Tuesday and Thursday 3:30-4:45 Silver Center 520

Preceptors: Jenny Judge (@judge_jen) and Trevor Teitel

Professor: Ned Block ned.blockat-sign nyu.edu


Jenny Judge, Fridays, 9:30-10:45 (25 W 4th-C-3); 11-12:15 (25 W 4th-C-3)

Trevor Teitel , 12:30-1:45 (GCASL384); 2-3:15 (45 W 4th B04)

Ned Block's office hours: Tuesday 5:00-6:00 and by appointment

Office: 5 Washington Place, Room 405

Jenny Judge's office hours: Tuesday 10-12, Room 612, 5 Washington Place

Trevor Teitel's office hours: Tuesday, 5:30-6:30, Room 514, 5 Washington Place

Prerequisites: none


The philosophy and science of consciousness. Topics covered will include: The concept of a neural basis of consciousness and how we could discover what it is; whether there are different kinds of consciousness; the relation between consciousness and attention, cognitive accessibility, intentionality and agency; the function of consciousness; the unity of consciousness; whether the representational contents of perception are just colors, shapes and textures or include "rich" properties such as facial expressions and causation. The course will also cover some theories of consciousness such as mind/body dualism, behaviorism, functionalism, physicalism and theories of consciousness as representation. Among the topics discussed will be some famous thought experiments, such as whether there could be an inverted spectrum and whether Wittgenstein's views of the mind make room for an inverted spectrum; zombie thought experiments; Jackson's example of the scientist raised in a black and white environment who sees red for the first time and learns something about color vision that she could not find out from textbooks. Readings from philosophers such as Thomas Nagel and David Chalmers and neuroscientists such as Victor Lamme and Stanislas Dehaene

(Please send info about broken links to ned.blockat-sign nyu.edu)





j0336968ATTENTION: The final examination will be in the last class, Thursday December 14th, 2017.


No late papers.  If you miss the deadline for one assignment, just do another.

Assignments (and slides) are posted on Classes. Please submit your assignments electronically on Classes. If you have problems with Classes, send your paper by email to Jenny Judge or Trevor Teitel. Put your student number on your paper but not your name. Assignments will be graded anonymously.

More information on assignments and grading can be found below: Requirements, Grading and Rules


Sept 12-Assignment 1

Sept 19-Assignment 2

Sept 26-Assignment 3

Oct 3-Assignment 4

Oct 10-Assignment 5

Oct 17-Assignment 6

Oct 24-Assignment 7

Oct 31-Assignment 8

Nov 9-Assignment 9

Nov 9.1 Assignment 9.1

Nov 16-Assignment 10

Nov 28-Assignment 11



Dec 5-Assignment 12

Dec 12-Assignment 13



All readings will be available on the web. Some will require a password that is on Classes and will also be mentioned in class.

The reading for this course is not lengthy but it is difficult material. You should expect to read almost everything twice.


Further Readings on all of these topics can be found in the philosophy of mind section of PhilPapers


Those of you who are new to philosophy will find this helpful: How to Read Philosophy



The Explanatory Gap and Theories of Consciousness

Robert Van Gulick, "Consciousness" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, SECTIONS 1-3

Thomas Nagel (1974), "What is it Like to be a Bat?" The Philosophical Review, LXXXIII (4), 435-450, 1974

Ned Block (2009), "Comparing Theories of Consciousness" Michael Gazzaniga (ed.) The Cognitive Neurosciences IV, MIT Press.

David Chalmers (2003), "Consciousness and its Place in Nature". Read the first 7 sections. In Stephen P. Stich & Ted A. Warfield (eds.), Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, Blackwell. pp. 102--142 (2003). If you want to find out more about Chalmers' views, look at his TED talk or this podcast. Or read Chalmers' Phenomenal Concepts and the Explanatory Gap


The Inverted Spectrum

Alex Byrne, "Inverted Qualia", in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, paragraphs 89-133, 243-315

Martine Nida-Rumelin, Pseudonormal Vision, Philosophical Studies 82, p.145-157

Ned Block, "Wittgenstein and Qualia", Philosophical Perspectives (21, 1) edited by John Hawthorne. 2007: 73-115

Daniel Dennett, "Quining Qualia", in A. Marcel and E. Bisiach, eds, Consciousness in Modern Science, Oxford University Press 1988


Note: If you are having trouble understanding what functionalism is, read this:

Janet Levin, Functionalism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Concepts of Consciousness

Eric Schwitzgebel, "Phenomenal Consciousness, Conceptualized as Innocently as I Can Manage", blogpost on February 18, 2016 on The Splintered Mind

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

Ned Block, "Consciousness and Cognitive Access", Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 108, Issue 1 pt 3 (October 2008), p. 289-317

David Chalmers, Availability: The cognitive basis of experience? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 20:148-9, 1997

David Chalmers, Extended Cognition and Extended Consciousness, In Matteo Colombo, Elizabeth Irvine & Mog Stapleton (eds.), Andy Clark and his Critics. Wiley-Blackwell (forthcoming)


Experiments on Phenomenal Consciousness and Access Consciousness

Victor Lamme's Youtube talk

Victor Lamme, V. (2010) "How neuroscience will change our view on consciousness", Cognitive Neuroscience, 1: 3, 204-220

Ned Block, ""Perceptual consciousness overflows cognitive access". Trends in Cognitive Sciences December 15, 12, 2011, p 567-575

Ned Block, "Rich conscious perception outside focal attention", Trends in Cognitive Sciences Vol. 18, Issue 9, p445 to 447, 2014

Cohen, M. and Dennett, D. (2011) Consciousness cannot be separated from function. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15, 358-364


Extra reading:

Nicholas Shea, Methodological Encounters with the Phenomenal Kind, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. LXXXIV No. 2, March 2012

Ian Phillips (2015) "No watershed for overflow: Recent work on the richness of consciousness," Philosophical Psychology, on-line September 24, 2015


Quantum Approaches

Brian Greene's introduction to a panel on the measurement problem in quantum mechanics. The first 18 minutes of Measure for Measure: Quantum Physics and Reality

Kelvin McQueen, Does Consciousness cause Quantum Collapse? Philosophy Now 121, August/September, 2017

4 pages from David Albert, Quantum Mechanics and Experience, Harvard University Press, 1994


Objective Phenomenology

Andrew Y. Lee, "Objective Phenomenology


Higher Order Theories of Consciousness

Hakwan Lau and Richard Brown, The Emperor's New Phenomenology? The Empirical Case for Conscious Experiences without First-Order Representation, forthcoming in a festschrift for Ned Block edited by Adam Pautz and Daniel Stoljar

Ned Block, Empirical science meets higher order views of consciousness: Reply to Hakwan Lau and Richard Brown, forthcoming in a festschrift for Ned Block edited by Adam Pautz and Daniel Stoljar

Hakwan Lau, Why monkeys get magic and zombies don't


Extra Reading:

Hakwan Lau & David Rosenthal, Empirical support for higher-order theories of conscious awareness, Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15, 8, 2011, 365-373

Joseph LeDoux and Richard Brown A higher-order theory of emotional consciousness. PNAS Early Edition Feb 15, 2017


Fading Qualia

David Chalmers, Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualia, Conscious Experience, edited by Thomas Metzinger. Imprint Academic, 1995

Michael Tye, " HOMUNCULI HEADS AND SILICON CHIPS: THE IMPORTANCE OF HISTORY TO PHENOMENOLOGY, forthcoming in a festschrift for Ned Block edited by Adam Pautz and Daniel Stoljar

Ned Block, Reply to Tye (and Chalmers). forthcoming in a festschrift for Ned Block edited by Adam Pautz and Daniel Stoljar


The Perception-Cognition Border

Gary Lupyan, "Cognitive Penetrability of Perception in the Age of Prediction: Predictive Systems are Penetrable Systems, In Review of Philosophy and Psychology.

Fiona MacPherson, Cognitive penetration and predictive coding: a commentary on Lupyan. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, (2015) 6:571 to 584 (doi:10.1007/s13164-015-0254-3)

Gary Lupyan, Reply to Macpherson: Further illustrations of the cognitive penetrability of perception, Rev.Phil.Psych. (2015) 6:585-589


Perceptual Confidence

John Morrison, "Perceptual Confidence," Analytic Philosophy (2016), 1-34 

Rachel Denison, "Precision, Not Confidence, Describes the Uncertainty of Perceptual Experience: Comment on John Morrison's "Perceptual Confidence", Analytic Philosophy (2017) 58, 1

John Morrison, Perceptual Confidence and Categorization", Analytic Philosophy (2017) 58, 1

Jessie Munton, "Visual Confidences and Direct Perceptual Justification, Philosophical Topics, forthcoming


The Zombie Within

Ian Phillips, Consciousness and Criterion: On Block's Case for Unconscious Seeing, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 2016

Ned Block, "The Anna Karenina Principle and Skepticism about Unconscious Perception", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 2016



Philip Goff, Can Science Explain Consciousness? And The Case for Panpsychism, Philosophy Now 121, August/September, 2017

Raymond Tallis, Against Panpsychism, Philosophy Now 121, August/September, 2017

Hedda Hassel Mørch, Is Matter Conscious? Nautilus Magazine, April 6 2017

Daniel Stoljar, Two Conceptions of the Physical, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research LXII, 2, 2001

David Chalmers, Panpsychism and Panprotopsychism, in Panpsychism: Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Godehard Bruntrup and Ludwig Jaskolla, Oxford University Press

Bandwidth (We are skipping this unit)

Michael Cohen, Daniel Dennett, Nancy Kanwisher, "What is the Bandwidth of Perceptual Experience?" Trends in Cognitive Sciences, May 2016


Consciousness and Attention

Christof Koch & Naotsugu Tsuchiya, "The Relationship between Consciousness and Attention," in Laureys & Tononi, The Neurology of Consciousness, 2008

Jesse Prinz, The Conscious Brain, Chapter 3: When Are We conscious? Attention and Availability (Oxford University Press, 2012)




Slides will be posted on the web in Classes 

Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this class will be able to combine philosophical and scientific considerations to reason about issues on the cutting edge of scientific thinking where what is at issue is not only what the answers are but what the questions are




Read Jim Pryor's advice on writing a philosophy paper: Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper


There will be a 3-5 page writing assignment posted each week and due the following week. You must choose three of these assignments, including one of Assignments 1-3 and one after Assignment 7.

There will be a final examination, the questions of which will be very similar to questions on the weekly writing assignments. So you should be satisfied that you understand the questions even for assignments that you do not do in writing.  

The writing assignments will normally require statements of positions taken by one of the authors that you've read. These statements should be couched in your own words, explaining how you see what the author has said. No quotations; no paraphrases

Grading: Each of the three papers will count for one fifth of the grade, the final will count for one fifth of the grade and participation in class will be another one fifth.

Joint work is encouraged. Arguing about your views with others is the best way to find out where your position leads. If your paper is a product of joint work, all of the participants should turn in their own versions, with the communal ideas stated in each paper in the writer's own words. When you do work together on an assignment, this must be stated on each paper. All participants in joint work get full credit. 

j0336968NO LATE PAPERS. Papers are due at 8 PM on the day the assignment is due. If you can't get it in by 8 PM, just do the next assignment.