Tuesday and Thursday 3:30-4:45 5 Washington Place, Room 101
194 Mercer Rm 205
Ned Block's office hours: Tuesday 5:00-6:00 and by appointment
Office: 5 Washington Place, Room 405
Qianyi Qin's office hours: 4th Floor Library, 5 Washington Place, 11:00-12:15 and by appointment;
Rebecca Keller's office hours: 4th Floor Library, 5 Washington Place, Tuesday 2:15-3:15 and by appointment
The philosophy and science of consciousness. Topics covered may 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; whether dreams are conscious experiences that occur while dreaming rather than at the moment of awakening. 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)
ATTENTION: The final examination for this course will be on Thursday May 7, 2020. Actually, there will be two final examinations so as to accommodate students in different time zones. Both finals will have 10 questions, of which the student should answer any 7. One examination will be sent to all students via Classes at 3:30 PM EDT. Those who are doing this exam must submit it via Classes by 5:00 PM EDT unless an arrangement has been made with the Moses Center for a longer period. Submitting it late will result in a decrease in the grade in proportion to the degree of lateness. Make sure that you have internet access that will allow returning the completed exam in time. Those who have trouble submitting via Classes can send their exam to their Preceptor (Rebecca Keller or Qianyi Qin) by email. Another exam will be emailed at 9:00 PM EDT to be submitted by 10:30 PM EDT. Those who did not do the 3:30 PM exam must do the 9:00 PM exam. All answers must be in your own words and not copied from another source.
No late papers. If you miss the deadline for one assignment, just do another.
Assignments are posted on the class web site. Slides are posted on Classes. Please submit your assignments electronically on Classes. If you have problems with Classes, send your paper by email to Rebecca Keller or Qiany Qin. 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
Tentative Schedule of Assignments
February 4-Assignment 1
February 11-Assignment 2
February 18-Assignment 3
February 27-Assignment 4
March 5-Assignment 5
March 12- Assignment 6
March 24- Assignment 7
March 31- Assignment 8
April 7-Assignment 9
April 14-Assignment 10
April 21-Assignment 11
April 28-Assignment 12
May 5-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
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 5 sections plus section 7. In Stephen P. Stich & Ted A. Warfield (eds.), Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, Blackwell. pp. 102--142 (). 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
Massimo Pigliucci, How to make up philosophical problems and then "solve" them, Medium, January 7, 2020. Read only the first part, not the part on panpsychism
The Inverted Spectrum
(Martine Nida-Rumelin, Pseudonormal Vision, Philosophical Studies 82, p.145-157)
Daniel Dennett, "Quining Qualia", in A. Marcel and E. Bisiach, eds, Consciousness in Modern Science, Oxford University Press 1988
Materialism, Dualism, Objectivity
David Papineau, The Case for Materialism, Chapter 1 of Thinking about Consciousness, Oxford, 2004
Adam Frank, Marcelo Gleiser, Evan Thompson, The Blind Spot, Aeon
Concepts of Consciousness
Eric Schwitzgebel, "Phenomenal Consciousness, Conceptualized as Innocently as I Can Manage", Block's reply (scroll down) and Schwitzgebel's rejoinder, from a blogpost on February 18, 2016 on The Splintered Mind)
Experiments on Phenomenal Consciousness and Access Consciousness
Victor Lamme's Youtube talk
Ned Block, ""Perceptual consciousness overflows cognitive access". Trends in Cognitive Sciences December 15, 12, 2011, p 567-575
Cohen, M. and Dennett, D. (2011) Consciousness cannot be separated from function. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15, 358-364
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, in Blockheads! Essays on Ned Block's Philosophy of Mind and Consciousness, edited by Adam Pautz and Daniel Stoljar, 2019.
Ned Block, Empirical science meets higher order views of consciousness: Reply to Hakwan Lau and Richard Brown, in Blockheads! Essays on Ned Block's Philosophy of Mind and Consciousness, edited by Adam Pautz and Daniel Stoljar, 2019.
Richard Brown, Block's Response to Lau and Brown on Inattentional Inflation. For the response by Block and rejoinder by Brown, scroll down.
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
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
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, in Blockheads! Essays on Ned Block's Philosophy of Mind and Consciousness, edited by Adam Pautz and Daniel Stoljar, 2019.
Ned Block, Reply to Tye (and Chalmers). in Blockheads! Essays on Ned Block's Philosophy of Mind and Consciousness, edited by Adam Pautz and Daniel Stoljar, 2019.
Jennifer Windt, 'Reporting dream experience: Why (not) to be skeptical about dream reports, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7, 2013
Susanna Martinez-Conde, What Lucid Dreams Look Like, Scientific American, September 7, 2018
The Zombie Within
Megan Peters, Robert Kentridge, Ian Phillips Ned Block, "Does Unconscious Perception Really Exist?" Neuroscience of Consciousness (3), 1, 2017
The Metaproblem of Consciousness
David Chalmers, The Meta-Problem of Consciousness, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 25, No. 9-10, 2018, pp. 6-61
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)
Conceptual and Non-Conceptual Content
Jose Luis Bermudez, Nonconceptual Mental Content, Sections 1-3
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
Massimo Pigliucci, How to make up philosophical problems and then “solve” them, Medium, January 7, 2020
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
Slides will be posted on the web in Classes
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.
NO 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.