Consciousness and Its Implications

Course No. 4168
Professor Daniel N. Robinson, Ph.D.
Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University; Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Georgetown University
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Course No. 4168
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Course Overview

It's as essential to human existence as water is to a fish. Every night we surrender it gratefully, only to get it back in the morning. We recognize that we have it, but we can never be sure anyone else does. Consciousness, this unique and perplexing mental state, has been the subject of debate for philosophers and scientists for millennia. And while it is widely agreed within contemporary philosophy that consciousness is a problem whose solutions are likely to determine the fate of any number of other problems, there is no settled position on the ultimate nature of consciousness.

  • What is the most promising way to study this subject?
  • What are the implications that arise from the fact that we have consciousness?
  • What are the ethical and moral issues raised by its presence—or its absence?

Questions like these are at the heart of Consciousness and Its Implications, 12 thought-provoking lectures delivered by distinguished philosopher and psychologist Daniel N. Robinson. Rather than merely explain away consciousness, or hide behind such convenient slogans as "it's all in your brain," Professor Robinson reviews some of the special problems that philosophers, psychologists, scientists, and doctors face when taking on such a vexing topic.

What Is Consciousness?

Much of what we do every day is done without our being directly conscious of the steps taken to complete the task: riding a bicycle, taking a walk, humming a tune. But as natural as this state is, it stands as a very serious threat to any number of core convictions and assumptions in both philosophy and science. One of the overarching goals of this intriguing course is to make clear just what about consciousness serves as such a challenge to these convictions and assumptions.

But what makes Consciousness and Its Implications so engaging is more than just the nature of the questions it poses and the issues it tackles. It's the way in which Professor Robinson, the consummate teacher and scholar, conveys this goal in four main points, each of which you explore in depth in these lectures.

  • Consciousness seems to require, for its full understanding, a science not yet available.
  • What distinguishes consciousness from all else is its phenomenology—that is, the act of being conscious is different from all other facts of nature.
  • Conscious awareness is a power that, at times, can be so strong as to greatly affect our senses.
  • The powers of consciousness vary over the course of a lifetime; as such, they can become subject to disease and defect.

Compelling Examples of Consciousness

Throughout the course, Professor Robinson brings this riveting topic vividly to life with real-world examples and striking anecdotes.

  • Review the case of Deep Blue, the IBM computer that in 1997 shocked the world by defeating a human, the chess grand master Garry Kasparov. Does Deep Blue's ability to "outsmart" a human being constitute a kind of consciousness? Or is it a reflection of the human minds that created this complex computer?
  • Consider the case of the sleepwalker, who moves around with purpose and mimics behaviors we see in everyday life, but can remember nothing upon awakening. How does this mental state relate to human consciousness? What would be lost if we lived our entire lives as sleepwalkers?
  • Study the case of a comatose patient who lives in an unbroken sleep state but, after a miraculous recovery, recalls having heard doctors speak about her. How do we interpret this patient's ability to perceive the surrounding world while in a coma? Does the patient's experience reflect some in-between mental state we've yet to define?
  • Look at the case of a child with autism who can perform complicated mental tasks but lacks the most basic human attribute: empathy. How does this inability to imagine other minds affect the child's capacity to enjoy the full experience of human consciousness?

Using compelling examples such as these, Professor Robinson weaves a riveting tale of the human condition that will change the way you think about your own mind.

Probe Life's Most Profound Philosophical Riddles

Professor Robinson also draws on the wisdom of the world's greatest thinkers—from the ancient Greeks to today's top scientists—to shed light on some of the ethical debates involved in any examination of consciousness. These include

  • John Locke, whose famous "Prince and the Cobbler" hypothesis raised questions about the relationship between one's personal identity and one's body;
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose "Beetle in a Box" scenario holds implications for how we define consciousness both inside and outside ourselves; and
  • Aristotle, who led a pointed discussion on the relationship between the physical world and what he referred to as "real being."

You also enter the lab and explore the impact of modern physics and medicine on our understanding of the self. Pondering questions ranging from the most fundamental—"Why are we here?"—to contemporary quandaries about artificial intelligence and the medical decision to prolong life, you'll gain new insights into the complexity of how great minds define consciousness.

Consciousness and Its Implications is a chance for you to view this deep and profound subject from all angles. A distinguished scholar in philosophy and neuropsychology, Professor Robinson incorporates many disciplines—psychology, physics, philosophy, medicine—to explore these abiding questions.

So embark on a challenging and wholly satisfying exploration of this unique, mysterious, and essential mental faculty. The knowledge you'll gain in this course is not only intriguing—it is crucial to understanding the nature of humanity and the social and ethical obligations that define us all.

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12 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Zombies
    Our exploration of consciousness begins with a consideration of a potent hypothetical case: the zombie. A physical entity that seems human but lacks consciousness, this imaginary construct helps outline the function and characteristics of the mind. x
  • 2
    Self-Consciousness
    If our bodies change continuously—if cells die and are replaced throughout our lives, how do we keep a sense of self? In this lecture, we probe the notion of personal identity and its relationship to our bodies. x
  • 3
    The "Problem" of Consciousness
    We examine the claim that physics holds the answer to the meaning of existence, and we explore the relationship between the material realm outside us and the immaterial, internal world of the mind. x
  • 4
    The Explanatory Gap
    Is it possible to prove that the workings of the nervous system "create" our experience of consciousness? Will we ever bridge the gap between neurons and the conscious mind, or must we resign ourselves to the possibility that the relationship will remain elusive? x
  • 5
    Mental Causation
    Does your desire and decision to raise your arm "cause" your arm to be raised? In this lecture, we explore what can be known about the connection between a mental experience and the physical reactions that seem to result from them. x
  • 6
    Other Minds
    We cannot directly perceive any mind but our own, so how can we be sure other minds exist at all? The problem of "other minds" gets to the heart of how we as human beings can be certain we know anything at all about existence. x
  • 7
    Physicalism Refined
    In this lecture, we return to the relationship between mental events and the physical world. Here, we consider two perspectives: the Identity Thesis and the Supervenience Theory, which says that changes in a mental state require changes in one's physical state. x
  • 8
    Consciousness and Physics
    Here we examine the laws of thermodynamics and quantum physics. Will they offer a solution to the puzzle of the relationship between the mental and material worlds? Is it possible that an explanation of consciousness may demand a new physical science beyond our current reach? x
  • 9
    Qualia and the "Mary" Problem
    Is scientific knowledge about a phenom­enon the same as experiencing that phenomenon? Using a model developed by philosopher Frank Jackson, we ask: Can personal experiences be reduced to the scientific attributes of the objects we perceive? x
  • 10
    Do Computers Play Chess?
    From IBM's chess-playing computer, Deep Blue, to the hypothetical analogy of the "Chinese Room" posited by philosopher John Searle, we consider whether computational power equates to our idea of human intelligence. x
  • 11
    Autism, Obsession, and Compulsion
    To attempt to determine the contours of normal human consciousness, we examine what happens when that faculty is impaired, as in cases of autism, brain trauma, and neurotic disorders. x
  • 12
    Consciousness and the End of Mental Life
    In this lecture, we consider the conditions of comatose patients and raise vexing and crucial questions about the rights of those whose consciousness has been compromised due to trauma, illness, or age. x

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Your professor

Daniel N. Robinson

About Your Professor

Daniel N. Robinson, Ph.D.
Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University; Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Georgetown University
Dr. Daniel N. Robinson is a member of the philosophy faculty at Oxford University, where he has lectured annually since 1991. He is also Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, at Georgetown University, on whose faculty he served for 30 years. He was formerly Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Columbia University, and he also held positions at Amherst College and at Princeton University. Professor Robinson earned his Ph.D. in...
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Reviews

Consciousness and Its Implications is rated 3.3 out of 5 by 128.
Rated 1 out of 5 by from The worst Teaching Co. lecture I have heard I own over 200 great courses lectures. I am obviously fond of them. But this one is by far the worst I have heard and is painful to get through. There is no foundation whatsoever in hard science, but rather just the poetic rambling of the instructor. After listening to 6 hours of these lectures, twice, I don't feel I know anything more about consciousness than I did before. I wish I had never bought this.
Date published: 2013-06-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Covert Agenda? Prof. Robinson does not disclose his devout Catholicism (e.g., editor of Human Nature in Its Wholeness: A Roman Catholic Perspective), as he slips creationist, spirituality and right to life arguments into his lectures about consciousness. If he wants to argue those faith-based positions, he should do do candidly. Certainly potential customers should know what they are buying.
Date published: 2013-05-23
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not for Drive Time I have purchased many Teaching Company courses on CD for my morning commute. For a lot of them, I find myself sitting in the parking lot or my driveway, continuing to listen after I have arrived at my destination. This is not one of those courses. The philosophy presented is so rigorous and abstruse that I cannot follow the Professor's arguments and drive at thesame time. I find my attention wandering, and then I will realize that I have not heard several minutes of the lecture. I knew this course would be heavy sledding, but I thought I could hold it together for a week, since it is only 12 lectures long. That turns out to have been a mistake. It might be a better course if you already had taken other courses in the subject, AND were watching the DVD where you could take notes. As a CD course, it has been a failure. I am not entertained, and I am not educated.
Date published: 2013-03-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it. More of the Same, Please. I found professor Robinson's exploration of the phenomenon of consciousness a challenging intellectual road to travel, but one that is illuminating, thoughtful and intelligible in equal measure. For my money, his discussion of physicalism and mental events was especially insightful, and the lengthiest exegesis of the subject matter that I have yet encountered. Be ready for some heavy lifting. Professor Robinson's lectures require your full attention and you will need to think hard and deep on the subject matter. This is definitely not one to pop into the CD player on a cross country trip or to view on DVD while engaging in light chores around the house. Prerequisites to this course may perhaps be very useful to neophytes. If one has not previously explored consciousness or philosophy of mind, one may first wish to view John Searle's TC course produced in the 1990s entitled "Philosophy of Mind." Then maybe follow up with Professor Grim's superb "Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines." Searle's course is the more rigorous of the two, so perhaps one may wish to watch them in reverse order, first Searle's, then Grim's. This is order I watched these courses in and I had no difficultly following along with professor Robinson here.
Date published: 2013-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Challenging Upper Level Course This is a challenging course--don't expect to listen to it before you drift off to sleep. Unlike most TGC courses, it is not a systematic, historically-based introduction to the subject. Instead, it is an idiosyncratic, serious and subtle discussion of various issues that philosophers have addressed in connection with the phenomenon of consciousness. The delivery is dry but witty by academic standards. I could not always follow Professor Robinson's argument--I will have to listen to the course again to figure out why some of his metaphysical and epistemological digressions were even relevant to the subject.. I would expect the course to be confusing for someone with no background on some of the philosophers discussed. But that is what the Great Minds series is for (and you should consider that or something similar to be a prerequisite to this course). For my part, I found it very refreshing to listen to a upper level course rather than another freshman lecture. The Great Courses should have more of these.
Date published: 2013-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Course Ever I have never written a review. However, I was checking the site to get citation material for a paper I was writing for grad. school, and I was shocked to see that the course had not earned 5 stars. I have listened to dozens of Teaching Co. series and enjoyed them all. However, Prof. Robinson is my favorite lecturer (his Psychology and Philosophy series are also among my favorites), and this is my favorite series. He makes challenging concepts simple to understand and makes the course enjoyable. The Teaching Co. has some great lecturers, but Prof. Robinson is unparalleled. I will buy any course that he produces.
Date published: 2013-02-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Difficult but worth it This course is not entertaining. It is interesting, challenging and thought provoking. I own more than 30 courses and have never written a review. I do so here because of the many critical reviews of Dr. Robinson's presentation. Dr. Robinson is clearly a brilliant, educated and erudite man. I found it enjoyable that he chose NOT to "dumb down" his language. The course is not entertaining because he takes us on a difficult journey. However, I found it to be a wholly worthwhile trip.
Date published: 2013-02-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Compelling course - would love a "part 2" I've listened to this course once; I will be doing so again in the near future. As with all the best Great Courses, I'm sure this one will reward multiple hearings. My background in coming to this course is as an artificial intelligence researcher with a college-level background in philosophy. Given that, there was a great deal that engaged me -- but also some points I would like to have been delved into more deeply. The only criticism I have of the course is that it is in places unnecessarily reductionist (e.g., with the brief discussion of Leibniz's Mill). With recent advancements in understanding of distributed and emergent processes, this part of the discussion seemed a bit simplistic and out of date. But this is really a minor criticism of what is otherwise a truly Great Course for those interested in the philosophy of mind.
Date published: 2012-10-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Uninteresting Unlike some reviewers I found the lecturer’s delivery to be quite good, it is the contents that I found abysmal, and that is really my fault because it is listed as philosophy and intellectual history, whereas I would be interested in this subject as philosophy and science. If you are interested in what we know about consciousness you will find little of interest here. If you are interested in what people have thought about the matter you may be satisfied.
Date published: 2012-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Philosophy of Miind I have a higher degree in a critical thinking subject. This course pushed me. This course is an excellent introduction to the study of consciousness. The course is not simple, since it requires much abstract thinking as is conducive with the subject matter. An extremely well balanced treatment of the major views. The professor surveys the major opinions and gives each one a fair analysis. I highly recommend this series.
Date published: 2012-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Closer to a real course I found this course to be an excellent introduction to the problem of consciousness. It required my full attention, and a lot of critical thinking in order to grasp the issues the lecturer was introducing. As a university professor myself, I find such a course to be closer to what real non-trivial university-level courses should be like, even at the introductory lever: challenging, interesting, thought-provoking, and mental-effort demanding. Indeed, these lectures are going to mentally tire you, you will need to devote much effort and time, and the ride is going to be rough; but this is going to be your reward: that, in the end, you'll have understood (or be conscious that you've not understood) something about consciousness. It's not a course like the story-telling kind of courses you get from topics like "Archaeology" (and which I very much enjoy myself), but it's as close to an introductory philosophy course as would be possible in this format. I am grateful to TGC for giving us an opportunity to enjoy a challenging course such as this one, and I believe it should try to do the same more often, regardless of the usual negative reviews. I also highly recommend this course right after Dr. Grim's course on the "Philosophy of the mind"; the two complement each other very nicely, and I suspect that the same will be the case with the "Free Will and Determinism" course I've just started.
Date published: 2012-08-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Big Disappointment The content and presentation of this course was way over my head. I was hoping for something more simplified.
Date published: 2012-08-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not a Good Source regarding Consciousness I have watched many great videos from this company on a variety of subjects and this was the worst. The presenter’s bias against naturalist explanations is overwhelming and the evidence for his position is underwhelming to say the least. There have been tremendous insights gained by researchers in the last few decades and they are for the most part ignored.
Date published: 2012-06-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Valuable course I cannot agree wit the negative reviews of this course. I have a couple of Robinson's other courses, and am not disappointed. There is only one small flaw: In one of the early lectures, he's talking about "action at a distance", and uses the example of the Moon's gravity on the tides. He refers to the Moon's distance as "an astrological distance" - clearly what's meant is "astronomical distance". Maybe that's a "Freudian slip".
Date published: 2012-05-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Horrible This was the very first course I ever purchased from The Teaching Company and it nearly put me off from exploring any of their other products. The instructor is clearly reading a script and sounds as though he is tired and wishes he could be elsewhere (maybe sleeping in his bed at home.) I quit listening about three lectures in. With a production like this you could hire anybody to deliver the goods. Fortunately I ended up giving other courses a try and I'm now a very happy and frequent customer of this wonderful company. But this course is a drag. It is definitely NOT recommended.
Date published: 2012-05-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from No! No! No! This course is not so much presented as it is inflicted. I have been studying the issue of consciousness for over 20 years. This is by far the worst exposition of the subject I have encountered. What Professor Robinson seems to do here is to read his latest treatise which is obtuse and not very helpful. Teaching is about transfer of knowledge and understanding. There is none of that going on here. While the emperor's trusted minions are busy complimenting him on his clothes, I suggest the more discerning student would benefit by reading /Consciousness Explained/ by Daniel Dennett, /The Improbable Machine/ by Jeremy Campbell or /Bright Air, Brilliant Fire/ by Gerald Adelman.
Date published: 2012-04-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not one of his best, but not without merit I am a fan of Professor Robinson and admired his erudition and verbal facility in his courses on the history of philosophy and the history of psychology; however, this course I found mildly disappointing but not without moments of intellectual illumination. It seems reviewers either hated this course or loved it; I'm somewhere in the middle. This course requires a degree of mental concentration, and I respect Prof. Robinson for not refraining from challenging us in his lecture content, but it's definitely not suitable for most people's morning commutes. Before I purchased the course, I assumed the problem with the negative reviews resulted from their listening/ viewing venues, but many of the lectures in the quiet of my den required my undivided attention and subsequent clarification by the Course Guidebook, and there was still some residual confusion. Of course, Philosophy of Mind is inherently "intellectual heavy-lifting". This course is about 75% philosophy and 25% neuroscience; I would have preferred more of a tilt toward the latter (neuroscientists have some interesting, albeit speculative, theories on how the brain may create consciousness). There are times in this course when the philosophy seems, to me at least, to be essentially "word play" and other times when it generates profound insights. The "mind-body problem" lies at the heart of this course, so that Prof. Robinson asks us how consciousness (mental phenomena) can originate from the physical body (brain). Do "brain states" generate "mental states"; indeed, are brain states effectively mental states? Or is mental life (consciousness, intentionality) not reducible to anything physical rendering it beyond the reach of physical science? There's an interesting lecture on AI where despite IBM's chess triumph (through "Deep Blue") over Garry Gasparov, Prof. Robinson displays some skepticism toward the claims of "strong AI" and doubts that mental cognition is essentially computational. There's also a lecture on mental causation where it seems impossible to identify a chain of causality between a "mental property" and a physical effect. I would have preferred a more thorough treatment of this issue since the heralded placebo effect in medicine seems to be a problem for "physicalist" neuroscientists.
Date published: 2012-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Advanced Course Reading some of the previous reviews of this course, I almost didn't buy it. But then I thought, 'Maybe this course is just too advanced for some new to this topic, because it is such a difficult area of study.' And I suppose was right, since this course is in my opinion excellent. I should add that I am a university professor who teaches courses in human development and cognitive science. I have also taken a graduate seminar on the problem of consciousness. Professor Robinson's treatment of the topic was masterful, touching on all of the key areas of difficulty (e.g., what would it mean to be alive without consciousness—a zombie—and the explanatory gap between consciousness and neuroscience) and offering his own position. I highly recommend this course to anyone sensitive to, or wanting to learn about, what makes consciousness an enduring problem for contemporary philosophy and cognitive science.
Date published: 2012-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Yes, this is great for the car, too. I purchased this course some time ago in cassette format and have only now gotten around to listening to it. I appreciated the professor's delivery, his style, and the course content. Some reviewers said that this might not be appropriate for car listening, but I had no problem at all (even in bad traffic). The last reviewer probably hit the nail on the head by observing that you should have some philosophical background before embarking on this course. If you know no philosophy of at all, you probably won't be able to follow it; if you know some philosophy, it is perfectly listenable -- even during rush hour. I will probably listen through this course several times. Don't expect to have a perfect grasp of philosophical ideas the first time you are exposed to them. It is the entire point of the discipline that you have to think your way through such ideas on your own. That takes time.
Date published: 2012-02-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Major disappointment This was the first course I ever "attempted" to watch and I did not get past the 3rd disk. Fortunately, I bought 3 courses on my first purchase and was happy with the other two. Had I not had them, I would never have bought another course and would have missed out on a wonderous learning experience with the Great Courses. I just reviewed my account and I now have 29 courses. Bottom line --- If you get a course that doesn't click, don't give up...
Date published: 2012-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not an introductory course... I am dumbfounded by the number of poor reviews that this course receives. It is an intellectual tour-de-force covering 2000 years of philosophical attempts to rigorously study consciousness. This 12-lecture set is not appropriate for listeners who do not already know the basic history of Western philosophy, ending with about Wittgenstein. It is too short to both 1) go into detail about the greatest ideas of 2000 years, and 2) explain how they pertain to consciousness. So it is light on the former, but very strong on the latter. And given the natural inclination of a conscious being to think about its own consciousness, if you have the appropriate background, this course will walk you through a particular journey - one man's opinion, granted - but one well worth taking. For those who make it through to the end, you will be richly rewarded for your efforts with a beautiful concluding paragraph. For the right listener, I cannot recommend this course enough.
Date published: 2011-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A bad rap I had listened to another Teaching Company course by Professor Robinson, which was excellent, and so was surprised to read the many negative reviews when I was considering purchasing this course. Because of my previous experience I decided to risk the purchase and was amply rewarded for doing so. My thought regarding the mixed reviews is that the subject of consciousness, at least as it has been conceived of by philosophers, is difficult for many people. Consciousness is so much a part of our existence in general and our thought life in particular that it is challenging to attempt to step outside it to think about it. Professor Robinson quite admirably discusses the subject from various philosophical viewpoints, largely permitting the listener to decide which are most compelling. But, of course, this approach makes a challenging subject that much more challenging. It is, no doubt, also disconcerting for some to discover that the subject of consciousness has generated so much controversy and that there are no widely accepted intellectual hypotheses about what it is or how it operates. As Professor Robinson explains, in the scientific realm the many unknowns are categorized collectively as the "explanatory gap." For me Professor Robinson's overview was simply delightful. The professor is an extremely articulate and thoughtful lecturer and presents a difficult subject cogently and in a well organized manner. As one might expect when the subject is consciousness, Professor Robinson draws on learning from multiple academic disciplines in presenting this subject. One of my takes after listening to the course is that consciousness creates not the slightest issue for people in their day to day lives. It is only when people try to think about consciousness in the context of intellectual disciplines such as philosophy or biology that the subject becomes, quite quickly, a vexing one. Consequently, I believe that many of the negative reviews have more to do with the subject than with the way in which it was presented in this course.
Date published: 2011-12-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Recommended, but with reservations As many have noted this course is not great for driving. It's probably more distracting (if fully focused on) than text messaging! Whereas writing "Hi honey, I'll be home in five," requires some measure of thought, this course requires all 5 cylinders of your brain (and then some). Which brings me to the presentation: 1) What Prof. Robinson is trying to say, he says in long windy sentences, ponderous questions, followed by wordy quotes, insights from other thinkers who take a while to digest, and other scattered bits of info. In short, this is one that makes the listener do most of the work and by no means spoon feeds you. This does not make it bad, but I wish that Prof. Robinson had taken the time to summarize, and give a bit more structure. 2)Remind us of what you want to impart so that we can connect your next thought, and so on. He does this at times (as with his 3 types of zombies), but still, he meanders a bit too much for my tastes. This would all be well and fine if it brought some value, but I don't think it's necessary. For example, he gives us a tangent the origin of the term "spandrel," and then moves on. It's nice trivia, but my train of thought got derailed in the process, and I had to take some time to go back to the original argument.Some discipline please! Why then 4 stars and a recommendation? Because of the content. This is important stuff, and he does cover the issues. And I do believe the professors style was not bad, just needlessly "twisty".
Date published: 2011-11-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Impossible as an Audio Course I had already completed both of Prof. Robinsons' epic length self-indulgences on the Great Ideas of Philosophy and Psychology, so I should have known better, but this course was available on CD at my library, so I gave it a shot. This is now the second of 54 Teaching Company courses I've started that I have quit. Prof. Robinson values prosaic, syllable-heavy speech far more than clarity of delivery. I suffered through him on DVD in the other courses simply because I like the subject matter and felt committed after shelling out the considerable cost of the courses. Completing them was possible (though not enjoyable) sitting on a couch at home. However, it was simply impossible to follow his bloated discourse while also driving a car. I suggest you avoid this miserable experience. Seek greener pastures.
Date published: 2011-11-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Bad Pick for My First Course I would have dropped this course after the first lecture if it was an actual course I was paying tuition for in college...
Date published: 2011-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Mental Experience As a psychologist, I'm deeply impressed with Robinson's presentation about consciousness as mental life. He keeps this rather thorny subject highly entertaining while yet remaining erudite, logical, thoughtful and precise. He reasonably considers the writings and positions of others when it comes to the basis and nature of consciousness, but lays out and successfully advocates for his own assessment of what's known at present, and what's probably knowable but not yet discovered about consciousness. I've listened to these CDs four times already, and still find them both thought-provoking and delightful.
Date published: 2011-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought provoking survey of the terrain I enjoyed this course. However the subject is philosophical and requires some deep thinking, particularly if you are not familiar with the material. Not for the faint hearted or the shallow thinker. The presentation is good, the content is quite extensive, I am amazed that they packed so much into 12 lectures. It stirred my interest and I have now started Professor Grim's Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines, which is also very good.
Date published: 2011-08-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not an introduction I bought this course expecting an introduction to current thinking on consciousness. What I found is a fairly deep philosophical discussion of the subject, one not to be taken lightly if one wishes to understand the depth and nuances of the material. I say this having listened to the series fairly casually over several months. I plan to listen to the series again, this time in an environment more like attending a college lecture. And I'll probably do some introductory reading beforehand, to better prepare for the depth provided by Professor Robinson. I found Professor Robinson's delivery engaging and easy to listen to. He kept my attention throughout the series.
Date published: 2011-07-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A True Intellectual Challenge What a course! To begin with I would convey a modem of caution. If you plan to sit and babysit while reviewing this course or listen to it while driving down the highway in heavy traffic, I would caution you to look elsewhere. However, if you want to be intellectually challenged and be subjected to subtle and engrossing mental arguments then this course is for you. I greatly enjoyed this course and appreciated the mental gymnastics that Dr Robinson subjects you to but my appreciation was enhanced by the previous courses on this general subject matter that I have recently reviewed. A number of these include: "Biology:The Science of Life" by Dr Nowicki, "Origins of the Mind" by Dr Hinshaw, "The Neuroscience of Everyday Life" by Dr Wang and "Understanding the Brain" by Dr Norden. This ensemble of courses prepared me mentally for the philosophical arguments outlined by Professor Robinson. Tracing the history of consciousness from the days of Aristotle to the teachings of modern philosophers, Dr Robinson portrayed the evolution of the idea of a "Philosophy of Mind". With the rise of modern neuroscience the very essence of consciouness has come under attack with the inhumanity expressed by biological processes. In this context, Professor Robinson takes us on a journey of discovery but one expressed in the intellectual discourse of a graduate seminar. Finally toward the end of the course the ethics of what happens when consciousness is degraded or eliminated from human understanding is outlined and discussed. Dr Robinson ends with a passionate summary of what it is to be human---a fitting close to a deep and satisfying lecture series. This course is a true intellectual adventure.
Date published: 2011-06-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Painful Snoozer The lecturer's delivery style and voice were painful to endure (think actor William Daniels, who played Dr. Mark Craig on "St. Elsewhere", as well as the voice of K.I.T.T. on the series "Knight Rider"). The content is not straightforward, but rather delivered in a contorted, ornate, lengthy style which made it hard to follow (and stay awake, for that matter) while driving in the car. Regrettably, despite my best efforts, I gave up somewhere during the third lecture.
Date published: 2011-03-29
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