Methodological Issues in Consciousness Research

26-27 October 2018 - Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris)

Co-organized with Matthieu Koroma & David Dupuis

ALIUS is an international and interdisciplinary research group involving neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers of mind, psychiatrists and anthropologists working towards the development of a naturalistic account of consciousness supported by both theoretical work and experimental studies. This interdisciplinarity aims at facilitating the investigation of conscious states at different scales, at different levels of analysis, and with different methodologies.

However, the plurality of approaches in consciousness research has been a source of criticism between disciplines. While neuroscience is often deemed reductionist, anthropology is sometimes taken to be unduly relativist, and philosophy is routinely suspected of being disconnected from empirical research. Our position is conciliatory rather than antagonistic: we see interdisciplinarity as a resource in the collective effort to achieve a scientific understanding of consciousness. Nonetheless, this stance raises an important question: which methodological approaches allow for a fruitful dialogue between disciplines in the investigation of consciousness? This question is the starting point of this workshop, which will present recent developments on methodological issues in consciousness research across disciplines.

Speakers: Oussama Abdoun, Maddalena Canna, Pierre Déléage, David Dupuis, Arnaud Halloy, Matthieu Koroma, Jean-Arthur Micoulaud-Franchi, Raphaël Millière, Enzo Tagliazucchi, Christopher Timmermann, Samuel Veyssieres.

Selfless Minds: Radical Disruptions of Self-Consciousness

5-7 October 2018 - Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies

Co-organized with Thomas Metzinger, Wanja Wiese, Jennifer Windt & Sascha Fink

While an increasing number of publications in philosophy, psychology and neuroscience investigate “self-consciousness", this ambiguous concept often remain loosely defined. A number of authors have suggested that there is such a thing as a basic sense of self or self-consciousness in the background of any phenomenally conscious experience. Theoretical discussions of this claim have been hampered by introspective disagreement, and its proponents often appeal to the elusiveness of the basic sense of self to fend off sceptical concerns.

One promising approach to this debate is to investigate real-world cases of altered states of consciousness in which self-consciousness appears to be radically disrupted or altogether missing. By bringing key players in the field together, we hope to make progress on these matters and the set the stage for an empirically grounded and conceptually rigorous debate on self-consciousness and its limits. 

Speakers: Adrianna Alcaraz Sánchez, Adrian Alsmith, Aviva Berkovich-Ohana, Monima Chadha, Anna Ciaunica, Christian Coseru, Sascha Fink, Jakub Limanowski, Chris Letheby, Thomas Metzinger, Raphaël Millière, Kathryn Swanson, Link Swanson, Wanja Wiese, Jennifer Windt.

The Sense of Self

29-31 May 2017 - University of Oxford

The idea that a “sense of self” pervades ordinary conscious experience appears to have at least an intuitive appeal for a number of authors in philosophy, psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Furthermore, several authors have even argued in recent years that a minimal kind of sense of self or self-awareness is necessary for consciousness – in other words, that a creature cannot be in a conscious state if it lacks such sense of self. This conference aims to investigate the very notion of sense of self, which is notoriously elusive and polysemous, in order to bring some clarity to these discussions; furthermore, it intends to bridge the gap between conceptual and experimental approaches to the notion.

Speakers: Aviva Berkovich-Ohana, Olaf Blanke, Frédérique de Vignemont, Shaun Gallagher, Marie Guillot, Jakub Limanowski, Thomas Metzinger, Anil Seth, Manos Tsakiris.

The conference was awarded a major grant from the Mind Association, as well as grants from the Ertegun Scholarship Programme, Magdalen College and Merton College.