Course on Consciousness

Next spring, I’m teaching a cross-listed upper undergraduate/graduate course on consciousness for the first time.  I’d like to strike a good balance between philosophical and scientific readings.  Does anyone have suggestions as to what is a must-read in the huge literature on consciousness?  From an informal survey, it seems to me …

Stereo Sue

Oliver Sacks writes about Sue, who (through vision therapy) recovered stereoscopic vision (STEREO SUE., Sacks, Oliver, New Yorker, 0028792X, 6/19/2006, Vol. 82, Issue 18). She had lost it when she was very young, and then recovered it through intensive vision therapy. She was (is) completely thrilled by this. Sacks writes, …

How Fruitful is This Debate?

In a recent post, I noticed that the debate over representationalism about consciousness is often conducted by discussing putative counterexamples, i.e., experiences that some philosophers find to be intuitively different even though according to some representationalist theories, they have the same representational content.  These examples are usually met by representationalists who …

A Dilemma for Representationalism

(Strong, Reductive) Representationalism about phenomenal consciousness is, roughly, the view that the phenomenal properties of experience can be explained by a combination of representational and functional properties.The literature is full of putative counterexamples to representationalism (e.g., examples of putatively different experiences that represent the same thing, or examples of experiences …

Swampman

Swampman is a (imaginary) physical duplicate of Donald Davidson created by a freak accident by a lighning bolt hitting a swamp. Questions: do swampman’s parts (e.g., the parts shaped like a heart, liver, brain, etc.) have functions? Does swampman have intentional states? Does he have qualia? These questions have been …

Alleged Counterexample to Representationalism

Bernhard Nickel, “Against Intentionalism,” forthcoming in Philosophical Studies.Today, at the NEH seminar in Mind and Metaphysics, we discussed Nickel’s forthcoming paper. Nickel proposes a counterexample to representationalism, i.e., the view that the phenomenal aspects of experience are represented features of what is represented by the experience.The counterexample is a tic-tac-toe …

Kirk Takes Zombies Back

Robert Kirk, Zombies and Consciousness, Oxford University Press, 2005.Kirk is famous for inventing phenomenal zombies–creatures physically indistinguishable from us but lacking consciousness–and for using their possibility to refute physicalism. (The undelying idea goes back to Descartes.) Kirk published his original papers on zombies in 1974. In recent years, David Chalmers …

My Talk at Tucson 2006

I’m in Tucson, AZ, at the conference Towards a Science of Consciousness 2006.There are a lot more people than I expected. It’s about as large as an APA meeting, I would say.I gave my talk yesterday, arguing that conceivability arguments like the zombie conceivability argument are unsound. The zombie conceivabity …

Why is the Hard Problem so Hard?

D. Stoljar, Ignorance and Imagination: On the Epistemic Origin of the Problem of Consciousness. New York: Oxford University Press (due out in May 2006).Why is it so hard to explain phenomenal consciousness in physical (i.e., naturalistic, scientific) terms? Why do many find it easy to imagine zombies and other putative …