What's the use of consciousness?

7.00pm to 8.30pm, Monday 28 November

The Theatre

The Royal Institution of Great Britain GB United Kingdom W1S 4BS 21 Albemarle Street London

This event has already taken place

  • Why are we concious?

    Credit: Pixabay


Standard £14


Concession £10


Discounts for Members

Event description

What has consciousness ever done for us? Freud revolutionized our understanding of the mind with the idea that some behaviour could be driven unconsciously. 150 years later, we’re left wondering whether any behaviour is driven consciously. When does action depend on conscious thought and when is it farmed out to non-conscious systems? 

Both scientists and philosophers agree that’s a ‘hard’ question. Philosophy brings a subtle understanding of the phenomenon while science can now tell us something about what is going on in the brain when people are conscious, and how that generates behaviour. 

Join Cecilia Heyes and leading neuroscientists and philosophers for a discussion of what our consciousness offers us and learn what it’s like to be a subject in some of the key experiments trying to find answers to these questions. 

About the speakers

Cecilia Heyes is a Senior Research Fellow in Theoretical Life Sciences and Professor of Psychology at Oxford University. She is particularly interested in the evolution of consciousness.

Nicholas Shea is professor of Philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy, University of London. He specialises in the philosophy of the mind and the nature of mental representation.

Chris Frith is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Insitute of Philosophy at UCL and has published widely on social cognition, schizophrenia and other neuroscience topics. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the British Academy, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

David Papineau is professor of Philosophy at King's College London and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He is interested in the philosophies of mathematics, science and the mind.


This event will be filmed and on the Ri Channel within a few months. Subscribe for free to hear when new videos are released.

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