Philosophy of Mind
Instructor: Jonathan Cohen
(joncohenREMOVETHIS@aardvark.ucsd.edu (omit text in caps, which reduces automated spam))
office: (732) 445 6163
home: (718) 499 1213
Office hours: Tuesday, 12:30 to 2:00, in
Psychology A132, on Busch Campus.
The philosophy of mind is that area of philosophy connected with
questions about mind, its nature, its operation, and its connections
with the rest of the universe.
Classical problems in the area involve the relationship
between the mind and the body, paradoxes concerning personal identity,
and questions about the existence and nature of free will.
Philosophy of mind has deep connections not only with philosophical
research in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language,
philosophy of science, ethics, and the like, but also (and
increasingly) with work outside philosophy -- in linguistics,
artificial intelligence, and psychology, to name a few important
This course is designed as a survey of some of the most important
contemporary literature in philosophy of mind (although there will be
some historical readings early in the course).
The course is divided into four segments.
In the first, we'll focus on traditional ontological questions
regarding the relationship between the mind and the body.
This segment is organized as an (unfairly) whiggish
progression, designed to show how each successive view emerges from
The other three segments of the course cover what have sometimes been
thought of as the big three questions in contemporary philosophy of
mind: thinking, intentionality, and consciousness.
The problem of thinking is the problem of explaining how there can be
rational transitions between mental states (e.g., why, if you believe
that hamburgers taste good and beer tastes good, do you also believe
that beer tastes good?).
The problem of intentionality involves explaining the relation of
"aboutness" apparently holding between certain of our mental states
and certain non-mental things in the word: your thought, for example,
might be a thought about a beer; in contrast, it seems that
most things other than mental states (glasses of beer, for example)
are not about anything.
The problems of consciousness include issues about qualia (what is the
nature of the painful sensation produced by slamming your hand in a
car door?), and the completability of physical theory (can phenomena
of consciousness be accounted for within a physicalist ontology?).
I hope that, by presenting some of the major questions and considering
some of the proposed programs in the field, I can introduce you to the
issues and whet your philosophical appetites.
Required Coursework and Grading
You are responsible for handing in weekly assignments on the reading
and also two short papers:
- Weekly Assignments:
Since there is so much to cover, I've assigned quite a lot of
To get the most out of the course, it is absolutely essential
that everyone comes to class prepared to discuss the readings.
To ensure that this happens, you will be required to turn in a short
(no more than one page) comment or question drawn from the reading at
the end of each week.
You can write about anything you found interesting, puzzling, strange,
clearly wrong, clearly right, etc.
Just make sure that your question demonstrates that you have done the
reading in question, and that it contains fewer than four
- Short Papers:
In addition to the short weekly assignments, you will be required to
write two short papers (7-10 pages each).
I shall hand out a list of suggested topics for the papers before each
There will be no final exam or midterm for the course.
I shall assign grades based on the following breakdown:
20% short weekly assignments
40% short paper #1
40% short paper #2
[Useful background reading: Entry on philosophy of mind in Cambridge
Dictionary of Philosophy.]
- Ontology of Mind
- Descartes, Meditations 1, 2, 3
- Berkeley, "Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous"
- Carnap, "Psychology in Physical Language"
- Watson, "Talking and Thinking"
- Chomsky, "Review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior"
- Block, "What is Functionalism"
- Lewis, "Psychophysical and Theoretical Identifications"
- Davidson, "Mental Events"
- Fodor, "Special Sciences, or The Disunity of Science as a
- Kim, "Multiple Realization and the Metaphysics of Reduction"
- Fodor, "Why There Still Has to Be a Language of Thought"
- Churchland and Churchland, "Stalking the Wild Epistemic Engine"
- Bechtel, "Connectionism and the Philosophy of Mind: An Overview"
- Fodor and Pylyshyn, "Connectionism and Cognitive Architecture:
A Critical Analysis"
- Smolensky, "Constituent Structure and Explanation in an
Integrated Connectionist/Symbolic Cognitive Architecture"
- Fodor, "Connectionism and the Problem of Systematicity
(Continued): Why Smolensky's Solution Still Doesn't
- Fodor, "Fodor's Guide to Mental Representation"
- Block, "Advertisement for a Semantics for Psychology"
- Fodor and Lepore, "Holism, A Shopper's Guide", ch 6
- Dretske, "Precis of Knowledge and the Flow of Information"
- Fodor, "Semantics, Wisconsin Style"
- Loewer, "From Information to Intentionality"
- Millikan, "Biosemantics"
- Guzeldere, "The Many Faces of Consciousness: A Field Guide"
- Nagel, "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?"
- Jackson, "Epiphenomenal Qualia"
- Levine, "On Leaving Out What It's Like"
- Loar, "Phenomenal States"
- Rosenthal, "A Theory of Consciousness"
- Tye, "A Representational Theory of Pains and Their Phenomenal
- Hill, "Imaginability, Conceivability, Possibility and the