Consciousness Foundations ANU

The Science of Consciousness, Liz Irvine, ANU 2014
This course will be taught Pittsburgh HPS style. It will be both bracing and fun.
You may find the assigned readings hard, particularly if you have little experience in reading scientific
work, but try to at least get a general feel for the arguments and claims. I will spend some time each
class explained the relevant terminology/methods etc.
1) To discuss some basics of philosophy of psychology, philosophy of cognitive science, philosophy
of neuroscience, philosophy of science, and philosophy of mind, via the common theme of
consciousness science.
2) To get a bit more familiar with reading scientific texts and making philosophical headway out of
them. A fair proportion of our readings will not be by philosophers, and sometimes we will do
experiments in class.
Schedule and Readings:
1) Operationism: A dirty word?
Feest, U. (2005). Operationism in psychology: What the debate is about, what the debate should be
about. Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences, 41, 131-149.
(You don’t need to read the bits I’ve crossed out).
Background info here:
Lecture: Recap on phenomenal/access consciousness etc.
Questions: What do you need to do methodologically in psychology to do a science of X (where X can
include consciousness)? Are there things you just can’t operationalise? Are we stuck with only the ‘easy
problems’, ‘access consciousness’? Is this because of the method of operationalisation, or because of
something else? Is there anything we can learn about the concept of consciousness via the process of
operationalisation and the methodologies that go along with it? How would you study consciousness?
2) Measures, methods, and (first person) data
Ramsøy, T. Z. and Overgaard, M. (2004). Introspection and subliminal perception. Phenomenology and
the Cognitive Sciences, 3, 1-23.
(Feel free to skip the section on ‘Subliminal perception in brain injury’ and the ‘Results’ section).
Dennett, D. (2003). Who’s on first? Heterophenomenology explained. Journal of Consciousness Studies,
10, 19-30.
(At a bare but acceptable minimum, read the first 3 pages).
Lecture: Some early worries about introspection from behaviourists, worries on privacy and infallibility,
Piccinini and Dennett on heterophenomenology
Questions: How can you use first person data in cognitive science? Could you use it to come up with
scientific measures of consciousness? Is ‘first person’ data so different from other forms of scientific
data? How?
3) Objective measures (of what?)
Irvine, E. (2013). Measures of consciousness. Philosophy Compass, 8, 285-297.
(Read Sections 1-2).
Lau, H. Are we measuring consciousness yet?
(In general a great paper, but focus on Section 4).
Lecture: the basics of Signal Detection Theory and why it matters (sh/sh exp.), problems with
dissociation methods
Questions: What are the two basic options for measuring the presence/absence of consciousness? What
might different methods of measurement actually measure? How might a science of consciousness
move forward from this? How would you identify the ‘real’ split between different types of
4) Contents of consciousness: Rich, sparse, or just plain weird?
Kouider, S., de Gardelle, V., Sackur, J., and Dupoux, E. (2010). How rich is consciousness? The partial
awareness hypothesis. Trends in Cognitive Science, 14, 301-307.
Lecture: (videos/experiments! Sperling, CB, IB), quick review of theories of content, phenomenal/access
Questions: Is there any sense in talking about phenomenal but not accessed content? How does/should
empirical work interact with theories of conscious content? Should we expect a clear mapping between
streams of visual processing and visual experience?
5) Neural correlates of consciousness and convergence
Show and tell: Find a paper that claims to be about consciousness that involves EEG or fMRI work. What
neural correlates of consciousness did they find? Figure out what the task is that subjects had to do,
how their success at the task was measured (e.g. subjective or objective measures, percentage of tasks
successfully completed), and how the data was analysed. Also have a think about how this is presented
in the paper – is this information easy to find?
Lecture: Convergence and neuroscientific methods (from Seth et al., Sullivan, Hohwy)
Questions: How different are the operationalisations, measurements and data analyses used in
consciousness science? Does this strike you as particularly problematic? Is everyone researching
consciousness, but in different ways, or perhaps looking at different aspects of it? Or are they
researching different phenomena altogether? What kind of results might a compare/contrast or
convergence approach give you?
6) How to eliminate things and (maybe) get away with it
Griffiths, P. (2004). Emotions as natural and normative kinds. Philosophy of Science, 71, 901-911.
(Read sections 1-3).
Lecture: Kinds of natural kinds, role of concepts in scientific research
Questions: What exactly does scientific eliminativism amount to? What does it mean, and not mean, to
eliminate a concept from scientific language and research? What impact would it have on associated
philosophical work? Is ‘consciousness’ a respectable scientific kind? Is it now? Is it likely to be in the