GEN ST 161
Small intensive seminar focusing on individuals and society taught during Early Fall Start led by faculty representing a wide spectrum of academic disciplines and interests. Offered: A.
What is consciousness? Where does it come from? Is it dependent on, independent of, or interdependent with physical reality? How do humans know what we know? Why do non-Western wisdom traditions and Western scientific perspectives disagree so completely in their ideas about how – and what – we know about consciousness? Do animals have consciousness? Do plants? What do dreams, intuition, creativity, near death experiences, and placebos tell us about the plasticity and range of consciousness? What can we learn about consciousness from the perspective, methods, and discoveries of modern science and contemplative practices? The study of consciousness raises far more questions than answers, but the questions have powerful implications for us all.
Student learning goals
1. To explore the emerging field of consciousness studies from psychological and scientific perspectives.
2. To appreciate the contributions of both the scientific method and contemplative practices to understanding consciousness, as well as their limitations.
3. To gain exposure to diverse, often contradictory ideas about consciousness and reality and increase your ability to think, write, and converse about these ideas.
4. To better understand your own beliefs about consciousness and reality and develop skills of self-reflection, introspection, and contemplation
General method of instruction
Lecture, discussion, group projects and presentations.
Open mind, curiosity, willingness to think deeply and to engage in class discussions.
Class assignments and grading
1. Mayer, E.L. (2007). Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind. NY: Bantam Books. 2. Sheldrake, R. (1999). Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home. NY: Three Rivers Press.
E Reserve: 1. Van de Castle, R.L. (1994). “Dreams: Portals between our inner and outer worlds.” In Our Dreaming Mind. NY: Ballantine Books (pp. 3-9_ 2. Van de Castle, R.L. (1994). “Dreams that have changed the world.” In Our Dreaming Mind. NY: Ballantine Books (pp. 10-42).
Films and videos(in class) Waking Life Wisdom of the Wild The Extended Mind
Grading Daily writing Assignments; small group project; final exam; final reflective essay.
1. Study Questions: Written responses to questions drawn from the texts will help you to read carefully and critically. 1 page for each assigned chapter. Hard-copies only (do not email). Must be typed, 12 point font, double spaced. No late or handwritten papers accepted. Due at the beginning of each class period.
2. 1 Final Exam (in class).
3. Final Essay: 3 pages typed, double-spaced, 12 point font. This essay will integrate your thoughts about the material we read and discussed throughout the class. I want to know what you think and how you grew over the course of the course. The theme of the essay is up to you. You can include your own reflections, your reactions to classmates’ comments, and/or information from student projects. The important point is to think, reflect, wonder, and then write. Due last day of class.
4. Discussion/Contribution: Your reading should prepare you to contribute thoughtfully to a stimulating, productive exchange of ideas. Please bring texts to class and come prepared to discuss specific questions, problems, and/or ideas that were raised by the readings.
5. Small Group Project and Presentations: Working with members of your small group (to be assigned in class), explore an aspect of consciousness that we haven’t discussed at all – or fully – in class. Each group will choose a theme and present a 50-minute class session around that theme during the last week of the class. Each group must also prepare a one-page handout summarizing the presentation (to be distributed to the class) that describes each member’s contribution. Be scholarly but feel free to play and be creative.