The Minor in Consciousness at the University of Washington Bothell is the first of its kind at a public university in the world. It offers students and faculty the opportunity to explore big questions and bigger mysteries that have drawn the attention of some of the most brilliant scientists, scholars, and creative minds throughout the centuries.
Consciousness is a multidisciplinary inquiry into the nature, dynamics, and functions of the mind. It comprises new insights about the ontology of mind that are informed by depth psychology, neuroscience, quantum physics, and contemplative practices. The integral study of consciousness emphasizes broad and intellectually rigorous approaches to the mind and the exploration of cutting-edge and controversial issues. These include the nature of consciousness, the intersection of mind and matter, and ways of exploring levels of awareness that span disciplines, cultures, and history. It also includes a variety of experiential practices that have been demonstrated to heighten mental clarity, enhance creativity, and promote psychological and physical well-being.
The Minor's seven permanent courses provide students the opportunity to engage the emerging field of Consciousness within a context grounded in scientific method, empirical inquiry, and philosophical reflection. The Minor consists of a minimum of 25 credits from A and B:
A. Core Requirements- 10 credits
- BCONSC 321: Consciousness Studies - The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (5 cr): Introduces the field of consciousness studies. Explores the interaction of mind and body through scientific studies of dreams, intuition, intention, and anomalous phenomena. Includes the role of meditation and contemplative practices in physiological and psychological well-being.
- BCONSC 322: Exploration of Consciousness (5 cr): Deeper inquiry into the nature of consciousness and the interaction of mind and body. Topics include the biology of compassion and belief, attention and intention in neuroplasticity, experimental studies of meditation and mental training in promoting psychological, physical health; and the emergence of an integral scientific paradigm. Prerequisite: BCONSC 321.
B. Elective Requirements- 15 credits (Chosen from this list)
- BCONSC 323: The Psychology and Science of Dreams (5 cr): Explores the psychology and science of dreams. Topics include the history and theories of dreams, modern experimental studies of dreaming and dream content, lucid dreams, contribution of dreams to scientific creativity, and dream incubation and interpretation techniques.
- BCONSC 424: Consciousness and the Natural World (5 cr): Explores emerging models of consciousness in the natural world. Topics include scientific and shamanic research about animal and plant consciousness and the ethical implications of this inquiry for human interaction with other species. Prerequisite: BCONSC 322
- BPHYS 305: The Cosmos: Provides a conceptual introduction to the foundation and current theories of cosmology. Studies black holes, time travel, the Big Bang, and dark matter.
- BBIO 310: Brain and Behavior (5 cr): Interdisciplinary exploration of the biological basis of human behavior, including altruism, aggression, learning, communication, and mating. Draws on neuroanatomy, neuroscience, endocrinology, ethology, genetics, and sociobiology to examine how the brain influences, and is influenced by, behavior. Readings include primary literature as well as popular publications.
- BCONSC 425: Consciousness and Well-Being (5 cr): Focuses on understanding the non-local dynamics of human consciousness. Topics include entanglement and attunement as underlying principles of psychological and physical reality, experimental and phenomenological studies of shared consciousness with humans and other species, and contemplative practices that promote individual and societal health and well-being. Prerequisite: BCONSC 322.
C. Optional Undergraduate Research – 5 credits
- BCONSC 499: Undergraduate Research: After completing the minor, students will be eligible to participate in undergraduate research (1-5 cr). Undergraduate research can be supervised by any interested faculty member.
The Consciousness Minor offers students at all three UW campuses a coherent opportunity to explore big questions and bigger mysteries that have drawn the attention of some of the most brilliant scientists, scholars, and creative minds throughout the centuries. By emphasizing broad and rigorous approaches to the study of consciousness, the minor brings together a variety of scientific and contemplative disciplines to speak to the following goals:
- Understand the ways in which contemporary scientists and contemplative scholars are collaborating to investigate the psychology, biology, phenomenology, and physics of consciousness.
- Analyze complex models of consciousness from scientific, philosophical, historical, and contemplative perspectives.
- Consider the role of different states of consciousness in facilitating creative processes, inventions, and scientific discoveries as well as psychological, physical, and societal well-being.
- Examine the influence and limits of scientific paradigms, as well as their ethical implications.
- Comprehend the ways in which thoughts, emotions, and contemplative practices change the anatomical and physiological structure and functioning of the brain.
- Explore the role of meditation and contemplative practices in expanding our knowledge about the nature and scope of consciousness.
- Offer students opportunities to participate in research at the leading edge of an emerging field.
- Provide a platform for students to explore their own consciousness, heighten mental clarity, and improve individual and collective well-being.
As a result of completing the minor, students will be prepared to explore the complex relationships among mind, brain, and body with scientific rigor and open minds. They will be able to converse about the relationship of mind and matter with contemporary scientists and contemplative scholars, comparing and contrasting different approaches, and assessing their strengths and limitations. They will learn contemplative practices that have been proven to help them concentrate, increase their motivation and persistence, enhance their higher order thinking skills, and achieve a greater sense of equanimity. These skills will help them cope with the increasingly complex problems of the contemporary world and contribute creatively to their solutions. Students will be encouraged to become more reflective, compassionate, insightful, and resilient, to cultivate their self-awareness, and to consider carefully the consciousness and needs of other species and the biosphere. As a result, students will gain a greater sense of meaning and purpose, an enhanced capacity to draw upon and integrate different forms of knowledge, and a heightened ability to utilize inner resources to live mindfully at home, at work, and in their communities.