Tuesday and Thursday 3:30-4:45 5 Washington Place, Room 101

Preceptors: Qianyi Qin, qq290@nyu.edu and Rebecca Keller, rkeller@gradcenter.cuny.edu 

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


Qianyi Qin, Monday 12:30-1:45 (5 Washington Place, 302); Fridays, 11:00-12:15 (5 Washington Place, 302)

Rebecca Keller, Fridays, 9:30-10:45 (194 Mercer Rm 205; Fridays, 12:30-1:455 (194 Mercer, Room 204)

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


Prerequisites: none


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

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 5 sections plus section 7. 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

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

Janet Levin, Functionalism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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

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)

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


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.


Extra Reading:

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


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



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, 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.



Daniel Dennett, Are Dreams Experiences? Philosophical Review 85 (2):151 (1976)

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

Christof Koch & Frances Crick, The zombie within. Nature (2001) 411, 893, or, if that link doesn't work use library access to the Nature web site

Andy Clark, "Visual Experience and Motor Action: Are the Bonds Too Tight?" Phil Review Oct 2001.

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

Replies by

Daniel Dennett

Keith Frankish

Hakwan Lau & Matthias Michel

Lisa Miracchi

Wolfgang Schwarz


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


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


Extra Reading:

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



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

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 

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

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.