Dr Sebastian van As, trauma surgeon, Paediatric Surgery, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital

Descartes concluded that body and mind were two completely different entities, with the assumption that their interphase took place somewhere in the brain . The term ‘the hard problem’, coined in 1996 by David Chalmers, posited that some organisms are subjects of experience, which gave rise to the question of how it is that these systems are subjects of experience . Why do we have visual or auditory experiences when our cognitive systems engage in visual and auditory information processing? It is widely agreed upon that experience arises from a physical base, but we have no good explanation of why and how it emerges . Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life? The difficulty with the study of consciousness is the problem of experience . In the footsteps of many great philosophers and thinkers such as Daniel Dennett, this course aims to contribute to solving the big problem from an evolutionary perspective.



1. What is life?

2. What is consciousness?

3. The gradual growth of consciousness

4. Do we have a free will or free choice?

5. What are we, actually?


Recommended reading

Pinker, S. 1997. How the mind works. London: Penguin.

Ridley, M. 2015.The evolution of everything; how small changes transform our world. Fourth Estate

Dennett, D. 2017. From Bacteria to Bach and Back. The evolution of minds. London: Penguin.




Date: 6–10 January
Time: 11.15 am 
COURSE FEES Full R590 Staff & Students R295
Venue: LT2 Kramer Law Building UCT