Philosophy 3

Summer 2016 1st 6wks

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
3 The Nature of Mind Kerr MTuWTh 10-12 209 Dwinelle

What is it like to be a roomba, humming across the floor? Nothing. Of course, the little vacuum cleaner detects things—walls, for example. And it reacts accordingly—by turning, for example. This is, to be sure, a cute dance. But there is nothing it is like to be the dancer. The roomba doesn’t, for example, feel itself bump against the wall, or see itself turn away from it. (Go ahead and try to put yourself in the roomba’s shoes—try to imagine what it is like to be the roomba. There is nothing there to be imagined.)

What is it like to be you? Here there is more to say. Of course, like the roomba, you detect things and react accordingly. But, unlike the roomba, you also experience what’s around—you see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. What’s more, you have a rich inner life, full of thoughts, moods, and bodily sensations. You are, in short, conscious. The roomba is not.

This difference between conscious and unconscious things seems deep and important. But how does it arise? What exactly is it about you that makes you conscious? And what’s missing in unconscious things, like the roomba?

In this course, you will grapple with these and related questions about consciousness, and learn about philosophical (and some scientific) attempts to answer them. Along the way, you will learn how to read and write philosophy. This is an introductory course, with no prerequisites.