Philosophy 150: Philosophy of Cognitive Science
When: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-1:50
Where: Sequoyah 147
Instructor: Jonathan Cohen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
office: (858) 534 6812
Office hours: Tuesdays 10-11:30, in H&SS 8072 (and by appointment)
This course is an introduction to the philosophy of cognitive
So what the heck is the philosophy of cognitive science?
It is the field of philosophy that is concerned with foundational
questions that arise in cognitive science --- the contemporary,
interdisciplinary, scientific study of the mind.
(Analogy: philosophy of cognitive science is to cognitive science as
philosophy of physics/biology/chemistry is to
Our project, then, will be to grapple with some of the foundational
questions that arise in the course of cognitive science.
Slightly more specifically, we'll be asking about what kinds of
explanations cognitive sciences give, and what kinds of states and
processes they enlist to give those kinds of explanation.
In the final section of the course we'll take up a more specific
issue about explanation in one of the cognitive sciences in particular
(linguistics): here we'll turn to the question of how much (if any)
knowledge of language is innate as opposed to learned.
Though the topics chosen here by no means exhaust the subject, they
connect quite widely to other issues in surrounding areas in both
philosophy and the cognitive sciences.
Consequently, I believe that focusing on these issues will permit a
reasonably extensive view of the landscape.
There will be two assigned papers for the course and a take home
final exam. There will be no midterm.
All of the readings for the course are available by electronic reserve
at Giesel Library. To access them you'll need this password: jc150.
In grading I will assign equal weight to each of the two papers and
the take home exam, and will use class participation and discussion in
office hours as a way of deciding between borderline cases.
Violations of academic integrity will not be tolerated in this
course; violators will receive an F on at least the relevant
assignment and possibly the course, and will be subjected to UCSD's
disciplinary procedures (which could result in penalties including
permanent explusion from the university).
You are responsible for knowing and adhering to the UCSD
Policy on Integrity in all respects.
In particular, you may not cause or allow your work for this course to
resemble that of any other person, and all use of the ideas or words
of anyone other than a paper's author must be acknowledged properly.
I don't care a huge amount about specific citation formats; I do care
a huge amount that sources are acknowledged.
As far as collaboration goes, it's fine (it's encouraged) to talk
about the philosophical issues with other students or anyone
else you like; but when it is time to write up an essay you should do
so entirely by yourself.
If you have any questions about the Policy on Integrity or how to
follow it (e.g., if you are unsure how to cite ideas from other
sources) please ask me!
I am very happy to help prevent real or apparent violations of
academic integrity before they occur, and very unhappy to discover
that they have occured.
(As you may have noticed, I feel very strongly about this issue.)
To ensure standards of academic integrity are met, I'll
ask you, as a condition on taking this course, to run all of your
assigned work for the course through Turnitin.com,
which checks your paper for textual similarity to all of the other
papers in its databases.
(Your submitted papers will also be included as source documents in
the Turnitin.com reference database, solely for the purpose of
detecting plagiarism, going forward.)
To get started with the system, please see the instructions at
You'll need the class name (Philosophy of Cognitive Science, Spring
2015) class ID (9743842) and the password (cognition).
I note that this list is tentative, both in its content and the
parenthetically indicated planned timing.
My plan is to proceed in our discussion, allowing as much time as
necessary for treating the topics responsibly, even if this means we
fall behind the optimistically normative schedule.
Segment 1 (weeks 1-2): Intentional Explanation?
Segment 2 (weeks 3-4): Concepts
- Chomsky, "A Review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior"
Language, 35:1 (1959), 26-58.
- Fodor, Psychosemantics: The Problem of Meaning in the
Philosophy of Mind, MIT Press, 1987. Chapter 1 -- "Introduction:
The Persistence of the Attitudes", pp1-26.
- Churchland and Churchland, "Stalking the Wild Epistemic Engine"
Nous 17(1): 5-18, 1983.
Segment 3 (weeks 5-7): Computationalism and its Critics
- Katz, "On The General Character of Semantic Theory" in Margolis
and Laurence (ed.) Concepts: Core Readings (MIT Press, 1999), ch4.
- Rosch, E. 1978, "Principles of Categorization", pp. 27-48 in Rosch, E. &
Lloyd, B.B. (eds), Cognition and Categorization, Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates, Publishers, (Hillsdale).
- Rey, G. 1983, "Concepts and Stereotypes" Cognition 15:237-62.
- Carey, S. 1991, "Knowledge Acquisition: Enrichment or Conceptual
Change?" in S. Carey and R. Gelman (ed.), The Epigenesis of Mind:
Essays in Biology and Cognition. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 257-291.
- Pylyshyn, Z. 1984. Computation and Cognition: Toward a
Foundation for Cognitive Science. MIT Press. Chapter
- Rumelhart, D.E. 1989. "The architecture of mind: A connectionist
approach." In M.I. Posner (ed.), 1989, Foundations of Cognitive
- Fodor, J. & Pylyshyn, Z. 1988. "Connectionism and cognitive
architecture: A critical analysis." Cognition 28: 3-71.
- Van Gelder, T. 1992. "What might cognition be, if not
computation." The Journal of Philosophy 92: 345-381.
Segment 4 (weeks 8-10): Linguistics and Linguistic Knowledge
- Chomsky 1965, Chapter 1 -- "Methodological Preliminaries" in
Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. MIT Press. pp1-62.
- Cowie. F. 1999. What's Within?: Nativism
Reconsidered. Oxford University Press. Chapters 8-9 (i.e.,
- Laurence, S., & Margolis, E. 2001. "The poverty of the stimulus
argument". British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52:
- Pullum, G.K. and Scholz, B.C. 2002. "Empirical assessment of
stimulus poverty arguments". Linguistic Review 19(1/2):