COGSCI 190 | Expanding a Science of Consciousness

2021 Fall | Tues 3-6 pm | COURSE #31025 | UNITS: 3

David Presti & Patricia Kubala

All we know comes to us via our consciousness — experience or awareness of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. However, it is a deep mystery as to how physical processes of our brain and body relate to the subjective experience of mind.

In this course, we — an anthropology PhD student and a professor of neurobiology and psychology — invite students to embark on an investigation of consciousness that explores territory beyond the metaphysical framework of physicalism (or materialism) that currently dominates contemporary science.

This framework holds that consciousness necessarily must be completely reducible or explicable in terms of local material processes in the brain and body. However, it is our opinion that for investigation of the mind-body relation to reach a place of truly expanded insight, revolutionary new developments in our scientific and epistemological approaches are required.

To that end, we explore spaces of inquiry that take seriously occurrences that sit at or beyond the limits of explicability within contemporary science.

In addition, we reflect on how, in the modern West, we arrived at this narrow materialist understanding of consciousness. We turn to different religious and epistemological traditions and decolonial formulations of consciousness put forth by writers and activists, to help us shift and expand our perspective beyond the limits of the materialist framework.

We also ask: How do particular ways of using language constrain or shape our understanding of consciousness? And what forms of speech and writing might help us think about consciousness beyond the narrow limits imposed by materialism?

This is an advanced intensive writing seminar. Students will be asked to complete various writing assignments throughout the semester along with the required readings.