Foundational Issues in the Science of Consciousness
Office hours: Thursday 1:30-3pm (Social Sciences 226A)
Class meeting (Fall 1999): Tuesday 3:30-6pm, Social Sciences 311.
In recent years there has been an explosion of work on consciousness, within philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. This seminar will examine the science of consciousness, addressing both empirical and philosophical issues within it.
Some empirical areas to be covered include:
This course is intended as an interdisciplinary seminar. Material
in both philosophy and cognitive science will be approached in such a way
to be accessible to students without much background in one or the other. Any graduate student in philosophy, psychology, or other relevant areas would be welcome.
There is no required textbook. Recommended texts are:
Block, Flanagan, and Guzeldere (eds.): The Nature of
Consciousness: Philosophical Debates. MIT Press, 1997.
Cohen and Schooler (eds.): Scientific Approaches to Consciousness. Lawrence Erlbaum.
Many readings will be available on the web, and others will be made available for copying. Students will be expected to make brief seminar presentations of the readings.
The web page for the class is at
I will set up a mailing list, email@example.com, for class discussion. Everyone will be expected to make reasonably regular contributions to this list (at least one reasonably substantial posting every two weeks), discussing issues arising from the readings, from class discussion, and from the mailing list itself. Think of this as a substitute for biweekly short papers of 1-2 pages each.
Assessment will be based most heavily on a final paper, and will also be based on in-class presentations, mailing list contributions, and class participation.
Here is a very approximate week-by-week plan for the course, with associated readings. Note that this is very likely to be revised and supplemented as things develop. Readings that are not available on the web will be made available in the department office. Full bibliographical information can be found in my online bibliographies of consciousness in philosophy and of consciousness in science.
1. What is consciousness?
Week 1 discussion2. Can consciousness be reductively explained?
Week 2 discussion3. What can be known about the consciousness of another?
Week 3 discussion4. Neural correlates of consciousness I.
Week 4 discussion5. Neural correlates of consciousness II.
Week 5 discussion6. Blindsight
Week 6 discussion7. Conscious and unconscious perception
Week 7 discussion8. Change blindness, consciousness, and attention.
Week 8 discussion9. Cognitive models of consciousness.
Week 9 discussion10. Consciousness and metacognition.
Week 10 discussion11. Animal consciousness.
Week 11 discussion12. The inverted spectrum.
Some useful resources on the web include: