Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Consciousness: Brains, Artificial Intelligence, and Subjective Experience PHIL5109

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

One of the great remaining mysteries, and maybe the most intractable, is consciousness: that intimately known but often indescribable qualitative character of experience: what it's like to see red, or feel pain, etc. In this course, we will examine the problem of consciousness and various contemporary scientific and philosophical theories of consciousness. We will end by asking about consciousness in animals and machines, and about the evolution of consciousness. 


16x1hr lectures and 4x1hr seminars as scheduled on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for MSc Philosophy Conversion, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses





Essay 1 (2,500 words) - 50%

Essay 2 (2,500 words) - 50%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ Introduce students to contemporary interdisciplinary study of consciousness

■ Examine key theories about the nature of phenomenal character

■ Offer students the opportunity to further develop skills as reading difficult and abstract texts and arguments

■ Provide students with  the opportunity to expand their reading and critical skills to other, less familiar disciplines

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

■ Categorise and differentiate between key concepts that feature in the central philosophical and scientific problems of consciousness

■ Explain the reasoning underlying prominent positions regarding consciousness in machines and non-human animals

■ Formulate key challenges that face particular approaches and viewpoints on consciousness.

■ Develop and defend a philosophical position related to the current debate on consciousness

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.