Consciousness - PHI00018H

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Paul Noordhof
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2017-18

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2017-18

Module aims

The module has the following aims:

To promote knowledge and understanding of consciousness and the philosophical problems attendant upon trying to provide an explanation of it.

To promote analytical skills, and skills in written communication by offering in the lectures an analysis of the main arguments concerning the nature of consciousness, which is then subject to independent scrutiny in seminars, and forms the basis of written work upon which feedback will be given.

To promote a critical and independent approach to ideas by focussing on a substantial problem in philosophy of mind and trying to arrive at a clear view of what would be a viable means of dealing with it, rather than teaching general theories of mind.

To foster respect for reason and argument as tools for extending knowledge and settling debates by displaying how the analysis of, and debate concerning, our understanding of ourselves, has deepened our understanding.

Module learning outcomes

Subject Content:

The module will focus on philosophical approaches to the understanding of consciousness. The topics to be covered will be: consciousness and the explanatory gap; eliminativism; functionalism and qualia; higher order thought and availability for higher order thought theories of consciousness, representationalism about consciousness.

Academic and graduate skills:

  • Students should be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the problem that consciousness presents if we wish a viable explanation of it and the main theories that have been advanced in this area.
  • Students should, in their written work, display a capacity to think and express themselves clearly on their chosen topics in the study of consciousness. In particular, their essays should show signs of recognising the main relevant debates in this area and the way arguments in these debates support or undermine each other.
  • Students should demonstrate an ability to formulate various philosophical positions and come to a reasoned undogmatic conclusion on their respective merits.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay (4000 Words)
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay (4000 Words)
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive feedback on the 1500 word essay two weeks after they submit it.

Students will receive feedback on the essay plan one week after they submit it.

Students will receive feedback on the 4000 word summative assessment and re-assessment six weeks after they submit it.

Indicative reading

  • Tim Crane (2001), Elements of Mind, Oxford University Press
  • Peter Carruthers (2000), Phenomenal Consciousness, Cambridge University Press
  • J.J. Smart (1959), 'Sensations and Brain Processes', Philosophical Review 68, pp. 141-56.
  • Donald Davidson (1970), 'Mental Events', in L. Foster and J. W. Swanson (eds.), Experience and Theory, pp. 79-101 and in his (1980), Essays on Actions and Events, pp. 207-225.
  • Jaegwon Kim (1999), 'Mental Causation', in William Lycan's (ed.) Mind and Cognition: An Anthology, (Blackwell) pp. 318 - 335. Alternatively J. Kim (1993), 'Mental Causation in a Physical World', in E. Villanueva (ed.) Philosophical Issues 3, pp. 157-176
  • Thomas Nagel (1974), 'What is it like to be a bat?', The Philosophical Review, 83, pp. 435-450, reprinted in his (1979), Mortal Questions, pp. 165-180, and reprinted in Ned Block, Owen Flanagan and G ¼ven G ¼zeldere (eds., 1997), The Nature of Consciousness, pp. 519-527.
  • Frank Jackson (1986), 'What Mary Didn't Know', Journal of Philosophy, 83, no.5, pp. 291-295, reprinted in Ned Block, Owen Flanagan and G ¼ven G ¼zeldere (eds., 1997), The Nature of Consciousness, pp. 567-570
  • Paul Churchland (1989), 'Knowing Qualia: A Reply to Jackson', in his (1989), A Neurocomputational Perspective, pp. 67-76, and expanded in Paul M. Churchland and Patricia S. Churchland (1998), On the Contrary, pp. 143-157.
  • David Lewis (1990), 'What Experience Teaches', William Lycan (ed.), Mind and Cognition, pp. 499-519, reprinted in Ned Block, Owen Flanagan and G ¼ven G ¼zeldere (eds., 1997), The Nature of Consciousness, pp. 579-595.
  • Saul Kripke (1980), Naming and Necessity, Harvard University Press, pp. 144-55
  • David Lewis (1980), 'Mad Pain and Martian Pain', in Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, Vol. I, pp. 216 - 222
  • Christopher S. Hill (1997), 'Imaginability, Conceivability, Possibility and the Mind-Body Problem', Philosophical Studies, 87, pp. 61-85
  • Ned Block and Robert Stalnaker (1999), 'Conceptual Analysis, Dualism and the Explanatory Gap', The Philosophical Review, 108, no. 1, pp. 1-46.
  • David Lewis (1972), 'Psychophysical and Theoretical Identifications', Australasian Journal of Philosophy 50, pp. 249-58.
  • Ned Block (1978), 'Troubles with Functionalism', C. W. Savage (ed.), Perception and Cognition, Minnesota Studies in Philosophy of Science, 9, reprinted in Ned Block (ed., 1980), Readings in Philosophy of Psychology, Vol. 1, pp. 268-305, esp. 275-291
  • Michael Tye (2006), 'Absent Qualia and the Mind-Body Problem', The Philosophical Review, 115, no. 2, pp. 139-168.
  • Daniel C. Dennett (1988), 'Quining Qualia', A. Marcel and E. Bisiach (eds.), Consciousness in Contemporary Science, pp. 42-77, and in William Lycan (ed., 1990), Mind and Cognition, pp. 519-547, and in Ned Block, Owen Flanagan and G ¼ven G ¼zeldere (eds., 1997), The Nature of Consciousness, pp. 619-642
  • Paul M. Churchland, (1996), 'The Rediscovery of Light', Journal of Philosophy 93, pp. 211-28
  • D. M. Armstrong (1981), 'What is Consciousness?' in his, The Nature of Mind, pp. 55-67, reprinted in Ned Block, Owen Flanagan and G ¼ven G ¼zeldere (eds., 1997), The Nature of Consciousness (Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT Press), pp. 721-728.
  • David M. Rosenthal (2002), 'Explaining Consciousness', in D. Chalmers' (ed.) Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings, Oxford University Press, pp. 406-421.



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.