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Academic Bulletin Freshman Tutorials - 2009-10 - 9 FT 9

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FT 09-J Doing Without Thinking: The Powerful Unconscious and What it Means for Free Will

How free are you to do what you want to do? Do you really choose what to do and when? Most Americans believe in free will, value freedom and personal choice, and assume that they know why they behave as they do. Indeed, the human ability to think deliberately, critically, and rationally about what we should and should not do seems to be foremost in setting us apart from other animals. On the other hand, scholars have long been fascinated by the possibility of a powerful unconscious, some part of our perception, understanding, and/or knowledge that exists outside of our awareness and that influences our behavior. If such an unconscious exists, does that mean that we are not as free as we thought? Is our behavior really under our control? In this course we will explore the unconscious and its implications. We will read books by contemporary scholars (e.g., Strangers to Ourselves by Tim Wilson; Are We Free? by Roy Baumeister) and popular writers (e.g., Blink by Malcolm Gladwell), consider how the unconscious is portrayed in popular media, (e.g., TV show Lie to Me), and explore our and others’ reactions to the possibility of unconscious influences. In so doing, we will see a new scientific perspective unfolding, discover that the mind is even more impressive than we consciously realize, and will find that it’s not Freud’s unconscious after all.

Horton, Robert
Credits: 1