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Jean-Nicod Prize & Lectures 2001


The Science of Consciousness:
Removing the Philosophical Obstacles


1. Can there be a "first-person" science of consciousness?
Wednesday, 7 November, at 4:30 p.m.
Auditorium du CNRS, 3 rue Michel-Ange, 75016 Paris

Professor Dennett will be awarded the Jean-Nicod Prize after the lecture.

The objective, "third-person" methods of science can be adapted to the neutral study of consciousness, in the approach I call heterophenomenology. Challenges to this approach have recently be expressed, but a close examination shows that they
do not offer a genuine alternative to heterophenomenology, which continues to be the best approach for a science of consciouness.


2. The Hard Question, not the Hard Problem: How to model an uninhabited mind
Friday 9 November, at 3 p.m.
EHESS, salle 524, 54 boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris

If a candidate theory of consciousness still includes, unanalyzed, a Self or Subject, has it not merely postponed the main task of such a theory? On the other hand, if a candidate theory of consciousness dissolves the Subject into organizations of unconscious subsystems, has it not left out the main topic? What is the burden for any proper theory of consciousness, and how can it be met?

3. Are Qualia what make life worth living?

Tuesday 13 November, at 3 p.m.
EHESS, salle 524, 54 boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris

Qualia, or feelings, or sensations, are often declared to be a major stumbling block for "functionalist" theories of consciousness. But if qualia are important—if they are, as Sellars has maintained, "what make life worth living", then they cannot be the "intrinsic" properties described by some philosophers.

4. If you make yourself really small, you can externalize virtually everything
Friday, 16 November, at 3 p.m.
EHESS, salle 524, 54 boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris

Many habits of thought encourage or seduce us into subtracting more and more from the Self, or Subject, until it threatens to become a singularity, a dimensionless point packed with paradoxical powers. When we learn to enlarge our concept of the Self, and distribute its responsibilities in space and time, these paradoxes evaporate. A particularly clear case of this is found in the interpretation of the
experiments by Benjamin Libet, which have wrongly been interpreted to show that "your brain decides what to do about half a second before you do."

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Centre national de la recherche scientifique
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en partenariat avec :
Ministère de la Recherche (ACI Cognitique)
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