Philosophy of Consciousness and Life
Lecturer(s): doc. dr. Vörös Sebastjan
The course investigates a topic that straddles philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, metaphysics, and epistemology. It investigates the origin, nature, and mutual interrelation between “life” and “consciousness” from philosophical (philosophy of mind, phenomenology), scientific perspective (biology, cognitive (neuro)science), and social (social and historical studies) perspectives. The course is explicitly transdisciplinary in nature, and draws on various philosophical traditions (analytic, Continental, and Asian).
The course consists of three interrelated parts:
(a) genesis and nature of consciousness
- short historical account of different approaches to the study of consciousness: analytic, phenomenological, and Asian (particularly Buddhist) traditions;
- different philosophical classifications and theories of consciousness;
- hard problem of consciousness (so-called problem of qualia);
- different methodological approaches to the study of consciousness: first-person (phenomenological) and third-person (scientific);
- attempts and problems of determining neurobiological correlates of consciousness;
- results and limitations of phenomenological inquiries into consciousness;
- results and limits of modern neuroscientific studies of consciousness based on the use of imaging techniques (fMRI, SPECT, etc.);
- neurological case studies of patients suffering from disorders of consciousness.
(b) genesis and nature of life
- short history of different conceptions of life from the Antiquity up until the present;
- conceptual, methodological, and empirical problems in determining the criteria of “aliveness”;
- past and present disputes between reductionist (mechanicist) and holist (systemic) approaches to the study of life;
- metaphysical and epistemological presuppositions of reductionist, organicist, and vitalist conceptions of life;
- concept of life against the horizon of evolutionary theory.
(c) relationship between life and consciousness
- crucial role of the study of consciousness and life in philosophy and science (conceptual, methodological, and empirical issues);
- short historical account of different theories about the nature of the relationship between life and consciousness (question of “primacy” or “co-determination”): analytic, objectivist, neo-Kantian, existential, and Buddhist perspectives;
- overview and criticism of “structural continuity between life, mind, and consciousness” theories;
- life and consciousness in the perspective of evolutionary theory;
- life and consciousness in the light of other philosophical issues (mind-body, realism-antirealism, emergence, etc.).