Philosophy 207: Core Seminar in Philosophy of Mind

Where: Philosophy seminar room (H&SS 7077)
When: Fridays 1-4, spring quarter 2019


Matthew Fulkerson
Office hours: Wednesdays 2-3:30 and by appointment, in H&SS 8073

Jonathan Cohen
Last name, followed by the at sign, followed by the four letter abbreviation for the university, followed by '.', followed by 'edu'
Office hours: Thursdays 10-11:30 and by appointment, in H&SS 7022


This graduate seminar will focus on the philosophical work of Daniel Dennett and Jerry Fodor --- two giants of philosophy of mind (and related disciplines inside and outside philosophy).

Fulkerson will focus on Dennett, and Cohen will focus on Fodor. Discussion of Dennett will include his work on the intentional stance and his various theories of consciousness. The Fodor themes will include his views on psychological explanation, the language of thought hypothesis, the compositionality of mental representation, content holism, innateness, and modularity. The goal will be to expose students to the fundamental ideas of two major figures who have shaped the agenda in philosophy of mind for generations, and whose influence can scarcely be measured.

This seminar counts toward the distribution requirement in the area of philosophy of mind and language; it also counts as a core seminar.


The seminar requirements are of two main kinds: presentations, and a medium length (15 page) final paper.


We will determine your grade based on the following breakdown:
25% seminar presentations and participation
75% final paper

Further notes:

  1. Note that there is reading assigned for the first meeting of the seminar; please come having read the Fodor material listed for week 1 and ready to discuss it.
  2. Below we list core readings for the seminar; we'll be adding secondary readings from the critical literature. Other changes may happen as well.
  3. Most readings are linked below (though in some cases only accesiible from a UCSD ip number, possibly through vpn).
  4. Class will be cancelled on 19 April and 31 May (both instructors will be at conferences), so we'll schedule makeup sessions.

Tentative Schedule

5 April Fodor on psychological explanation, RTM Fodor, Psychosemantics, ch1; Language of Thought, ch2 Jonathan
12 April Fodor on compositionality Fodor and Pylyshyn, "Connectionism and cognitive architecture: A critical analysis"; Smolensky, "On the proper treatment of connectionism"; Fodor and McLaughlin, "Connectionism and the problem of systematicity: Why Smolensky's solution doesn't work"; Fodor, Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong, ch5 Haggeo, Isabella
26 April Dennett on psychological explanation, I Dennett, The Intentional Stance, ch 1-3; Dennett, "Real Patterns" Matt, Ahmed
3 May Dennett on psychological explanation, II Dennett, The Intentional Stance, ch 4-6 Jada
10 May Fodor and Lepore on holism Fodor and Lepore, Holism: A Shopper's Guide, ch1, 5, 7 Isabella
17 May Fodor on innateness Fodor, "The present status of the innateness controversy"; Cowie, "Mad dog nativism"; Fodor, Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong, ch 6, 7; *Laurence and Margolis, "Radical Concept Nativism" Ahmed, Elizabeth
24 May Fodor on modularity Fodor, Modularity of Mind, ch 3-4 Elizabeth, Marcus
7 June Dennett on consciousness, I Dennett, "Why you can't make a computer that feels pain"; "Quining Qualia" Haggeo, Robert
11 June Dennett on consciousness, II Dennett, "Seeing is Believing, or is it?"; Dennett and Kinsbourne "Time and the observer" Jada
14 June Dennett on consciousness, III Dennett, Consciousness Explained (excerpts), "Are we explaining consciousness yet?" Robert