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Phenomenology meets the Neurosciences

Lecturer: Maurita Harney

Originally Taught: Summer School 2011

Recent developments in the neurosciences raise new questions for philosophers about mind, brain, and consciousness. They challenge long-held assumptions, many of them deriving from Descartes and his dualism of mind and body. In this course, we explore a ‘non-Cartesian’ approach to these topics, one which draws inspiration from the phenomenological philosophy of thinkers like Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty, and which is developed more fully in recent ‘embodiment’ philosophies. As part of this exploration, we draw on findings and insights from the neurosciences, ecology, evolutionary biology and ethology to see how they prompt new ways of thinking about traditional problems in the philosophy of mind and consciousness.

Topics include: (1) Introduction – philosophical understandings of ‘mind,’ ‘brain,’ ‘behaviour,’ and ‘consciousness’; the philosophical quest for a ‘science’ of mind. (2) the phenomenological standpoint: perception, knowledge and learning; the primacy of movement; (3) other minds; intersubjectivity, empathy; the explanatory potential of mirror neurons; (4) the biological bases of feeling and emotion; implications for concepts of reason, judgement, selfhood and agency; (5) consciousness – is there a problem? corporeal cognition in humans and other organisms.

The course is designed for a mixed-disciplinary audience. Most day-to-day reading for the course is internet-based, although a comprehensive bibliography will be issued giving further (optional) reading at both beginners’ and advanced levels.

Recommended Reading

Doidge, Norman, The Brain That Changes Itself, Scribe 2008.
Ramachandran, V.S., “The Emerging Mind”, BBC Reith Lectures 2003.

Gallagher, Shaun, and Zahavi, Dan, 2008, The phenomenological mind : an introduction to philosophy of mind and cognitive science. London, New York: Routledge, 2008

Thompson, Evan, “Empathy and Consciousness”

Damasio, Antonio R., Looking for Spinoza. Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. Harcourt, 2003