Philosophy Course: Consciousness

Philosophy Course: Consciousness

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The study of consciousness remains one of the pre-eminent challenges of the 21st century. This philosophy course on consciousness will take an interdisciplinary approach, including recent work in philosophy of mind, neuroscience, sociobiology and medicine to assess the current state of knowledge on what consciousness is; how it functions to produce the reality of ourselves; and how it mediates our understanding of the world around us. We will also look at speculations about the impact of Quantum theory on theories of mind and the perceived unity of consciousness. One of the key differences between human consciousness and that of other animals is language. We will look at linguistic evolution and consciousness states of awareness: what do we know so far? We will take an Anthropological approach to this issue. We will also examine the pictorial brain and theories of how we see images in our mind. Lastly, we tackle creativity. What does it mean to be creative and what kinds of brain processes are involved. How much of creative thinking, problem solving, invention, and artistic innovation is done by the pre-conscious brain and how much requires conscious choice and selective awareness.

Learning Aims

This philosophy course on consciousness aims to:

  1. Give an in-depth introduction to the working of the human brain.
  2. Give an up to date analysis of what consciousness is.
  3. Discuss the implications of decision making processes performed by the unconscious brain.
  4. Understand the role of emotions in the workings of the brain.
  5. Give the student an understanding of their own consciousness.

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of this philosophy course on consciousness you will have:

  1. An introductory understanding of the neurosciences.
  2. An ability to understand the current situation on the issue of consciousness.
  3. The ability to discuss some of the philosophical issue concerning consciousness.
  4. Knowledge of how to research the topic further.

Course Content

This philosophy course on consciousness will cover the following topics surrounding consciousness:

What is Consciousness and how is it produced by the brain?

Introduction to the philosophical problem of consciousness, and to the state of the art in terms of current neurobiology and the implications of scientific brain theory on our understanding of our human mental capacities. Consciousness is considered by many to be an intrinsically dynamic phenomenon; it is best studied through dynamical systems theory and spatiotemporal patterns of brain activity. The perceived unity of consciousness.

Quantum theory, reality and consciousness.

Speculations about the impact of Quantum theory on theories of mind. The Feeling of Knowing is an essential aspect of our ability to learn and remember information and experiences; we would find it very difficult to operate in the world successfully without it. We will consider how it is produced in the brain and how reliable it is in terms of the correlation with external reality.

Consciousness from an Evolutionary point of view.

How does our awareness of our internal mental and emotional stated differ from other animals?

Consciousness from a Sociological and Psychological point of view.

Our awareness of being in love or being confused for example are complex emotional and intellectual states; how much does brain chemistry have to do with these states?

Defining consciousness as internal awareness: metacognition and consciousness.

The study of metacognition can shed light on some fundamental issues about consciousness and its role in behaviour, it concerns the process by which people self-reflect on their own cognition and memory processes.

Confabulation

Confabulation is the function of the mind which produces: illusions; falsification of memory; unintentional objectively false statements; and behaviourally spontaneous confabulations. The ‘normal’ brain produces confabulations in many situations: what does this tell us about our perception of reality. What is the aetiology and anatomy of confabulations in medical conditions such as: dementia, schizophrenia and altered states such as hypnosis?

Linguistic evolution and consciousness states of awareness: what do we know so far?

We will take an Anthropological approach to this issue. Narrative modes of consciousness. Much of our understanding of who we are and how the world operates comes from the stories that we absorb from society, but does society teach us to think in narrative ways or is narrative an essential structural element of the brain?

The pictorial brain

What is the relationship between visual representations of object and levels of awareness; how do we see images in the mind.

Creativity

What does it mean to be creative and what kinds of brain processes are involved? How much of creative thinking, problem solving, invention, and artistic innovation is done by the pre-conscious brain and how much requires conscious choice and selective awareness. We will look at the new research on this important aspect of human life.

Intended Audience

This philosophy course on consciousness is suitable for anyone interested in gaining insights into consciousness and the working of the human brain.

Delivery Style

This philosophy course will be delivered as an interactive workshop consisting of an instructor-led lecture, analysis of case studies and group discussions. This course strives to encourage active and informed participation, group analysis and debate of the facts, issues and insights into our changing world.

Course Prerequisites

This philosophy course has no prerequisites and is open to all members of the public.

Dr Kerry Sanders gained her PhD in philosophy at The University of Sydney and was recently awarded the title of Honorary Associate at the Department of Philosophy, The University of Sydney. She lectured at Sydney College of the Arts University of Sydney for 10 years, giving Hon and Masters Courses in the philosophy of aesthetics. Kerry has taught in the areas of Philosophy of Mind; Ethics; Critical Thinking; Political Philosophy; Contemporary Philosophy of Technology; Phenomenology; and the Philosophy of Music. She has a particular interest in the new developments in neurobiology which have significantly changed ideas about the nature of consciousness and the workings of the human mind. Kerry also participates in the Gifted Students Program, giving philosophy sessions to high school students who show an interest in a broad scope of ideas and wish to develop their thinking abilities through the challenge which philosophy gives. Kerry has also published a book of poetry.

Kerry’s Approach to Philosophy

Philosophy is a living practice which calls us to critique our own pre suppositions, and asks us to assess ideas in relation to our own lives and society. In engaging with the ideas of philosophy we both study philosophy but also do it. Philosophy can be thought of as engaging in an ‘adventure sport for the mind’, in which we can develop critical thinking techniques and learn to use the mind in new and exciting ways. The skills which are developed in the practice of philosophy are also relevant to many other areas of academic study, as well as in the complex living of our ordinary lives. Much of Western philosophy is based on the priority of reason and logic in human thought, however to fully understand the human condition we must also consider the role of experience, emotions and the body.

Other Academic functions

  • Supervision of Postgraduate Seminar Groups.
  • University Preparation Course in Philosophy 2000 – 2015.
  • Sydney College of the Arts University of Sydney.
  • Four years of Australian Postgraduate Research Award.
  • Vera Edith Thorpe Scholarship.
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