Philosophy 447 / Psychology 447 / Philosophy 673

Seminar in Cognitive Science: Consciousness

Fall, 2013

Professor: Paul Thagard

Office hours (HH368): TTh 10:30-11:30, and by appointment.

Email: Phone: extension 33594.

Web page:

Time: TTh, 9:00 - 10:30, HH 334

Textbook: Susan Blackmore, Consciousness: An Introduction, SECOND EDITION, Oxford, 2012.

Assignments: Marks will be based on:

Description: This course is an interdisciplinary seminar, combining ideas from philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and computer science. It's focus this year will be on the study of consciousness, especially on the nature and plausibility of the explanations that are being developed in fields such as psychology, artificial intelligence and cognitive neuroscience.


 Week  Dates  Topic Blackmore Section
 1 Sept. 10-12 Introduction Introduction
 2  Sept. 17-19 The Problem One
 3  Sept. 24-26 The World Two
 4 Oct. 1-3 The Self  Three
 5  Oct. 8-10 The Brain Four
 6  Oct. 15-17 Evolution Five
 7 Oct. 22-24 Machines Six
 8  Oct. 29-31 Unconscious Seven
 9  Nov. 5-7 Altered states Eight
 10 Nov. 12-14

First person,

semantic pointers

Nine, Thagard & Stewart

11 Nov.19-21 Emotions, student reports

Thagard & Schröder

12 Nov. 26-28 Student reports  

Student report schedule (10 minutes presentations + 2 minutes discussion:

Nov. 21: Arthur, Ayo, Cristina, Emily, Lauren, Mehrdad

Nov. 26: Ashley, Dena, Eric, Jody, Nicholas, Ramesh

Nov. 28: Dylon, Geoff, Konrad, Sandra, Sharon

Instructions for writing commentaries:

For each class in weeks 2-11, hand in at the BEGINNING of the class a short commentary, maximum 100 words, on the claim, hypothesis, or issue that you found most interesting in the reading. Your commentary should identify the claim that interests you and the strongest evidence for and against it. The purpose of these commentaries is to ensure that everyone comes to class prepared for discussion. Discussion questions will be available here the afternoon before the class. Each of Blackmore's sections has 3 chapters; your commentary for the Tuesday class should be based on the first 2 chapters, and the commentary for the Thursday class should be based on the third.

Cognitive Science resources.

From the Faculty of Arts:

All students registered in the courses of the Faculty of Arts are expected to know what constitutes an academic offense, to avoid committing academic offenses, and to take responsibility for their academic actions.  When the commission of an offense is established, disciplinary penalties will be imposed in accord with Policy #71 (Student Academic Discipline).  For information on categories of offenses and types of penalties, students are directed to consult the summary of Policy #71 (Student Academic Discipline) which is supplied in the Undergraduate Calendar.  If you need help in learning how to avoid offenses such as plagiarism, cheating, and double submission, or if you need clarification of aspects of the discipline policy, ask your course instructor for guidance.  Other resources regarding the discipline policy are your academic advisor and the Undergraduate Associate Dean.

Faculty of Arts information on plagiarism and other offences.

This class is a core course for the Cognitive Science Minor.

For graduate students, this course can count towards the Cognitive Science Graduate Diploma.

Lecture notes and discussion questions

Notes for week 1.

Notes for week 2.

Notes for week 3.

Notes for week 4.

Notes for week 5.

Notes for week 6, evolution.

Notes for week 7, machines.

Notes for week 8, unconscious.

Notes for week 9, altered states.

Notes for weeks 10-11.

Please do not use laptops and other electronic devices in class, for reasons given on my blog.


Paul Thagard

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

This page updated Nov. 13, 2013