This course has been designed to meet two goals: First, to invite students to experience the fascinating mental tickles that thinking about thinking causes; second, to give students the opportunity to know the work of philosophers who do not meet the stereotype of philosopher (what is this stereotype? Try this: picture in your head a philosopher. That's it. What you got is probably something like this, or this).
Existing anthologies and textbooks in the philosophy of mind give the impression that only White males in Western countries think about the mind. But there are many philosophers out there doing great work. As your instructor, it's my responsibility that you learn more than one single story about the philosophy of mind. As a student, you deserve to know more than a single story.
This course is a very small step in the direction of making the philosophy curriculum more diverse. It includes women, people of color, citizens from non-Anglophone countries, and LGBTQIA people. From Teresa of Ávila, a XVI century Spanish nun, to Susan Schneider, a cognitive scientist and philosopher with a project with NASA on AI in space. From XVII century Elisabeth of Bohemia and her critique of Descartes, to Jennifer Mundale, a contemporary philosopher of neuroscience. From Mary Astell, another XVII century philosopher who crafted a theory of mind that dismantles gender stereotypes, to Frédérique de Vignemont, a philosopher at the Jean Nicod Institute in Paris who writes about how you perceive your own body. The course combines traditional and non-traditional topics in the philosophy of mind. We start the course by reflecting on the value of the very discipline of philosophy of mind: Why is it important? Does it have any practical applications? In previous semesters, the course included an overview of traditional metaphysical accounts of the mind, theories of the self, and a selection of contemporary debates:
Implicit attitudes/bias: What are they? Are we responsible for them?
Depression: Does philosophizing make you prone to getting depressed?
Introspection and brain imaging: Can a brain scan know more about my mind than myself?
Creativity: What does it mean to be creative? How many kinds of creativity are there?
Boredom: Could boredom be a good thing?
Non-human intelligence: How many different types of minds are there? Can a plant be intelligent? What would alien intelligence look like?
Machine consciousness: How can we tell if an artificial mind is conscious? Is that possible in the first place?
Hybrid minds and the self: if I replace a part of my brain with silicon chips with the same functions, am I still the same person?
Reading list for Fall 2021:
Week 1: Intro Louise Antony, The mental and the physical (excerpt I) Anne M. Edwards, How to write philosophy (Ch. 1, 2 & 3.)
Week 2: The deceiving demon René Descartes, Meditations (Meditation I) Christia Mercer, Descartes’ debt to Teresa of Ávila, or why we should work on women in the history of philosophy. Christia Mercer, Descartes is not our father.
Week 3: The Mind-Body problem René Descartes, Meditations (Meditation II) Elisabeth of Bohemia, letter to Descartes, May 6 1643
Week 4: Dualism, Behaviorism, Identity theory, Functionalism Paul Churchland, Matter and Consciousness, Chapter 2 (excerpt on Dualism). Jaegwon Kim, Philosophy of Mind, Ch. 3 (excerpt on behaviorism). Suilin Lavelle, video on Identity Theory. Louise Antony, The mental and the physical (excerpt II). Optional reading: Andy Clark, Mindware, Intro + Ch. 1
Week 5: Functionalism and Reductionism Patricia S. Churchland, Reductionism and anti-reductionism in functionalist theories of the mind Peggy Sèries and Mark Sprevak, From Intelligent machines to the human brain (excerpt)
Week 6: Consciousness Thomas Nagel, What is it like to be a bat? Amy Kind, Nagel’s “What is it like to be a bat” argument against physicalism. Louise Antony, The mental and the physical (excerpt III). Caspar Hare, Can science teach us everything? (video) Optional reading: Kathleen Akins, A bat without qualities.
Week 7: Self I Susan Blackmore, Consciousness (Ch. 7 excerpt). Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons (excerpt).
Week 8: Self II Monima Chadha, No-self and the phenomenology of agency. Alison Gopnik, How an 18th-century philosopher helped solve my midlife crisis. John Doris, Talking to ourselves (Ch. 8 excerpt).
Week 9: Evolution of the mind Suilin Lavelle and Kenny Smith, Do our modern skulls house stone-age minds? Betrand Malle, Does evolutionary psychology explain the mind? (video) Laurie Santos, Monkey minds, humans minds, and theater (video)
Week 10: What things have minds? Animal minds and plant minds Kristin Andrews, Beyond anthropocentrism. Alison Gopnik, How animals think. Saray Ayala-López, Do Plants challenge our notion of cognition? (blog post + comments) Optional reading: Bastian et al., Don't mind meat? The denial of mind to animals for human consumption.
Week 11: What things have minds? Machine minds Susan Schneider, Artificial you (Ch. 5,6). Susan Schneider, AI and the future of your mind (video). David Chalmers, The Singularity: A philosophical analysis (excerpt). Stanislas Dehaene, Hakwan Lau & Sid Kouider, Artificial consciousness. Interview with Sac State Professor Matt McCormick (video)
Week 13: The ethics of belief I Tommy Shelby, Is racism in the heart? William Clifford, The ethics of belief. Francisco Mejía Uribe, Believing without evidence is always morally wrong. Rima Basu, The specter of normative conflict: Does fairness conflict with accuracy? (blog post) Optional Reading: Rima Basu, The specter of normative conflict: Does fairness require accuracy? (paper)
Week 14: The ethics of belief II: Implicit bias and the privacy of the mind. Jules Holroyd, Responsibility for implicit bias. Frédérique de Vignemont, Brainreading of perceptual experiences: A challenge for first-person authority?
Week 15: The ethics of belief III: Delusions Lisa Bortolotti & Kengo Miyazono, The ethics of delusional beliefs. John Campbell on schizophrenia (podcast).
This course is asynchronous. All the course materials, including video lectures, will be posted on the Canvas site.
I'm interested not only in your answers to questions, but in your own questions. I expect you to come up with questions on the material. Please check this about why asking your own questions is important.