Full course description
Consciousness, conscious experiences and perceptions were the most important subjects of nineteenth-century psychology. With the advent of behaviourism, consciousness disappeared from the psychological agenda. Consciousness has only returned to the cognitive and neurosciences in recent decades. Today, consciousness is again regarded as one of the most important aspects of mental life. In this course students will look at both the material basis and role played by consciousness in mental life, as well as the philosophical problems relating to the relationship between conscious experiences and the processes that form the material carriers of these conscious processes. Important questions and subjects are: What is consciousness? Which philosophical problems relate to consciousness? Are there neurophysiological correlates of consciousness? Does consciousness form a unit or do split-brain patients have two separate minds or ‘consciousnesses’? Can criteria be used to establish whether or not someone is conscious? This is a problem that is of practical importance to the question whether or not we disconnect patients or relatives in a coma or vegetative state from the equipment that is keeping them alive. However, more technical problems will be discussed too, such as: What is the relationship between attention and consciousness? Does introspection give us access to the content and processes of our consciousness? Are there important forms of mental processes, such as thinking and reasoning, which are unconscious? What do dissociative phenomena tell us about the unconscious? Is consciousness even possible without attention? Special conscious states such as dreaming and the various theories about dreams will also be discussed, as well as the research by Libet into the neurophysiological correlates of free will and criticisms to it.
Students are able:
- to understand that it is difficult to find a definition of consciousness;
- to retrieve the neural correlates of consciousness;
- to understand the difference between hard and easy problem of consciousness;
- to contrast attention and awareness;
- to compare phenomenal and psychological consciousness as proposed by the philosopher Chalmers;
- to differentiate between the different paradigms in consciousness research;
- to explain the unity of consciousness and its associated disorders of consciousness;
- to discuss the role of free will in moral responsibility.