Centre for Continuing Education

Philosophy Course: Philosophy of Consciousness

Philosophy. Study the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

What is consciousness and how is it produced by the brain?

This course provides an introduction to the philosophical issue of consciousness. We will discuss topics including: 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 discuss the impact of quantum theory on theories of mind and the unity of consciousness, and creative/artistic consciousness. Our discussions will take an interdisciplinary approach by focusing on recent work (2019) in the philosophy of mind, neuroscience, socio-biology and medicine.

During this course, we will review material from various publications including Rethinking Consciousness (2019) by Michael S.A. Graziano, The Feeling of Life Itself (2019) by Christof Koch, and The Case Against Reality: How Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes (2019) by Donald D. Hoffman.

Aims

The aims of this course are to:

  • provide an overview of the complexities of the many theories of consciousness
  • demonstrate the important role theories of consciousness played in changing the philosophical ideas of what it means to be human
  • discuss interrelation between consciousness and the social world which we inhabit
  • demonstrate the complex nature of the conscious states in relation to our ability to be creative.

Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • identify the main features which constitute consciousness
  • discuss the philosophical ideas of a wide range of theorists including some of the most current cognitive and neuroscientists
  • discuss the implications of these theories on issues such as education.

Content

Introduction

  • The different kinds of consciousness:
    • metacognitive judgement – the mind’s ability to self-reflect
    • phenomenological consciousness – an awareness of subjective experiences.
  • Christof Koch, The Feeling of Life Itself (2019)
    • Koch is chief scientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.
    • His attempts at measuring consciousness, showing it has levels rather than simply being on or off.
    • The possibility of consciousness arising from non-conscious matter.

The binding problem

  • The brain and consciousness
  • The brain, perceptual systems and a unified consciousness
  • Speculations about the impact of Quantum theory on theories of mind

Consciousness situated and social

  • Ideas of consciousness as an emergent property of a discrete brain/body
  • Consciousness as arising from a complex web of social and environmental pathways
  • Consciousness, the brain as hub and the greater structural connectivity

Rethinking consciousness

  • We will discuss Rethinking Consciousness (2019) by Michael Graziano
  • Graziano' Attention Schema Theory

Metacognition

  • The study of metacognition and fundamental issues in consciousness and behaviour
  • A discussion of Donald Hoffman’s The Case against Reality: How Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes (2019).

Knowledge, emotion and consciousness

  • The 'Feeling of Knowing'
  • How this feeling is produced in the brain
  • How reliable is this feeling in correlation with the facts of external reality

Confabulation

  • What is confabulation?
  • 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

  • The relationship between visual representations of object and levels of awareness
  • How 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?
  • New research into creativity and the brain

Intended audience

Anyone with a general interest in philosophy and the idea of consciousness.

Delivery style

Lecture/seminar.

Materials

Handouts are provided in class.

Features

  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Free, expert advice
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion