Monday, October 15, 2012

Student Spotlight: Yao-Wen Hsieh

Welcome to the Student Spotlight interviews again! Our second spotlight features Yao-Wen Hsieh, and was conducted by the ASSC Director of Communications Lynn Chien-Hui Chiu.
Lynn Chien-Hui Chiu: Hi Yao-Wen! Thanks for being our second interviewee for the Student Spotlight! We would like to learn more about the life and work of ASSC students and the different research institutions and opportunities around the world. Could you give us a quick introduction about yourself?

Yao-Wen Hsieh: My name is Yao-Wen (Zechs) Hsieh and I am currently a MA student in the Institute of Philosophy of Mind and Cognition at National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan, after graduating from a medical school. Although I read some philosophy before, I had only a vague idea about the combination of philosophy and sciences, or interdisciplinary studies, until I entered this MA program and attended the ASSC meeting in Kyoto last year. This approach to consciousness really excites me! I found that we could discuss many philosophy questions with experiments and clinical cases that are more intriguing than thought experiments, and I also enjoy studying philosophy with the help of my prior expertise.

Chiu: What recent articles are you reading now? What do you think is new and exciting about them?

Hsieh: Some books and articles inspired me lately, and I’ll mention two of them:

1. Burge, T. (2010). Origins of Objectivity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Burge has developed his argument against “individual representationalism” for decades. However, in addition to the traditional analytical methodology with definitions and logical inferences, he begins to refer to scientific evidences. This is a good example for philosophers who intend to work out their arguments with scientific studies.

2. Lamme, V. (2010): How neuroscience will change our view on consciousness, Cognitive Neuroscience, 1:3, 204-220

In this article, Lamme concluded from neuroscientific evidence that the existence and mechanism of phenomenal consciousness can be explained by the recurrent loops in the brain. Surely some philosophers and scientists will question this thesis, but I am looking forward to the future development of this theory and I think his methodology is laudable. 

Chiu: You're a participant of the Consciousness Research Group at Yang Ming University, right? In the interest of full disclosure, I was also a member in Taiwan, and I'm sure the group has done exciting new work since then. What kind of work does your group do and what's the recent research focus?

Hsieh: Yes, I am a member of the Consciousness Research Group, a research group that comprises almost all the Taiwanese philosophers and students who are working on consciousness studies.  We hold international workshops, meetings, and speeches on consciousness regularly and maintain a blog (in Chinese), the Nexus of Consciousness ( to share up-to-date researches and news about consciousness studies with the public. Our recent focus is on the topic of the self. More precisely, we are building a new self-model based on recent scientific studies. We use this model to discuss the problems about the sense of self, self-consciousness, and the selves of psychiatric patients. We are also very interested in the debates about the distinction between access-consciousness and phenomenal-consciousness and its possible empirical support. We are considering the relevance of particular scientific studies and psychiatric cases (for example, autism) to this philosophical debate. CRG is a large group. We have a great variety of research topics and we can continuously benefit from each other’s works. 

Chiu: How would someone interested in your institution and research group sign up for visiting opportunities?  

Hsieh: We always welcome visiting scholars or students, and in fact, we have two foreign students (one from Macedonia and another from Belize) studying in our Institute now. Anyone interested in visiting our Institute should directly contact the professor he/she wants to study with and our administrative assistant Bella Yang ( For more information about the institution, please visit our website (

Chiu: Any interesting hobbies you'd like to share? 

Hsieh: Although the graduate life is extremely busy, there are two activities I would not cut out. The first one is to walk out on the street and protest against the recurring unfairness in our society. I believe that philosophers, as intellectuals, have the duty to speak out for people. You can say that our government makes me an “outdoorsman.” I also regularly practice Tai-Chi. I start it about 1 year ago, and even not yet feeling any “Qi,” I can feel the integration of my whole body. My mind would also be refreshed! Tai-Chi is no doubt an excellent sport for a graduate student who always sits in front of his desk and reads papers for a long-time.

Yao-Wen (Zechs) Hsieh is a graduate student at Philosophy of Mind and Cognition at National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan and a member of the Consciousness Research Group.

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