels rather than being on or off. He also makes a rather controversial argument about the possibility of consciousness arising from non-conscious matter.
  • The Binding Problem: The binding problem arises because researches are still unsure of exactly how the brain circulates information. Different parts of the brain process different aspects of perception: vision, hearing, language, memory, and so forth, yet they all combine together to produce a unified experience. We will then discuss speculations about the impact of Quantum theory on theories of mind.
  • Consciousness Situated and Social: Some theorists are proposing that to think of consciousness as an emergent property of a discrete brain/body is to misunderstand it. Rather it arises from a complex web of social and environmental pathways; the brain may be the hub of that structure but it could not produce consciousness without that greater structural connectivity.
  • Rethinking Consciousness: This week we will look at Michael S.A. Graziano book: Rethinking Consciousness (2019). Graziano is a psychologist and neuroscientist at Princeton, his Attention Schema Theory shows how consciousness arises from our engagement and modeling of the world around us.
  • Metacognition: The study of metacognition can shed light on some fundamental issues about consciousness and its role in behavior, it concerns the process by which people self-reflect on their own cognition and memory processes. We will also look at Donald D. Hoffman’s book: The Case against Reality: How Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes. Using a combination of Darwinian natural selection and game theory he argues for the constructive nature of consciousness in relation to the world.
  • Knowledge, Emotion and Consciousness: The ‘Feeling of Knowing’ is an essential aspect of our ability to learn and remember information and experiences; we would find it very difficult to operate in the world successfully without it. We will consider how it is produced in the brain and how reliable it is in terms of the correlation with external reality.
  • Confabulation: Confabulation is the function of the mind which produces: illusions; falsification of memory; unintentional objectively false statements; and behaviorally spontaneous confabulations. The ‘normal’ brain produces confabulations in many situations: what does this tell us about our perception of ‘reality’. What is the etiology and anatomy of confabulations in medical conditions such as schizophrenia and altered states such as hypnosis?
  • The Pictorial Brain: What is the relationship between visual representations of object and levels of awareness; how do we ‘see’ images in the mind.
  • The Representational Brain: Most theorists accept that the brain must ‘represent’ external reality in some way, but what kind of representation is it.
  • Creativity: What does it mean to be ‘creative’ and what kinds of brain processes are involved. How much of creative thinking, problem solving, invention, and artistic innovation is done by the pre-conscious brain and how much requires conscious choice and selective awareness. We will look at the new research on this important aspect of human life.


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Identify the main features which constitute Consciousness
  2. Discuss the philosophical ideas of a wide range of theorists including some of the most current cognitive and neuroscientists
  3. Be able to discuss the implications of these theories on issues such as education.
  4. Gain a better understanding of one’s own mental stated and the minds abilities.
$270 Limited / $243

<p>What is Consciousness and how is it produced by the brain? We take an interdisciplinary approach, including recent work (2019) in philosophy of mind, neuroscience, sociobiology and medicine to

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14 Jul

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