Summer 2003

SCIE 686
Neuroscience and the Philosophy of Consciousness


06/23/2003 - 08/05/2003
Tuesday & Thursday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Public Affairs Center 421

In many respects the history of western thought can be understood as an elaboration of the ways in which the mind might be critically different from the body. With the advent of modern neuroscience, however, the mind-body schism has been re-evaluated in light of the "astonishing hypothesis" that the richness of our interior life, our sensory impressions, our acts and decisions, our logic and love, are all traceable to the activity of neurons and their functional ensembles.

Does this interior richness, the consciousness seemingly so constitutive of humanity, possess a solely material base? Can consciousness be adequately explained from an evolutionary perspective? Is consciousness restricted to the human sphere or do other species also possess it? How artificial is intelligence: can it be replicated in machines in a way that produces an intelligence that is also conscious? How dependent is consciousness on culture and our interactions with others? We shall begin our interdisciplinary look at such themes with an introduction to some important concepts in neurophysiology and neuro-anatomy, after which we will consider works by philosophers, neuro-scientists, "neuro-philosophers" and, for good measure at the very end of the course, some poets.

Reading includes: Exploring Consciousness, Rita Carter; Memory's Ghost, P.J. Hilts; The Phaedrus, Plato; De Anima, Aristotle; Meditations, Decartes; The Professor and the Mermaid, Giuseppe di Lampedusa. Additional reading will be in the form of journal articles, essays, and book chapters by Francis Crick, John Searle, Daniel Povinelli, George Gallup, Nikos Logothetis, Martin Heidegger, Arthur Schopenhauer, Benjamin Libet, Michael Gazzaniga, Peggy Gott, Michael Siegal and poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dylan Thomas, and Wallace Stevens. Requirements for the course include class participation, 2 papers (7-8 pages each) and one class presentation. No background in neurobiology is expected.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

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