The nature of consciousness remains a fundamental mystery of the universe. Our internal, felt experience–what chocolate tastes like to oneself, what it is like to see the color red, or, more broadly, what it is like to have a first person, waking perspective at all–resists explanation in any terms other than the conscious experience itself in spite of centuries of intense effort by philosophers and, more recently, by scientists. As a result, some prominent researchers propose that the existence of consciousness requires a revision of basic physics, while others (seemingly desperately) deny that consciousness exists at all. Those positions remain extreme, but the challenge that consciousness poses is dramatic. It is at the same time the most intimately known fact of our humanity and science’s most elusive puzzle. In this tutorial we will read the contemporary literature on consciousness. We will concentrate both on making precise the philosophical problem of consciousness and on understanding the role of the relevant neuroscientific and cognitive research. Tutorial partners will have an opportunity to spend the end of the semester working on a special topic of their choosing including, for instance, consciousness and freewill. Pain and anesthesia, consciousness and artificial intelligence, or disorders of consciousness.
The Class: Format: tutorial; expect several short lectures by the instructor over the course of the semester where all the tutorial members convene
Requirements/Evaluation: participants will present substantial written work in the tutorial every other week, and will be responsible for commenting on their tutorial partner's work on off weeks
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis
Prerequisites: PHIL 102 and at least one upper-level course in PHIL
Enrollment Preferences: majors in Philosophy, or concentrators in Neuroscience or Cognitive Science; open to sophomores with permission of the instructor; every effort will be made to pair students according to similar or complimentary background
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
Attributes: COGS Interdepartmental Electives