The focus on Consciousness Studies is a specialization within the well established and successful Transformative Studies online Ph.D. Program. It is designed especially with student interests in personal and social transformation in mind.
While traditional universities often include courses on consciousness in their psychology or philosophy curricula, and occasionally in neuroscience, actual doctoral programs in consciousness studies are rare. Since its earliest beginnings in the 1950s, however, CIIS has been a center for international interest in the study of consciousness, an interest that continues to this day and permeates nearly every degree program in the Institute. The web page for the CIIS Center for Consciousness Studies conservatively lists six programs offering degrees explicitly informed by the study of consciousness, and about 20 interested faculty members distributed throughout the entire Institute. William James (1916/1958), the first U.S. psychologist of eminence, held that "normal waking consciousness" is only one special type, and "parted from it by the filmiest of screens" lie different forms that "forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality." After nearly a century of ignoring the issues raised by James about the topic of consciousness, scholars and researchers are again paying attention to such fundamental questions as the definition of consciousness, the components of conscious experience, and the mechanisms of consciousness.
Course of Study
Students who choose the Consciousness Studies Focus will take the two required courses listed below as well as the basic two-year sequence required of all doctoral students in the Transformative Studies Program. Additionally, they will choose elective courses and a dissertation topic that reflects their interest in consciousness.
Required Courses for Consciousness Studies
TSD 6370 Introduction to Consciousness Studies
This course examines the many ways in which the word consciousness has been used in professional and popular literature, and the hidden as well as explicit assumptions held by consciousness scholars about the nature of consciousness. It explores the field from diverse approaches: cognitive science, neuroscience, cross-cultural studies, existential-phenomenological methodologies, and other related disciplines. It is designed to provide students with the opportunity to gain a comprehensive understanding of consciousness studies. In doing so, it examines the most widely celebrated theories and problems concerning the nature of consciousness, and encourages students to examine their personal beliefs about consciousness based on their individual experiences. This course was created for the Consciousness Studies Focus. It should be taken during the student's second term, or as soon as she or he can schedule it.
TSD 6316 Consciousness and the Brain
This course offers an introduction to issues concerning the nature of consciousness and the brain. No previous experience in the study of the brain is required. It surveys prominent theories of how the brain and consciousness are related and how they interact. It also explores current topics such as consciousness in the left and right hemispheres; mirror neurons and the social brain; and the nature of emotion, thought, memory, and perception. Much of this material utilizes fascinating case studies such as those by Oliver Sacks, Vilayanur Subramanian, and Michael S. Gazzaniga. The course includes a variety of readings.