Consciousness and Its Implications
(12 lectures, 30 minutes/lecture)
Course No. 4168
Taught by Daniel N. Robinson
Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University; Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Georgetown University
Ph.D., City University of New York
It's as essential to human existence as water is to a fish, and yet every night we surrender it gratefully. As human beings, we recognize that we have it, but we can never be sure anyone else does. It has been the subject of debate for philosophers and scientists for millennia, but we've yet to pin down or even understand its true essence and purpose.
It's consciousness, and if you think you grasp the nuances of this unique mental state, then take a moment to consider ... the zombie.
Most of us are familiar with this wretched star of B-grade horror films: a once-human creature dead but not truly dead. In its state of suspended life, it performs many of the tasks we do every day. It can move, it can carry things, it finds its way around. In some movies, it even seems motivated by a purpose—the inexorable quest for living flesh.
But can we say, therefore, that a zombie has consciousness? Does a zombie feel empathy? Is it aware of its existence? Can it judge its behavior according to a moral or ethical standard? Of course not, we are inclined to answer.
And yet—how can we judge whether or not a zombie has these experiences—feelings we usually interpret as elements of consciousness? If a zombie acts like a conscious human being—if it performs the kinds of functions we perform in our daily lives—do we have any ground for denying it a consciousness very much like our own?
Join distinguished philosopher and psychologist Daniel N. Robinson as we explore these and other fascinating questions that get to the heart of human identity in Consciousness and Its Implications. Over the course of 12 thought-provoking lectures, you'll probe the depths of this mysterious mental state from the perspective of the philosopher, the psychologist, the scientist, and the doctor.