The Consciousness, Cognition & Computation Group of the Center for Research in Cognition & Neurosciences at the Université libre de Bruxelles seeks applicants for a PhD position funded under the EXPERIENCE Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC, Project number 101055060 — EXPERIENCE) awarded to Axel Cleeremans .
EXPERIENCE is an ambitious, five-year project dedicated to addressing a fundamental question in the broad domain of consciousness science: Why would we do anything at all if the doing was not doing something to us? In other words: What is consciousness good for? Reversing classical views according to which subjective experience is a mere epiphenomenon that affords no functional advantage, EXPERIENCE proposes that the core function of phenomenal experience is to enable subject-level valuation: “What it feels like” is endowed with intrinsic value. Thus, it is only in virtue of the fact that conscious agents experience things and care about those experiences that they are motivated to act in certain ways and that they prefer some states of affairs vs. others. Conscious experience functions as a mental currency of sorts that makes it possible for agents to compare vastly different states of affairs in a common subject-centred mental quality space — a feature that explains that consciousness is unified. EXPERIENCE will address the “why” question of consciousness by pursuing a rich interdisciplinary program rooted in integrative philosophy of mind and in innovative cognitive neuroscience methods applied to the interactions between affect and consciousness in perception and action. The project is articulated over four work packages, each addressing a specific claim: (1) Subjective experience has intrinsic value, (2) The phenomenal field is valenced, (3) All intentional action is motivated by subjective experience & (4) Subjective experience has functional effects. EXPERIENCE promises to question entrenched distinctions and to move the scientific approach of consciousness a step closer to what we all know: That subjective experience matters. In fact, in many respects, it is the only thing that matters, as without it, life would simply not be worth living.
For further background on the ideas behind this project, applicants are invited to consult this open-access article.
The PhD position will involve developing the empirical aspects of EXPERIENCE with the PI and in coordination with the existing EXPERIENCE team, currently consisting of two post-docs and two Ph.D. students (please consult https://erc-xp.ulb.be/ for details). The successful applicant will primarily be involved in managing Work Package 3, which is dedicated to testing the hypothesis that motivation requires conscious awareness, and involve designing and conducting relevant behavioural experiments.
Successful applicants will hold a master’s degree or equivalent in psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science or a related field.
The candidate will have excellent knowledge of English. Basic knowledge of French is a plus. The Ph.D. position will be funded for four years and is remunerated according to Belgian Ph.D. standards (approx. 22K € / year net, as well as social security benefits).
Successful applicants will join the extant CO3 lab (about 14 members) and join the EXPERIENCE team, currently consisting of three PhD Candidates and two postdoctoral researchers.
Applications will continue to be examined until the positions are filled. Starting dates can range from January 2024 to February 2024, but preference will be given to qualified applicants who can begin on January 2nd, 2024.
Informal enquiries accompanied by a CV and a short statement of interest may be sent to Axel Cleeremans (email@example.com) with the following subject: ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?