Brain in a Vat

Philosophy 136: Philosophy of Mind

Spring 2018
Tuesdays and Thursdays 2-3:20
Where: Solis 110

Instructor: Jonathan Cohen
email: my last name, at ucsd dot edu
phone: (760) 814 1110
Office hours: Thursdays 10-11:30 and by appointment, in H&SS 7010


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 examples.

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.

Course Requirements

Students taking the course for credit will be required to write three short (5-7 page) papers. I'll hand out prompts for the papers before each is due. Grades will be determined on the basis of the three papers, and I'll use class participation as a way of deciding borderline cases.

Note that the third paper will count as your final exam: it will be due at 6pm on Tuesday 12 June (the officially assigned day and time of exam week), so that you'll have plenty of time after the end of official course instruction to complete it.

There will be no midterm for the course apart from the papers.


Use of laptops, tablets, and phones won't be permitted in class, except in special cases. Contact me for permission if you have specific reasons why you will need to use any of these devices.

Academic Integrity

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, 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 reference database, solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism.)

To get started with the system, please see the instructions at You'll need the class name (Philosophy of Mind, Spring 2018), class ID (17778743) and the enrollment key (cognition).


I'm making all readings for the course available at the UCSD electronic course reserves. There are no books to buy. To access the materials you'll need the password (jc136).

Tentative Syllabus

Mental States Descartes, Meditations I--II
Chomsky, "Review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior"
Place, "Is Consciousness a Brain Process?"
Smart, "Sensations and Brain Processes"
Kripke, "Naming and Necessity (Excerpt)"
Armstrong, "The Causal Theory of the Mind"
Putnam, "The Nature of Mental States"
Block, "Troubles with Functionalism (Excerpt)"
Dennett, "True Believers: The Intentional Strategy and Why It Works"
Churchland, "Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes"
Content Block, "Advertisement for a Semantics for Psychology"
Dretske, "If You Can't Make One, You Don't Know How It Works"
Millikan, "Biosemantics"
Fodor, "A Theory of Content, I: The Problem"
Fodor, "A Theory of Content, II: The Theory"
Consciousness Nagel, "What is it Like to Be a Bat?"
Jackson, "Epiphenomenal Qualia"
Lewis, "What Experience Teaches"
Dennett, "Quining Qualia"
Harman, "The Intrinsic Quality of Experience"
Block, "Inverted Earth"
Loar, "Phenomenal States (Second Version)"


Students requesting accommodations for this course due to a disability must provide a current Authorization for Accommodation (AFA) letter issued by the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD), which is located in University Center 202 behind Center Hall. Students are required to present their AFA letters to Faculty (please make arrangements to contact me privately) and to Nancy Guerrero in the philosophy department in advance so that accommodations may be arranged.