This course is concerned with the following question: can we make sense of the idea that consciousness is part of the natural world?
In philosophy, such questions are often approached by thought experiments that are meant to test our intuitions. Consider, for example, the following scenario. You are brought up in a black and white room, but learn everything that science can tell us about the way the brain processes colour. Suppose, now, that one day you are released into the real, coloured world. Would you already know what it is like to have conscious experiences of colour? Many people have the intuition that you wouldn’t, that you learn something new when you actually have the experience. Does this mean that science cannot tell us everything there is to know about consciousness? And if it doesn’t, does that mean that conscious phenomena inhabit a world outside the reach of science? Or, should we just bite the bullet and deny our original intuitions? Perhaps, instead, we can have our cake and eat it, allow that consciousness is part of the natural world even though science can’t reveal everything about it?That is a sample of the kinds of questions we will be exploring in the module. They are among the hardest and most topical that philosophers, together with brain scientists and psychologists address. You may not have settled on a definitive set of answers by the end of the course, but you will certainly gain a better understanding of how to approach them, and why they are so intriguing, and hard.
Timing and CATS
This module runs in the Spring Term and is worth 15 CATS.