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Courses

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Course Descriptions

CONS ZG511:  Philosophy

A sound background in analytical philosophy and philosophy of science is imperative for students to be successful in consciousness studies. This course will introduce basic philosophical issues in epistemology, ontology, and metaphysics and assign relevant reading material from the seminal works of principal Western philosophers. A variety of schools such as materialism, physicalism, behaviorism, dualism, pan-psychism, and phenomenology will also be discussed. A basic introduction to philosophy of physics, philosophy of chemistry, philosophy of biology, and neurophilosophy will be given. The students will use the acquired  philosophical knowledge to learn and discuss the main issues in consciousness studies including: the neural correlates of consciousness; the binding problem; 'the problem of Mary’s knowledge'; the symbol grounding problem; eliminative and non-eliminative strategies to explain the mind; the computational view of brain and Searle’s Chinese room counter-argument; causality (starting with Hume); theories of perception (starting with Kant); semantics and meaning. MORE

CONS ZG512: Philosophy — Advanced Topics

This course is meant to develop and test the ability of the student to   critically read advanced research papers in the field of philosophy. A wide variety of recent papers dealing with the philosophical issues underlying the field of consciousness studies will be taken up for reading. Topics to be covered will include physicalism and the causal basis of the neural correlates of consciousness, the problem of coinciding objects, issues in scientific realism, philosophy of physics, philosophy of chemistry and philosophy of mathematics. MORE 

CONS ZG532: Neuroscience and Consciousness

This course first introduces theories in neuroscience of neural substrates and neural dynamics associated with cognition, emotion, attention, and consciousness of self. The course reviews known mechanisms by which cortical neurons or brain areas interact during certain behavior or internal states. Finally the last part of the course deals with the techniques of biofeedback and neurofeedback where subjects train themselves to produce specific brain or body states. The course presents how to analyze such data using spectral analysis, single trial analysis, and independent component analysis. MORE

CONS ZG541: Biology and Consciousness

After many years of behaviorism, the biological sciences now include the problem of consciousness. The first module of the course will be a primer covering basic material in bioscience including the fundamental principles of molecular biology and focusing on the molecular machinery underlying cellular functions. This module will prepare the student to read with technical competence and to critically understand major scientific papers on biology and consciousness, which are dealt with in subsequent modules. The second module deals with the question of whether animals are conscious. In the third module, the closely related problem of the nature of life will be discussed. Students will read and present various views on the nature of life. The fourth module will cover the problem of morphogenesis and the attempts to develop a science of form. The final module will review proposal for the evolution of consciousness and the origin of life. MORE

CONS ZG542: Consciousness Studies — Advanced Topics

In last year’s offering, the course began with sixteen hours of lectures on foundational issues in quantum mechanics (with the teaching of relevant basic theory included). The other topics covered included a detailed study of Godel's Theorem (15 hours), Skolem's theorem and nonstandard numbers (7 hours); selected topics in philosophy of mathematics (5 hours) concerning the nature of the continuum, mathematical modeling of perception, etc. While some of the topics may be retained in the next year’s offering, other topics may be replaced. MORE

CONS ZG551: Artificial Intelligence  

The field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a natural connection with consciousness. The field aims to develop computational methods of a variety of cognitive tasks such as machine learning, problem solving, robotics and control. After introducing symbolic and connectionist computational models, several approaches to machine learning and data mining will be introduced. The topics of the discovery of patterns from data and pattern classification will be introduced and their application will be discussed. The course consists of a laboratory module that demonstrates simple applications of AI techniques. In another part of the course, students will be asked to critique/discuss research papers in AI. MORE

CONS ZG552: Foundations of Physics

The prerequisite for this course is either a major in physics, or a major that included college level courses in mathematics and physics. Enrollment needs instructor's permission.

This course focuses on critically studying and learning about foundational or open problems in physics through the study of selected seminal papers in different branches of physics.  Students will learn how to critically read these papers and connect them to Consciousness Studies. The selected papers will usually vary each time the course is offered. 

To facilitate a proper grasp of the selected papers, the instructor will determine the basic physics needed to understand these papers and teach it in the first part of the course. In the past, this material has included: Special Theory of Relativity (Michelson-Morley experiment; Lorentz transformations; length contraction; time dilation; mass-energy equivalence), thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, the theory of electromagnetism (Maxwell's equations), and the General Theory of Relativity (principle of equivalence; space-time curvature; gravitation and metric; experimental evidence for General Theory of Relativity). Quantum mechanics is covered in CONS ZG542. Students whose basic degree is in physics can opt to skip these basic lectures and instead read and present extra papers in the foundations of physics with the instructor's permission.

In the second part of the course, the instructor divides the selected papers equally amongst the students, and the students study each paper with the instructor's help. Then each student gives seminars on the papers assigned to him/her, leads the subsequent discussions and answers questions. The course evaluation and grade will primarily be based on seminar performances. MORE

CONS ZG571: Mind-Body Medicine

The course will explore the interface between consciousness and clinical medicine; how consciousness affects the body -- in health, disease and in the intervening transitional states. Mind/body interventional techniques (such as biofeedback, electronic entrainment devices, visualization, neurolinguistic programming and cognitive therapy) are known to bring about an alteration of the disease.

In scientifically scrutinizing those areas in clinical medicine where the issue of the nature and role of consciousness plays a significant role, the course shall critically study existing credible scientific models of consciousness that try to account for relevant phenomena. Where none exist, the aim will be to empower students to propose plausible models with underlying scientific reasoning, including testable criteria. MORE

CONS ZG572: Matter in Bhagavata Sankhya

Contemporary physics is clear on one point: making progress in our understanding of physical reality described by quantum theory requires going past the Cartesian notion of matter as extended substance. Yet physicists do not have an alternative conception of matter in hand. For example, Lockwood in Mind, Brain and the Quantum has argued: 

"in reflecting on the relation of consciousness to the matter of the brain, philosophers have been apt to take matter for granted, assuming that it is mind rather matter that is philosophically problematic . . . . [our present conception of] matter is deeply problematic and philosophically ill-understood." 

The Indian Sankhya system is well known for its ideas about multiple levels of matter; however, in the scholarly circle only Iswara Krishna’s Sankhya is well known. The relatively less known Bhagavata Sankhya, however, brings extra resources for considering the interrelationship between matter and consciousness. This course will make a detailed study of the Bhagavata Sankhya School and its conception of twenty four levels of matter. At various stages of this study, connections will be made to a variety of contemporary problems in different fields of science, such as quantum physics, cognitive science, neuroscience, and biology.  In each instance, the revision to our current conception of matter entailed by these connections will form the backdrop for classroom discussions. MORE

CONS ZG582: Psychology and Consciousness

This course will be offered but subject to faculty availability. MORE

CONS ZG656: Technical Writing

Competent technical writing involves more than good English writing. Technical writing involves a keen ability to do ‘content editing’. Content editing consists of a thorough reexamination of the logic, correctness and organization of the ideas in the report: both self-critically and in response to comments from others. The course will also review elementary and advanced considerations in writing effective sentences with correct grammar. The course will also teach how to thoroughly survey the technical literature on a particular subject and competently present the technical ideas of other researchers succinctly. MORE

CONS ZG629T: Dissertation

This is a course dealing with an advanced pursuit in assigned areas of professional interest. Each student will work under the overall supervision and guidance of a Supervisor. The course must end with a well defined project report outlining all the investigative efforts and conclusions at the end of each semester. MORE

Curriculum

The current semester wise pattern of courses:

First Semester

CONS ZG511 Philosophy
CONS ZG656 Technical Writing
CONS ZG573 Guided Self Study - I
Elective

Second Semester

CONS ZG512 Philosophy - Advanced Topics
CONS ZG541 Biology and Consciousness
CONS ZG551 Artificial Intelligence
CONS ZG574 Guided Self Study - II

Third Semester

CONS ZG542 Consciousness Studies - Advanced Topics
CONS ZG572 Matter in Bhagavata Sankhya
CONS ZG591 Guided Self Study - III
Elective

Fourth Semester

CONS ZG629T Dissertation

Elective Courses Offered*

CONS ZG532 Neuroscience & Consciousness
CONS ZG552 Foundations of Physics
CONS ZG571 Mind, Body, Medicine
CONS ZG582 Psychology and Consciousness

*Students can select electives based on their basic degree and research interests, in consultation with their academic program advisor. A student is required to take four courses in each semester. The list of electives that will be available for a particular semester will be decided at the beginning of that semester.

Evaluation System

For each course, students will be evaluated on assignments, projects, case studies, tests and a comprehensive examination at end. There will be a minimum of four evaluation components for each course. Each course will be conducted and graded entirely by the teacher(s) teaching the course. A letter grade (A, B, C, D, E or F) will be awarded by the teacher(s) for each student at the end of the course. The cumulative grade point average (CGPA) will be calculated based on the grades obtained in all the courses (A = 10 points, B=8 points, etc.).

Dissertation will be evaluated based on seminars, mid-term reports, final report and viva-voce examination in the fourth semester. Final grade in each course is arrived at by putting together the student's relative performance in terms of the various evaluation components.

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