In this seminar we will discuss some of the philosophical problems that arise when we try to explain conscious experience. The readings will be chapters from a book manuscript I have been working on, tentatively titled “The Search for the Inner Light: Explanation and Objectivity in the Study of Consciousness”, plus other supplementary readings.
Following the book, the seminar will be divided into three parts. First, we will talk about the form that a mature scientific theory of consciousness might take, and what kinds of evidence and methods of epistemic evaluation there can be for theories like this. This will include discussion of some notorious (alleged) obstacles to knowledge of an explanatory theory, including the “hard problem” and the “methodological puzzle”. Second, we will look at the problem of measuring and describing the phenomenal properties of experience, including a detour into the history of psychophysics. Third, we will look at the scope and significance of consciousness. How far does it reach in the tree of life? What is it’s moral and epistemic significance? Which questions about consciousness have determinate answers?