Monday, April 2, 2018

2:00 - 6:00 pm

Philosophical Theories of Consciousness




Rocco J. Gennaro, PhD                

University of Southern Indiana      


Summary:  This workshop will begin with an explanation of the general problem of consciousness and various senses of the term ‘conscious.’  Various traditional philosophical theories of consciousness are then introduced largely under the umbrella of the metaphysical distinction between dualism and materialism (or, more broadly, physicalism).  For example, we will critically examine such dualist views as substance dualism, property dualism, and epiphenomenalism.  On the physicalist side, we will critically examine identity theory, eliminative materialism, and functionalism.  We will also discuss global workspace theory, multiple drafts theory, attended intermediate level theory, and sensorimotor theory, which are also broadly functionalist-physicalist theories themselves.  Nondualist, but non-standard, physicalist views are also addressed, including panpsychism, emergentism, quantum approaches (such as Orch OR), and dual aspect theory.  Finally, various versions of representationalism are presented, such as first-order representationalism (FOR), higher-order thought (HOT) theory, and self-representationalism.  Some questions to be addressed are: What are the main arguments for, and objections to, the major physicalist and dualist views?  What is the main reason for exploring alternatives such as panpsychism and quantum theories?  What is the difference between a first-order representation and a higher-order (or meta-) representation?  What makes a mental state a conscious mental state?  Can any of the physicalist theories offer a viable reductionist account of consciousness?  Are any of them able to solve the “hard problem” of consciousness?  How does holding a dualist position help?  Strengths and weaknesses of each theory are emphasized.  Authors to be discussed include R. Descartes, G.W. Leibniz, Bertrand Russell, David Chalmers, David Rosenthal, William Lycan, Michael Tye, William Robinson, Patricia and Paul Churchland, Bernie Baars, Frank Jackson, Thomas Nagel, Ned Block, Daniel Dennett, Jesse Prinz, Kevin O’Regan, Colin McGinn, Hilary Putnam, Galen Strawson, R. Penrose & S. Hameroff, Uriah Kriegel, and others.


Workshop Outline:

Introduction/Terminology; Different Senses of ‘Conscious’ (approx. 10 minutes)

Dualist Theories of Consciousness:  substance dualism, property dualism, and epiphenomenalism (30 mins.)

Physicalist Theories:  identity theory, eliminative materialism, functionalism, neural theories (35 mins)

Global workspace theory, integrated information theory, multiple drafts theory, attended intermediate level theory, and sensorimotor theory (40 mins)

Break (10-15 minutes)

Idealism, panpsychism, emergentism, and quantum approaches (35 mins)

First-order representationalism; higher-order thought (HOT) and higher-order perception (HOP) theory (35 mins)

Self-representational and hybrid representational theories (25 mins)

Conclusions; future directions (5 mins.)


Dr. Rocco J. Gennaro is the Philosophy Department Chairperson and Professor of Philosophy at The University of Southern Indiana in Evansville.  He received his Ph.D. in 1991 at Syracuse University and had been at Indiana State University in Terre Haute for fourteen years before moving to the University of Southern Indiana in 2009.  Dr. Gennaro's primary research and teaching interests are in Philosophy of Mind/Cognitive Science (especially consciousness), Metaphysics, Early Modern History of Philosophy, and Applied Ethics.  He is also the Philosophy of Mind/Cognitive Science area editor for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  He has published 10 books (as either sole author or editor) and over fifty articles and book chapters in these areas.  Dr. Gennaro has most recently authored Consciousness (Routledge, 2017) and The Consciousness Paradox: Consciousness, Concepts, and Higher-Order Thoughts (MIT Press, 2012).  He also edited Disturbed Consciousness: New Essays on Psychopathologies and Theories of Consciousness (MIT Press, 2015) and is currently editing The Routledge Handbook of Consciousness (forthcoming 2018).