A Five-Unit Course on Theories of Consciousness What is consciousness? Why do we have it? What’s it for? This course is an attempt to survey the ways in which people have tried to answer these questions. It’s a journey through the most prominent theories of consciousness. The course won’t tell you what consciousness is, but it will (hopefully) give you a well-developed awareness of the theories and issues thrown up by the struggles of many, varied theories to answer this and related questions. Unit One will provide a brief overview of the main themes and some of the content of the following four units Unit Two starts with every-day ‘Folk Psychology’, passes through Descartes’ dualism, stops briefly at Modernism’s de-construction of Folk Psychology, encounters the ‘Hard Problem’ of consciousness and offers lightening visits to Behaviourism and ‘Eliminativist Materialism’. Unit Three looks at Reductionism, in terms of the philosophy of science, the legacy of Cartesian Dualism and the assumptions of classical physics. It presents Reductionism’s efforts to tackle consciousness and the objections raised against this, including thought experiments such as Dennett’s ‘Cartesian Theatre’, ‘Churchland’s Apple’ and Searle’s ‘Chinese Room’. Unit Four visits the Cognitive Revolution, including the ‘computational theory of the mind’, with the brain as hardware and the mind as software, and the rise of ‘Functionalism’, i.e. the idea that the mind is generated from the brain via its digital information processing, thus making the biological tissues of the brain irrelevant to mind and consciousness. Unit Three next stops briefly at the Chomsky/Skinner controversy about language and takes a quick look at ‘Embodied’ theories of the mind, including Lakoff & Johnson on the role of metaphors, Gibbon’s ecological ‘affordances’ and Maturana & Varela’s ‘Santiago Hypothesis’.  Unit Five is a broad survey of where we are now, with Classical Cognitivism still the predominant paradigm regarding mind & consciousness, but now keenly challenged by a whole range of theories based in both biology & physics: we look at Crick & Koch’s 40 Herz thesis, Humphrey’s ‘privatisation of sensory experience’, Hofstadter’s ‘strange loop’ theory, Penrose & Hammerhoff’s quantum approach and finishes up with the rediscovery of the emotional brain.   Each unit will be presented with the aid of a slide presentations and will offer time for discussion both during and after the presentation. The entire content of the course is available in the form of multiple, audio-visual clips (totalling about four and a half hours) on the following website: http://consciousnesstheories-minett.com/

The course will take place at: The North London Buddhist Centre, 72 Holloway Road, London, N7 8JG,

 

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