Philosophy 596V: Philosophy and Cognitive Science

Foundational Issues in the Science of Consciousness

David Chalmers

E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 621-7105
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:

Some philosophical issues to be addressed include: Some weeks will be devoted to "empirical" topics and some weeks to "philosophical" topics, but for any given topic we will read papers by both empirical researchers and philosophers, often spending half the meeting on each.  In the empirical areas, we will make an effort to address the foundational questions that lie behind the research.  In the philosophical areas, we will examine how empirical work can illuminate and occasionally reshape these issues.

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.

Web page

The web page for the class is at

Mailing list

I will set up a mailing list, [email protected], 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 discussion

2. Can consciousness be reductively explained?

Week 2 discussion

3. What can be known about the consciousness of another?

Week 3 discussion

4. Neural correlates of consciousness I.

Week 4 discussion

5. Neural correlates of consciousness II.

Week 5 discussion

6. Blindsight

Week 6 discussion

7. Conscious and unconscious perception

Week 7 discussion

8. Change blindness, consciousness, and attention.

Week 8 discussion

9. Cognitive models of consciousness.

Week 9 discussion

10. Consciousness and metacognition.

Week 10 discussion

11. Animal consciousness.

Week 11 discussion

12. The inverted spectrum. 13. Epistemology of consciousness. 14. First-person approaches. 15. To be determined

Web resources

Some useful resources on the web include: