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IDS 101: The Nature and Origins of Consciousness: Your Guide

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Colloquium Description

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We think of human beings as different from animals because we are conscious, thinking beings, possessing language, a sense of self, and free will. But where did consciousness come from, and how does it work? Many people have tackled these questions over the millennia, but some of the most intriguing ideas were presented by psychologist Julian Jaynes in the 1970’s: Jaynes described the development of consciousness as an almost cultural phenomenon, relating it to language, social hierarchies, brain structure, and the “voices of the gods.” His ideas are compelling and well-defended, but so outrageous that they are difficult to take seriously, leading to a wide variation in reactions to his work. Jaynes’ influence nevertheless continues to this day, for example as the basis for the development of “android consciousness” in the popular TV series Westworld. We will read Jaynes’ original book and several related articles, as well as some critical works attacking and supporting his ideas. We will also read a number of other authors to explore related topics in consciousness and the philosophy of mind; the origins of language and writing; brain hemisphere specialization (“left brain/right brain”); and academic controversy.

Source: College Colloquium Page

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