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A Very Brief Overview of Theories of Consciousness

  • Speaker: Dr Steve Minett
  • Date: Wednesday, 24 October 2012 from 16:30 to 17:30
  • Location: Room 160, Birkbeck Main Building

What is consciousness? Why do we have it? What's it for? This presentation is an attempt to survey the ways in which people have tried to answer these questions. It's a journey through the most prominent theories of consciousness. It starts with every-day 'Folk Psychology', stops briefly at Modernism's de-construction of Folk Psychology, introduces Minsky's 'suitcase of consciousness' and compares this with Deutsch's 'sky-scrapper of Reductionism'. Opening the suitcase, the presentation considers; computationalism, Functionalism and biological naturalism, including Searle's 'Chinese Room'. It next turns to theories that question Realism, including Velman's 'Reflexive Model' and Varela & Maturana on embodiment. It considers theories of the function of the sentient self from Wegner & Humphrey, and finally takes a very brief look at Penrose & Hammerhoff's quantum theory of consciousness.

The presentation is a condensation of a four-unit course, the entire content of which is available in the form of multiple, audio-visual clips (totalling about four and a half hours) on the following website: