In a previous post I mentioned that I will moderate a humanist meeting on consciousness. This post contains some further information on that for participants, and whoever else might find it relevant.
Here are some of the questions I will raise:
- What are pertinent questions to ask about consciousness?
- What are the functions of human consciousness?
- What are qualia and why are they unimportant?
- What are some of the types of mental processes humans evince while they pay attention, think and/or feel?
I will avoid the thorny question, “What is consciousness?”, and simply use consciousness as shorthand for the executive suite of the human brain, comprising the functions that manage its processing of information. This is Merlin Donald’s view of consciousness.
Rather than work from a single text, participants can choose from several sources from cognitive science, such as:
- A systems approach to consciousness (how to avoid talking nonsense?)
- Phenomenal and Access Consciousness and the “Hard” Problem: A View from the Designer Stance (Aaron Sloman)
- Consciousness as Social Perception. (Brain Science Podcast #108, with Ginger Campbell interviews Michael Graziano, author of Consciousness and the Social Brain.. This author claims his ideas are quite original, and that he has solved major problems others have addressed. Starts off with grandiose claims then settles into epistemic humility that is more becoming of a scientist. Still, well worth listening to.
- Week 6. “What is consciousness?” of the free course: Philosophy and the Sciences by University of Eidnburgh, Coursera There are some significant claims I disagree with here, but it helps to be aware of them.
- Wikipedia on Consciousness
- My posts on consciousness
- My review Shanahan’s noteworthy book on consciousness. You can skip all the stuff about Wittgenstein in Shanahan’s book and elsewhere.
Books on consciousness
The main resource of our humanist meeting, however, will be:
- Donald, M. (2001). A mind so rare: The evolution of human consciousness. W. W. Norton & Company.
Oldies but goodies:
- Baars, B. J. (1988). A cognitive theory of consciousness. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Baars, B. J. (1997). In the theater of consciousness: The workspace of the mind. Oxford University Press on Demand. (Short, highly readable book.)
Dennett, D. C. (1992). Consciousness explained. Back Bay Books. (Not my first pick. But entertaining, has some insights, and often quoted.)
Stay tuned to this part of the CogZest blog for more information.