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Consciousness and Its Implications

Investigate the philosophical questions that surround the concept of consciousness in this though-provoking course that gets at the heart of what it is to be human.

Consciousness and Its Implications is rated 3.4 out of 5 by 143.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Difficult subject well prenented The subject matter is difficult and may require some backtracking for clarity. I have not completed all of the lectures but enjoy Dr. Robinson's presentations.
Date published: 2023-01-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Appropriate title I listened to the lectures over a couple of days. Enjoyable.
Date published: 2022-11-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent Lecture. Mind expanding! This topic is deep and complex. I compare it to reading A Brief History of Time. It took much thought and focus just to follow along. That said, I enjoyed it a great deal and gained some insight about the world that I didn't have previously. Two opportunities for improvement: (1) the sub-titles were gobbly-guck. Gave the impression TGC used a very poor voice recognition application, but then, failed to proofread it to correct the voluminous, obvious errors. (2) Unlike Tammy Yard-McCracken's self-defense course, where her transcript book is a well-edited word-for-word transcription, the transcript book for this course seems to be a simplified summary that skips over many of the important points and issues. I suspect the summary was drafted by someone who didn't understand the topic or couldn't follow the reasoning of the lecturer (who was excellent, by the way).
Date published: 2022-07-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting but rather complex. Not for beginners I enjoyed this course to a large degree but I found the professor's style rather dry and the way the series was recorded was distracting (especially when he seemed to be looking off to one side of the camera). As a mainly visual learner I would have liked some visual aids during presentation but I guess that's not Dr Robinson's style. It's difficult to do justice to the topic of 'Consciousness' in such a short series of lectures. The main emphasis was principally on the human idea of what the brain 'conjures up' where consciousness is concerned, i.e. how it channels what we understand as conscious thought. My understanding (which I won't go into here) is broader and perhaps more comprehensive. However, as far as it went, the lecture series was adequate. On the other hand, I wouldn't recommend it to beginners,
Date published: 2022-05-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from I Love the great courses But they have changed, and I was unable to download this course. It did not want to cooperate
Date published: 2021-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I have listen to several full courses on the nature of consciousness and I found Professor Robinson‘s course extremely engaging and entertaining. He plunges directly into the central problem of consciousness and its implications from a variety of directions and explains various theories in depth with precision and a good dose of humor. This is a course for people who are interested in a more complex interrogation of the subject. I would not say it’s for beginners. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Date published: 2021-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beneficial for Mental Health The only reason I looked into this course was the enormous range of Robinson's interests and his accomplishments. As a physician, I'd had enough of college-level humanist psychobabble that frequently harmed patients who dealing with mental struggles. This course is an amazing antidote. Psychobabble corrupts the concept of "to be" and denies the transforming effects of experience. It wastes overly expensive college courses confusing Qualia (L9) with functional state. It cannot even decide if machines think, yet Robinson's simple quote: "All that is mental IS about something, all that is physical IS NEVER about something" crystallizes the difference. If you are the type who has frequently asked yourself why things are, this is a highly recommended course. The course has one caveat: Robinson frequently explodes "slick" word plays and trite mind games. This often leaves the best answer as: "We don't understand enough to answer that". Thus if following the latest PC fad is your game, this is not your course. Arguments against Robinson's own arguments are given fair play. Terms from chemistry and particle physics terms are used meaningfully. Though the date of this course is 2007, no subsequent advances in science or psychology nullify any of it. As per L5, "Despite the tremendous growth of knowledge...the problem of mental pretty much where it was in the time of the Greek philosophers." As an example, I was in Robinson's L8 discussion of vagaries of quantum level "forces" (ie: Newton's "action at a distance") and simultaneously blundered into Pollock's (TGC Particle Physics for Non-Physicists) L6 & 10. Robinson's point was that the concept of "forces" cannot be mastered by the human mind (though it is demonstrable in accelerators and is mathematically predictable). Pollock notes, for example, that particles create energy "particles" OUT OF NOTHING (allowed by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle) though their lifespan is limited inversely by time and distance. These transfer "force particles" act at a distance with another particle. You may not understand how something is created from nothing and then acts at a distance, yet it happens. If the inconceivable happens, it is a limitation on all philosophical conceptualizations. Yes, we can describe force interactions, but if Richard Feynman (QED p 9) says no one understands forces, "May the Force be with you" becomes an untrue pseudo-religious yuppie extrapolation. As Prof Fears (TGC, multiple courses) would say, philosophy's applications should thus be circumscribed by humility or they risk "hybris" (hubris). By end of the course, Robinson's skepticism of standard academic philosophy and what he calls the religion of "scientism" are iron clad. As a physician with undergrad degrees in Chemistry and Math and a long history of helping patients through misguided mental obfuscations, this course is a bastion of clarity. There are many other clever concepts. Reinforcing to my own considerations of complexity theory (TGC's "Chaos" by Strogatz, etc) and thermodynamics was a concept Robinson's L5: "It is sometimes argued that evolution itself violates the entropy...of thermodynamic laws, for through evolution, there is a progressive increase in complexity and organization." Such concepts allowed me to teach Residents about second-order, non-linear insulin responses vs standard therapeutic care. You don't have to understand this except to suspect that life is not really about checkboxes, but complexity. PRO: The Guidebook is excellent. There is a certain amount of psychological jargon, but Robinson uses it to identify humanist psychology positioning. CON: The first 1-2 lectures seem a bit slow but are foundational. CONCLUSION: I close with Tennyson's In Memoriam (section 120) quoted in L4: "I think we are not wholly brain magnetic machines; Not only cunning cuts in clay. Let science prove we are and; Then what matters science unto men? At least to me, I would not say; But I was born to other things.”
Date published: 2021-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best professors and excellent content This course material is interesting and thought provoking. I found myself following along, taking the little experiments he offers, musing over many of the theories and questions raised. Prof is one of the best. His other course on rational thinking is also one of the best at TGC.
Date published: 2021-06-26
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Explore fascinating questions about human consciousness in Consciousness and Its Implications. You'll probe the depths of this mysterious subject from the perspective of the philosopher, the psychologist, the scientist, and the doctor. A master storyteller, Professor Robinson brings this riveting topic to life with real-world examples and striking anecdotes about smart computers, sleepwalkers, comatose patients, zombies, and more. An in-depth guide to a subject we're learning more about every day, this course will change how you think about your own mind.


Daniel N. Robinson

Developments in philosophy are chiefly in the form of greater clarity, an ever more refined sense of just what makes the problem problematic. If ignorance is not thereby totally overcome, at least it is exposed.


Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University; Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Georgetown University

Dr. Daniel N. Robinson (1937–2018) was a member of the philosophy faculty at Oxford University, where he lectured annually since 1991. He was 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 PhD in Neuropsychology from City University of New York. He was president of two divisions of the American Psychological Association: the Division of History of Psychology, from which he received the Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Division of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, from which he received the Distinguished Contribution Award.

Professor Robinson was the author or editor of more than 40 books, including Wild Beasts & Idle Humours: The Insanity Defense from Antiquity to the Present, An Intellectual History of Psychology, The Mind: An Oxford Reader, and Aristotle's Psychology. He was the editor of the Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology. He also published widely on the constitutional history of the US and its philosophical foundations, with original research appearing in the International Journal of Constitutional Law and The American Journal of Jurisprudence. He was coeditor of The American Founding: Its Intellectual and Moral Framework (London: Continuum, 2012).

By This Professor


01: 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.

32 min

02: 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.

31 min

03: 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.

31 min
The Explanatory Gap

04: 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?

29 min
Mental Causation

05: 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.

29 min
Other Minds

06: 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.

30 min
Physicalism Refined

07: 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.

33 min
Consciousness and Physics

08: 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?

32 min
Qualia and the

09: 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?

28 min
Do Computers Play Chess?

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.

29 min
Autism, Obsession, and Compulsion

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.

30 min
Consciousness and the End of Mental Life

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.

31 min