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Consciousness - PHI00037M

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Paul Noordhof
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2020-21

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

  • Students should be able to display an in depth and systematic understanding of philosophical issues surrounding consciousness, with a grasp of the forefront of current research in the area, providing a solid grounding for further independent research on related topics.
  • In particular, Students should be able to demonstrate the ability to analyse and discuss the following issues
  1. Physicalism: reductive and non-reductive
  2. Knowledge argument against physicalism
  3. The explanatory gap between mind and brain
  4. Modal arguments against physicalism
  5. The role that ignorance and/or our cognitive limitations play in giving rise to the problem of phenomenal consciousness
  6. Eliminativism about consciousness
  7. Functionalism and Qualia
  8. Higher Order Thought and Availability for Higher Order Thought theories of consciousness
  9. Reflexive accounts of consciousness
  10. Representationalism and Externalism about phenomenal properties


Academic and graduate skills

  • Students should be able to analyse complex areas of knowledge, displaying critical awareness; synthesise information and ideas from a variety of sources at the forefront of the discipline; evaluate research critically; and show originality in the discussion and application of ideas from the philosophical literature in developing their own arguments.
  • Students should show the ability to work autonomously and self critically on an extended essay that goes beyond the core framework that is provided in lectures and seminars.

Module 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.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay - 4000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative work: 1-page essay plan on A4, 11 point, to be submitted at the end of Week 8.

Summative work: 4,000-word essay due on Monday, Week 2 of Summer Term.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay - 4000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will meet their module tutor in week 10 to discuss their essay plan in person.

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

Indicative reading

Introductory text:

David J. Chalmers (2002), ‘Consciousness and its Place in Nature’ David J. Chalmers (2010), The Character of Consciousness, pp. 103-139.

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.