AHSE1155 Identity from the Mind & the Brain: Who Am I and How Do I Know

Perhaps the most fundamental question any developing individual asks himself/herself is: Who am I? The ways we answer this question have evolved over the course of history as the dominant ways of knowing (epistemologies) have shifted. Indeed, the question of how we come to know ourselves has captivated Western scholars since the days of Descartes, but a look at the last fifty to sixty years has also seen enormous changes. Many people invoke psychological and philosophical perspectives in describing their identity, focusing on their personality, their developmental history, and their place in society. But the explosion of neurobiological research has introduced a new and viable outlook: explaining identity at the chemical and electrical level of the brain. There is good reason to think that these different perspectives on identity are mutually exclusive and this tension will underlie everything we discuss in this interdisciplinary course. Indeed, when it comes to a topic as fundamental to human existence as identity, it is absolutely essential to wonder not only "who am I?" but to also ask "how do I know?" In this course, we will approach the question of identity from multiple perspectives, including psychology, postmodern philosophy, and neuroscience. In the process, we will critically examine not only the conception of identity that each perspective supports, but also the assumptions and limitations of each epistemology. This course focuses more on the science of psychology and neuroscience, while AHSE 1150: What Is "I"? is more focused on philosophy and artificial intelligence.