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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Courses This Fall

I am teaching two seminars this fall. Here are the course descriptions:

Introspection (graduate level)
Conducted this fall by Dr. Berit Brogaard
brogaardb@gmail.com

There is little doubt that we undergo conscious experiences. There is also little doubt that we often describe our conscious experiences. For example, I might convey to you the content of my current visual experience or the character of my pain sensation or the level of detail of my visual image. Whether or not we can describe inner experience, and can do so reliably is an important question. Various kinds of scientific research depend on the possibility and reliability of these types of report. But is it actually possible to describe inner experience? And if it is possible, can introspective reports serve as reliable evidence in scientific studies? This course addresses these and related questions about introspective reports through a study of the Method of Descriptive Experience Sampling, a method developed by psychologist Russ Hurlburt. The method was critically discussed and tested in a series of studies conducted by Russ Hurlburt in collaboration with philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel in 2003. The results of these experiments and Schwitzgebel and Hurlburt's conversations were published as the book Describing Inner Experience (MIT, 2007). The book will serve as the main textbook for this course. Upon completion of the book we will read William Lyons' The Disappearance of Introspection and Hurlburt's Sampling Inner Experience in Disturbed Affect. We will furthermore discuss selected sections of David Dunning's Self-Insight and Tim Wilson's Strangers to Ourselves. The first three books must be purchased on eBay or Amazon, or at the University bookstore. The last two books can be acquired through inter-library loans. The class will meet for approx. 2 hours every Monday from September - November. No prerequisites are required, though some general background in philosophy, psychology, cognitive science or related fields of study is recommended.


The Nature of the Unconscious (graduate level and upper-level undergraduate, cross-listed)
Conducted this fall by Dr. Berit Brogaard
brogaardb@gmail.com

While Freud was responsible for popularizing the notion of the unconscious, the notion of an unconscious mental state was not given any serious attention in modern-day scientific circles until around the 1970s. The notion then emerged independently of the Freudian tradition in cognitive psychology. In cognitive psychology the notion of an unconscious mental state first seriously entered the picture as a result of studies of amnesiacs. While amnesiacs cannot remember words they have just read, they nonetheless are able to do as well as normal people on cognitive tests that do not require short-term memory. Daniel Schacter, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, introduced the notion of 'unconscious memory' or what he called 'implicit memory'. Implicit memory is the effect of a past event on a person's current experience, thought, and action in the absence of, or independently of, conscious memory (Schacter 1987). Implicit memory involves implicit episodic knowledge, that is, implicit knowledge of a specific event, as opposed to procedural knowledge. If you have ever been so drunk that you couldn't remember how you ended up in fetal position on the couch, what you were missing was explicit episodic knowledge but you may still have had implicit episodic knowledge. Even if you cannot explicitly remember what you did last night, your implicit memories of what you did last night may still guide your current actions. Your brain knows what you did and is out for revenge. Readings for the course include: The Hidden Brain (http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Brain-Unconscious-Presidents-Control/dp/0385525214), The New Unconscious (http://www.amazon.com/Unconscious-Oxford-Social-Cognition-Neuroscience/dp/0195149955), and selected readings from The Freud Reader (http://www.amazon.com/Freud-Reader-Sigmund/dp/0393314030). The class will meet for approx. 2 hours every Monday from September - November. No prerequisites are required, though some general background in philosophy, psychology, cognitive science or related fields of study is recommended.

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