Philosophical and Empirical Issues about Consciousness

 

 December 8: change in last reading posted at the end

 

Inform Linda Bahdo, lb2532@columbia.edu if any of the Columbia links don’t work.  If other links don’t work, inform Ned Block at ned.blockATSIGNnyu.edu

 

Instructors: Ned Block and Hakwan Lau

NYU location: 5 Washington Place, 2nd floor seminar room

Columbia location: probably somewhere in Schermerhorn Hall 

Mondays 6-8

All assigned readings are available on the web, but some require a password that will be mentioned in class.  Readings that can only be accessed for free via a university library site linked to separately for NYU and Columbia

Please send reports of broken links and other website problems to Ned Block

 

September 8

Location: NYU

Topic: Introduction to the Neural Correlates of Visual Awareness (& course logistics)

Readings:

Rees G, Kreiman G, Koch C (2002) Neural correlates of consciousness in humans. Nature Reviews

Neuroscience 3(4):261-70  NYU Link  Columbia Link

Chalmers D (1995) The Puzzle of Conscious Experience Scientific American 273(6):80-6

Lau HC (2008/in press) Are we studying consciousness yet? In Frontiers of Consciousness (OUP) Edited by Davies M and Weiskrantz L

 

September 15

Location: Columbia

Topic:  Higher Order Thought

Readings:  (Access to these readings require a password.)

David Rosenthal, "Sensory Qualities, Consciousness, and Perception", in Consciousness and Mind, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005, pp. 175-226.

David Rosenthal, "Unity of Consciousness and the Self", in Consciousness and Mind, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005, pp. 339-363

Daniel Pollen, “Fundamental Requirements for Primary Visual Perception”, Cerebral Cortex 18 (9), 2008 p. 1991-1998.  Read at least the first few pages of this article.  (Requires password.   Or go through the university library.)

 

September 22

Location: NYU

Topic: Signal detection theory and consciousness

Readings:

David Heeger's handout on this topic - http://www.cns.nyu.edu/~david/handouts/sdt/sdt.html

Lau H (2008) A higher order Bayesian decision theory of consciousness Progress in Brain Research

Lau HC (2008/in press) Are we studying consciousness yet? In Frontiers of Consciousness (OUP) Edited by Davies M and Weiskrantz L

Target article for debate: Goldberg II, Harel M, Malach R. (2006) When the brain loses its self: prefrontal inactivation during sensorimotor processing.

Neuron 50, 329-339. NYU Link Columbia link

Hakwan Lau’s comments on this article.  (Password required)

 

September 29

Location: NYU

Topic: The Extended Mind

Readings

Alva Noe and Evan Thompson, "Are There Neural Correlates of Consciousness?", Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11, 1, 2004.

Alva Noë and Evan Thompson, “Sorting Out the Neural Basis of Consciousness”, Journal of Consciousness Studies 11, 1, 204, 87-98

Selected replies on Noë and Thompson in same issue of Journal of Consciousness Studies.  (This link requires the password, but these replies are also available from your library site.) 

Susan Hurley, "Varieties of Externalism", in The Extended Mind, ed. Richard Menary, in press Ashgate. (This link requires the password mentioned in class.)

 

October 6: NO CLASS

 

October 13

Location: NYU

Topic: The Explanatory Gap and its Relation to Theories of Consciousness

Readings

Thomas Nagel, "What is it Like to be a Bat?" The Philosophical Review, LXXXIII(4), 435-450.

Ned Block, “Comparing Theories of Consciousness” Forthcoming in Michael Gazzaniga (ed.) The Cognitive Neurosciences IV, MIT Press.

Stanislas Dehaene. And J-P Changeux (2005), “Neural Mechanisms for Access to Consciousness”, The Cognitive Neurosciences III, Michael Gazzaniga (ed.) MIT Press

.

October 20

Location: NYU

Topic: Volition and the functions of consciousness

Readings:

Libet B (1985) Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action

Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 8:529–66 (Access requires password.)

Lau H (in press) Volition and the functions of consciousness, Forthcoming in Michael Gazzaniga (ed.) The Cognitive Neurosciences IV, MIT Press.

plus

Paper for debate: van Gaal S, Ridderinkhof KR, Fahrenfort JJ, Scholte HS, Lamme VA. (2008) Frontal cortex mediates unconsciously triggered inhibitory control. Journal of Neuroscience 28, 8053-8062  NYU Link  Columbia Link

 

October 27

Location: NYU

Topic: Consciousness and Accessibility

Readings

Ned Block, ”Consciousness, Accessibility and the Mesh between Psychology and Neuroscience,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30, 481-548
Selected Replies from those by Balog, Burge, Byrne Hilbert & Siegel, Clark & Kiverstein, Gopnik, Grush, Harman, Hulme & Whitely, Izard Quinn & Most, Jacob, Kentridge, Koch & Tsuchiya, Kouider, Gardelle & Dupoux, Lamme, Landman & Sligte, Lau & Persaud, Laureys, Levine, Lycan, Malach, McDermott, Naccache & Dehaene, O’Regan & Myin, Prinz, Rosenthal, Sergent & Rees, Shanahan & Baars, Snodgrass & Lepisto, Spener, Tye and Van Gulick
Ned Block, “Overflow, Access and Attention,” responses to the 32 replies

 

November 3 

Location: NYU

Topic: Recurrent processing, attention and visual awareness

Readings:

Macknik S & Martinez-Conde S (in press) Recurrent processing and visual awareness, Forthcoming in Michael Gazzaniga (ed.) The Cognitive Neurosciences IV, MIT Press.

Lamme VA. (2003) Why visual attention and awareness are different. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 7(1):12-18.  NYU Link  Columbia Link

Koch C, Tsuchiya N. (2007) Attention and consciousness: two distinct brain processes (or here if the KochLab web site is not working). Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11(1):16-22  NYU Link Columbia Link

Target article for debate: Tse PU, Martinez-Conde S, Schlegel AA, Macknik SL. (2005) Visibility, visual awareness, and visual masking of simple unattended targets are confined to areas in the occipital cortex beyond human V1/V2. Proceedings of the  National Academy of Scence U S A.

 

November 10

Location: NYU

Topic: Disjunctivism

Reading

John Campbell, Reference and Consciousness, Chapter 6.1, “The Relational View of Experience”, Oxford 2002

Tyler Burge. Disjunctivism and perceptual psychology. Philosophical Topics 33 (1):1-78

John Campbell, “Demonstrative Reference, The Relational View of Experience and the Proximality Principle

 

November 17

Location: NYU

Topic: Disjunctivism

Reading

John Campbell, Reference and Consciousness, Chapter 6.1, “The Relational View of Experience”, Oxford 2002

Tyler Burge. Disjunctivism and perceptual psychology. Philosophical Topics 33 (1):1-78

John Campbell, “Demonstrative Reference, The Relational View of Experience and the Proximality Principle

 

November 24

Location: NYU

Topic: Blindsight

Readings:

Cowey A. (2004) The 30th Sir Frederick Bartlett lecture. Fact, artefact, and myth about

blindsight. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology A. 57(4):577-609 NYU Link  Columbia Link

Azzopardi P, Cowey A. (1998) Blindsight and visual awareness. Conscious & Cognition 7(3):292-311

plus NYU Link Columbia Link

Paper for debate: Beck DM, Rees G, Frith CD, Lavie N. (2001) Neural correlates of change detection and change blindness. Nature Neuroscience 4 (6) 645-650, 2001 NYU Link Columbia Link

 

December 1

Location: NYU

Topic: Phenomenal Concepts

Michael Tye: Consciousness Revisited: Materialism without Phenomenal Concepts, MIT Press, 2009.  Access requires password. To be published in December, 2008 or January, 2009.  Read chapters 1 and 7 for this week.  Please do not share this file with anyone outside the class.

 

December 8 (Last meeting)

Location: NYU

Topic: The information integration theory of consciousness

Readings:

Tononi G. (2004) An information integration theory of consciousness. BMC Neurosci. 5(1):42

plus

Article for debate:

Massimini M, Ferrarelli F, Huber R, Esser SK, Singh H, Tononi G, Breakdown of cortical effective connectivity during sleep. Science. 2005 Sep 30;309(5744):2228-32.

Extra reading: Wyart V, Tallon-Baudry C. (2008) Neural dissociation between visual awareness and spatial attention. Journal of Neuroscience 28, 2471-2484. NYU Link Columbia Link

 

Message from Hakwan of September 16th

Dear class,

 

Next week (September 22nd) we'll be debating the article of Goldberg et al instead,

which is the article originally set for Nov 24. Hope it is ok.

 

What is this debate business? Usually in my seminars we spend a lot of

time (like a whole hour) discussing a single, short, empirical

article. I find this a useful exercise. But with the unexpected class

size, and your varied background, I understand I may have to change

strategy somewhat.

 

So next Monday, we may or may not have a proper debate. Or maybe a

very brief one. However, I still require you to do the following:

 

- Notify me whether you think positively or negatively of the paper

the day before class, by email. Positive and negative are relative.

For the five debates you have to be negative in at least 3 occasions,

if you're not writing a term paper.

- If you're negative, you should write up a critical review of

ABSOLUTELY NO MORE THAN 500 words. It has to be succinct and clear,

and to be handed in before class (by email; an extra hard copy is much

appreciated). You don't have to mention everything you don't like. You

should focus on the critical points that you think really make the

paper unsound. I prefer you focus more on the issues regarding

experimental design, data analysis and interpretation. Conceptual

issues could be discussed, but points that are mainly semantic may not

be much appreciated, e.g. "this study claims that they want to study

consciousness, but I think they are only studying awareness". These

kind of criticisms can be very meaningful, but they miss the point of

the exercise. I want you to think like an empirical scientist, e.g.

have they carried out the necessary control conditions to rule out a

particularly plausible alternative explanation?

- Positive doesn't mean you don't have to do anything. I usually ask

the positive students to take us through the FIGURES: what does each

figure says? what are the axes and labels? You may be asked at random,

or not asked at all, but you must be prepared. Also, you should be

prepared to defend the criticisms that your opponents may raise.

- If you're not writing a term paper, your best 3 critical reviews

would count towards the major component of your final grade. You could

do both obviously, but you don't have to.

- If you need to read background material to understand the

methodology in paper in order to make a judgment, I assume that you

would. Wikipedia is a good source, and is usually sufficient. (You

don't have a understand every single detail.) This is a 4-credit

(Columbia units?) graduate class, which means the work should be more

than just coming to class once a week without preparation, and no

exams. Fair enough?

 

I'll tell you in class what I think are the points in each paper that

are weak and could be criticized.

 

Hakwan