Phil/Psych 447, Phil 673

Seminar in Cognitive Science

Week 2: The Problem of Consciousness

Key Ideas

Monism vs. dualism.

Conscious vs. unconscious.

The "hard problem" and the "explanatory gap".

What is it like? Phenomenal consciousness. Qualia.

The zombie argument.

Functions of consciousness.

Chalmers Conceivability Argument

P = the conjunction of all microphysical truths about the universe.

Q = some phenomenal truth, e.g. that you are conscious.

(1) P & not-Q is conceivable.

(2) If P & not-Q is conceivable, P & not-Q is metaphysically possible.

(3) If P & not-Q is metaphysically, possible, materialism is false.

So (4), materialism is false.

Contrast: Patricia Churchland's Neurophilosophical Slant

Discussion Questions

1. What is the difference between conscious and unconscious thinking?

2. Is consciousness a legitimate topic for scientific discussion?

3. Is there really a hard problem of consciousness?

4. Could there be zombies?

5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of thinking consciously

6. Is consciousness a biological accident, or an evolved function?

7. Are conscious states effects, causes, or both?

Relevant recent papers

Thagard, P. (forthcoming). Creative intuition: How EUREKA results from three neural mechanisms. In L. M. Osbeck & B. S. Held (Eds.), Rational intuition: Philosophical roots, scientific investigations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Includes sketch of new neural theory of consciousness.

Thagard, P. (forthcoming). Thought experiments considered harmful. Perspectives on Science.

Thagard, P. (forthcoming). Explanatory identities and conceptual change. Unpublished manuscript, University of Waterloo.

Phil/Psych 447

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

Paul Thagard

This page updated Sept. 16, 2013