REL 288 Embodiment and Consciousness: A Cross-Cultural Exploration

Last offered Fall 2013

Cross Listed as PHIL288
This course examines some of the central questions raised by the study of the consciousness: the place of intentionality, the role of emotions, the relation with the body, the nature of subjectivity, the scope of reflexivity, the nature of perceptual presence, etc. In confronting these difficult questions, we do not proceed purely theoretically but consider the contributions of various observation-based traditions, from Buddhist psychology and meditative practices to phenomenology to neurosciences. We begin by examining some of the central concepts of Buddhist psychology, its treatment of the mind as a selfless stream of consciousness, its examination of the variety of mental factors and its accounts of the relation between cognition and affects. We also introduce the practice of meditation as a way to observe the mind and raise questions concerning the place of its study in the mind-sciences. We pursue this reflection by examining the views of James, Husserl, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, particularly as they concern the methods for the study of the mind and the relation between consciousness, reflexivity and the body. In this way, we develop a rich array of analytical tools and observational practices to further our understanding of the mind. But we also question the value of these tools based on first person approaches by relating them to the third person studies of the mind. In this way, we come to appreciate the importance of considering the biology on which mental processes are based and the light that this approach throws on the nature of consciousness. We conclude by considering the relation between first and third person studies of the mind, focusing on the concept of the embodied mind as a fruitful bridge between these different traditions.
Class Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: regular practice of meditation, a class presentation, a short essay (6-pages); a long final research paper (15 pages)
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Prerequisites: some background in either Psychology, Cognitive Sciences, Philosophy or permission of instructor
Enrollment Preference: Religion and Philosophy majors
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Divisional Attributes: Division II
Other Attributes: COGS Interdepartmental Electives, PHIL Contemp Metaphysics & Epistemology Courses,REL Contemporary Critical Inquiry Courses
Enrollment Limit: 18
Expected Enrollment: 18
Class Number: 1670
REL 288 SEM Embodiment and Consciousness Division 2: Social Studies Georges B. Dreyfus
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