Consciousness and the Electronic Mind

Consciousness and the Electronic Mind

Dr. Noa Gedi


Course no. 1662.2507.01

2018-9 Fall semester

3 credits

Mondays and Wednesdays, 14:15-15:45, Rosenberg 002

Office hours: Gilman, r. 489, Mon. & Wed. by appointment


Course Description

Consciousness has always been considered by most people the most significant feature of what it means to be human, or in other words, what distinguishes us most notably from other life forms. At the same time, however, consciousness remains a mystery no less great than that of the universe at large. This is why it has been a major concern of scientists and theoreticians in various fields of knowledge, particularly in philosophy, but also in psychology and in cognitive science, and more recently in AI (artificial intelligence) research. The course will grapple with questions concerning the nature of consciousness in metaphysics and philosophy of mind, and examine the challenges to the cognitive autonomy and the subjective character of experience against advances in neuroscience and the possibility of engineering artificial consciousness.



Mid-term (20%) which will consist of in-class presentation according to pre-given instructions using PPT (mandatory) and other audio-visual materials (optional) + Take-home exam (80%) which will be uploaded to Moodle on the specified dates.



15.10.18 This Thing Called Consciousness: Science or Fiction?

17.10.18 Brief history: The Mind in Greek and Christian Philosophy

  • Required reading: Huby [7], O’Connor [11], Tranøy [17]

22.10.18 Modern Metaphysics: Descartes and the Mind-Body Problem

  • Required reading: Descartes [3]

24.10.18 The Mystery of Consciousness: Metaphysical Baggage?

  • Required reading: Rosenthal [11]

29.10.18 Privileged Access and Other Minds

  • Required reading: Rosenthal [13]

31.10.18 The Ghost in the Machine: Ryle’s Criticism of Dualism

  • Required reading: Ryle [14]

05.11.18 Forms of Reductionism: Physicalism and Behaviorism

  • Required reading: Jackson [8]

07.11.18 The Silent Pain of Super-Spartans

  • Required reading: Putnam [12]

12.11.18 Can We Do without What’s Within? (Internalism vs. Externalism)

  • Required reading: Farkas [5]

14.11.18 Nagel’s Bat: What’s it Like?

  • Required reading: Nagel [10]

19.11.18 The Hard Problem

  • Required reading: Chalmers [1]

21.11.18 Intelligent Machines: Turing and AI

  • Required reading: Copeland [2]

26.11.18 The Human and the Electronic Mind

  • Required reading: Searle [15]

28.11.18 The Brain Metaphor

  • Required reading: Gere [6]

03.12.18 Mid-term Presentations

  • Required reading: none

05.12.18 Mid-term Presentations

  • Required reading: none

10.12.18 Humans as Robots and Humanoid Robots

  • Required reading: Dennett [4]

12.12.18 Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea?

  • Required reading: Tallis [16]

17.12.18 Can there be a Science of Consciousness?

  • Required reading: Kaku [9]

19.12.18 Revision and Conclusions: Roundtable

This schedule is tentative and may change as the course progresses.



Attendance is mandatory. Students are permitted a maximum of three unexcused absences without penalty. Any additional absences will affect the final grade and may result in failure of the course.


Academic conduct

Plagiarism is taken extremely seriously. Any instance of academic misconduct which includes: submitting someone else’s work as your own; failure to accurately cite sources; taking words from another source without using quotation marks; submission of work for which you have previously received credit; working in a group for individual assignments; using unauthorized materials in an exam and sharing your work with other students, will result in failure of the assignment and will likely lead to further disciplinary measures.


Additional requirements

Students are requested to keep all electronic devices turned off or dormant in class.



  1. Chalmers, D. “The Problem of Consciousness.” Journal of Consciousness Studies, no. 2, 1995, pp. 200–19.
  2. Copeland, Jack. “Are we computers?” Artificial Intelligence: A Philosophical Introduction, Blackwell, 1993, pp. 180-206.
  3. Descartes, Rene. “Selections from Meditations on First Philosophy.” The Nature of Mind, edited by D. Rosenthal, Oxford University Press, 1991, pp. 21-29.
  4. Dennett, C. Daniel. “Consciousness in Human and Robot Minds.” Cognition, Computation, and Consciousness, edited by Ito Masao, Miyashita Yasushi, Rolls Edmund, Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 17-22.
  5. Farkas, Katalin. “What is Externalism?” Philosophical Studies, vol. 112, no 3, pp. 187-208.
  6. Gere, Charlie. “Brains-in-vats, Giant Brains, and World brains: The Brain as Metaphor in Digital Culture.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, no. 35, 2004, pp. 362-66.
  7. Huby, M. Pamela. “Socrates and Plato.” A Critical History of Western Philosophy, edited by D. J. O’Connor, The Free Press, 1985, pp. 22-24.
  8. Jackson, Frank. “What Mary Didn’t Know.” The Nature of Mind, edited by D. Rosenthal, Oxford University Press, 1991, pp. 392-394.
  9. Kaku, Michio, “The Artificial Mind and Silicone Consciousness.” The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind, Penguin Random House, 2014, pp. 214-149.
  10. Nagel, Thomas. “What is it like to be a bat?” Philosophical Review, no. 83, 1974, pp. 435–456.
  11. O’Connor, J. D. “Aristotle,” A Critical History of Western Philosophy, The Free Press, 1985, pp. 52-54.
  12. Putnam, Hillary. “Brains and Behaviour.” The Nature of Mind, edited by D. Rosenthal, Oxford University Press, 1991, pp. 151-159.
  13. Rosenthal M. David. “Introduction.” The Nature of the Mind. Oxford University Press, 1991, pp. 15-20.
    1. “Two Concepts of Consciousness.” Philosophical Studies, no. 49, 1986, pp. 329–59.
  14. Ryle, Gilbert. “Descartes’ Myth.” The Nature of Mind, edited by D. Rosenthal, Oxford University Press, 1991, pp. 51-57.
  15. Searle, R. John. “Is the Brain a Digital Computer?” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, vol. 64, no. 3, 1990, pp. 21-37.
    1. 1991. “Author’s Response” in The Nature of the Mind, 321-323.
  16. Tallis, Raymond. “What Consciousness Is Not.” The New Atlantis, no. 33, 2011, pp. 66-91.
  17. Tranøy, Knut. “Thomas Aquinas”, A Critical History of Western Philosophy, The Free Press, 1985, pp. 99-104.


Films and TV Series

  • “Be Right Back.” Black Mirror, created by Charlie Brooker, season 2, episode 1, Channel 4, 11 Feb. 2013,
  • “Being John Malkovich,” directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman, September 2, 1999.
  • “Blade Runner,” directed by Ridley Scott, 25 June, 1982.
  • Humans, created by Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley, series 1, episode 4, Channel 4, 5 July 2015.
  • “2001: A Space Odyssey,” directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick, April 2, 1968.
  • “Waking Life,” directed by Richard Linklater, January 23, 2001.



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