Spring 2008

Seminar: Consciousness

Listed in: Philosophy, as PHIL-65


Joseph G. Moore (Section 01)


Many scientists and philosophers regard the mind as entirely physical: according to "materialism," our mental states, events and processes are nothing more than complex arrangements of the fundamental, natural properties and processes that are to be found in the inanimate portions of reality. The deepest philosophical worry for this view has been to provide an adequate understanding of human consciousness. How, asks the anti-materialist, can the "raw feel" of an intense toothache, the taste of a good Merlot, the rich experiential quality of viewing a desert sunset, or the inner life of a bat be fully understood as nothing more than a complex arrangement of neurons, or ultimately, of micro-physical particles? Isn't there some aspect of consciousness that will elude any materialist analysis? This seminar will focus, at the outset, on recent materialist attempts to meet consciousness-based objections of this type. This will lead us to consider recent attempts to understand consciousness in terms of higher-order thought (i.e., thoughts about our thoughts), and, more generally, to regard the phenomenal, qualitative features of conscious experience as thoroughly representational. Along the way, we will consider, among other things, whether we should distinguish different notions of consciousness, whether there is a "unity" of conscious experience, and whether we should regard introspection as a perceptual faculty-like vision? Requisite: Two courses in Philosophy or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Second semester. Professor Moore.