Syllabus for Consciousness, G83.2294 Tuesday 2-4


Background assumed and course requirements have been moved to the end of this page.


Starred items will be handed out in xerox form. Some items are on the web as indicated. All other items are in Block, Flanagan and Gzeldere, The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates (MIT Press, 1997). Page numbers below refer to that book. Readings for the course will be listed by date.


September 25: Eliminativism

        Daniel Dennett, "Quining Qualia" (also in anthology 619-642)

        Daniel Dennett and Marcel Kinsbourne,"Time and the Observer: The Where and When of Consciousness in the Brain" (also in anthology 141-174)

        Ned Block, "Begging the Question against Phenomenal Consciousness" 175-180

        Robert Van Gulick, "Time for More Alternatives", 181-184


October 2: Sensorimotor Accounts of Consciousness

        David Milner and Mel Goodale, precis of The VisualBrain in Action

        (Those who know little about vision might want to pursue the references in Visual Processing Streams)

        J. K. O’Regan. and Alva No, "A Sensorimotor Account of Vision and Visual Consciousness"

        Ned Block, comment on O’Regan and No, “Behaviorism Revisited

        Demos of change blindness and inattentional blindness from Dan Simons’ web page and Kevin O’Regan’s web page (scroll halfway down the page)


October 9: Inverted Spectrum

        Sydney Shoemaker, "The Inverted Spectrum", 643-662

        Stephen White, "The Curse of the Qualia", 695-718

        Robert Stalnaker, "Comparing Qualia Across Persons."

        Extra reading that will not be discussed in class: Stephen Palmer, “Color, Consciousness, and the Isomorphism Constraint


October 16: Lewis and Shoemaker on Functionalism and Physicalism

        David Lewis, Mad Pain and Martian Pain* This paper appeared in Readings in Philosophy of Psychology Volume 1 (Harvard U. Press, 1980) and is also in Lewis’ collected papers

        Sydney Shoemaker, “Some Varieties of Functionalism”* From Philosophical Topics. Also in Shoemakers collected papers, first volume


October 23: The Harder Problem of Consciousness

        Ned Block, "The Harder Problem of Consciousness", forthcoming in The Journal of Philosophy (revised November 2, 2001)


October 30: Higher Order Monitoring

      Assigned Reading:

Extra Reading:


November 6: The Search for the Neural Correlate of Consciousness

          Assigned Reading

All of the articles in this section except for the one by Crick and Koch are available in Cognition, Volume 79, Issues 1-2, Pages 1-237 (April 2001) This volume is on the web and available on the NYU library site by clicking here and then clicking on "Cognition" and then going to 79, 1-2. Other library sites will also have this journal. In addition, the papers by Block and Dennett are available on the web sites linked below.

        Background of Assigned Reading. You will not be able to fully understand the assigned reading without having read some of the items below.

    • Christof Koch and Frances Crick, "Consciousness, Neurobiology of"
    • Nancy Kanwisher, "Neural events and perceptual awareness". This article and the others in this section are available in Cognition, Volume 79, Issues 1-2, Pages 1-237 (April 2001) This volume is on the web and available on the NYU library site by clicking here and then clicking on "Cognition" and then going to 79, 1-2. Other library sites will also have this journal.
    • Jon Driver and Patrik Vuilleumier, Perceptual awareness and its loss in unilateral neglect and extinction, Pages 39-88
    • Stanislas Dehaene and Lionel Naccache, "Towards a cognitive neuroscience of consciousness: basic evidence and a workspace framework," Pages 1-37

November 13: Phenomenal Concepts

      Assigned Reading:

o        Brian Loar, "Phenomenal States" 597-616

      Other Reading

o        John Perry, Chapters 4, 7, 8 of Knowledge, Possibility and Consciousness [PDF] Chapters 5 and 6 [PDF]


November 20: Frege’s Problem as Applied to Mind-Body Identity


November 27: Conceivability Arguments against Physicalism

    • David Chalmers, three chapters from The Conscious Mind,1997 (Web; for copyright reasons, these chapters require a password for access.)
    • (Those who want to see a different version of these ideas can consult Frank Jackson, "Finding the Mind in the Natural World", 483-492 or Jackson’s From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis. Oxford University Press. But I will not be talking about Jackson’s version in class.)

The following items may be assigned later, but will not be discussed November 27th.


December 4: Representationism (the view that the phenomenal character of an experience is its representational content)

      Assigned Reading

      Other Reading

    • Sydney Shoemaker, “Introspection and Phenomenal Character”, forthcoming in Philosophical Issues and in an anthology edited by David Chalmers
    • Michael Tye, "A Representational Theory of Pains and Their Phenomenal Character" 329-340
    • Chris Peacocke,"Sensation and the Content of Experience: A Distinction" 341-354
    • Gilbert Harman, The Intrinsic Quality of Experience, 663-676
    • Ned Block, "Inverted Earth" 677-694
    • *Tyler Burge, "Reply to Block"


December 10: Chapter 3 of Joe Levine, Purple Haze


Other topics that students may wish to write papers on.

  • Kinds of Consciousness
  • The Knowledge Argument
    • Robert Van Gulick, "Understanding the Phenomenal Mind: Are We All Just Armadillos?" Part I 559-566
    • Frank Jackson, "What Mary Didn’t Know" 567-570
    • Paul Churchland, "Knowing Qualia: A Reply to Jackson" 571-578
    • David Lewis, "What Experience Teaches", 579-596
  • Joe Levine, Purple Haze Chapters 1-3
  • Joe Levine, Purple Haze, Ch 4-6


Background assumed: the equivalent of an undergraduate degree in philosophy and some familiarity with issues in philosophy of mind. Those who have little knowledge of philosophy of mind should browse through an introductory text such as

  • Jaegwon Kim, The Philosophy of Mind
  • David Braddon-Mitchell and Frank Jackson, Philosophy of Mind and Cognition

Alternatively, you might browse through

  • Sam Guttenplan (ed.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind. Blackwell 1994  or
  • The philosophy of mind articles in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Martin Davies’ "Consciousness" and references available from it. (This and other web references here often require a university email account. If you have a university account but you tend to use non-university access to the web, use the proxy function available from your library. Go to the library site and search for ‘proxy’)
  • Michael Tye’s "qualia " and references available from it.
  • A view very different from mine is expressed in William Lycan’s “The Plurality of Consciousness,”

Some introductory material of mine is available on the web: "What is functionalism", "The Mind as the Software of the Brain", "Semantics, Conceptual Role", "Holism, Mental and Semantic" Other sources are Alex Byrne’s, David Chalmers', Dan Dennett's and William Lycan’s web sites. In our discussions of conceivability arguments against physicalism, some acquaintance with Kripke’s ideas about necessity and identity will be assumed. If you are not familiar with this material, that is a very strong indicator that your background is insufficient for this course.

Course Requirements:

  • First 10 page paper due October 23rd. Some suggested paper topics
  • Draft of second 10 page paper due November 20th
  • Second 10 page paper due December 4th
  • No Incompletes in this course