Neuroscience and Philosophy

  • 1. What can philosophy contribute to the study of consciousness? The scientific study of consciousness is still a fledgling field. Some philosophers think we need to clarify current perspectives on consciousness and how they are related to make progress on the problem of consciousness. It is then the job of neuroscience to find out how consciousness actually works in the brain. Other philosophers assert explanations based more on philosophical ideas and conceptual analysis than on biology, empirical work, and/or causal explanations. How do these two approaches strike you? Do they appear equally promising? Why or why not?
  • 2. How would you define consciousness? Webster’s dictionary defines consciousness as “the quality or state of being aware,” and the Oxford dictionary defines it as “the state of being aware of and responsive to one’s surroundings.” Could it be problematic to define consciousness in terms of awareness? Why or why not? Can you define consciousness in a better way?


Noe, A. (2009). Out of our heads: Why you are not your brain, and other lessons from the biology of consciousness. New York: Hill and Wang.

Watson, J. B. (1924). Behaviorism. New York: Norton.

Watson, J. B., & McDougall, W. (1928). The battle of behaviorism: an exposition and an exposure. New York: Norton.

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