Unraveling the Mystery of Human Consciousness

Course Leaders
Day of Week: Tuesday
Course Length: 6 weeks
Starting: 09/21/2021
Ending: 10/26/2021
Period of Day: Period 3
Course Fee: $60.00
Standard period time.

Course Description:

For centuries, scientists and philosophers have struggled to understand and explain the phenomenon of human consciousness. Even the definition of consciousness is controversial. Over the past few decades, the dramatic advances in neuroscience are bringing us closer to answering the question: What is consciousness? In this course, we will explore the major theories from a historical, biological and evolutionary perspective. A recent book by neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga (The Consciousness Instinct) will serve as the primary focus for a guided reading and discussion. Steven Pinker describes the book as “…An intriguing and mind-expanding narrative…Gazzaniga enlightens us about some of the deepest questions the mind is capable of asking.” No prior knowledge of neuroscience is required or expected and the goal will be to make the essential scientific underpinnings accessible to all participants. In addition, we will be able to track the real-time progress of a major international experiment involving thousands of volunteers designed as a competition between two of the major theories of consciousness.

This course will be a guided discussion of a single book accompanied by brief lectures on specific topics involving the underlying neuroscience, with approximately two hours of reading each week.

Books and Other Resources:

The Consciousness Instinct – Unraveling How the Brain Makes the Mind, by Michael Gazzaniga, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2018. (Required – Available on Amazon)

Course Leader Bio(s)

Mark McNamee

I am retired university professor and administrator with research and teaching expertise in neuroscience and biochemistry. I have taught several courses at LLAIC, including Introduction to Neuroscience and Modern Art and the Brain (in partnership with Carole McNamee). Over the past year, I have participated in a consciousness discussion group where we read and discussed a dozen books on the subject of human consciousness. I am looking forward to sharing the insights I have gained about one of the most remarkable features of what it means to be human. Michael Gazzaniga is one of my former colleagues and he is a world-renowned cognitive neuroscientist.