Philosophy 342

Prof. Warren Schmaus

Philosophy of Mind

Office: At Home

TR 9:40 - 10:55

Email: schmaus@iit.edu

Online

Office Hrs: by appointment

Web Site:  mypages.iit.edu/~schmaus/Philosophy_of_Mind

 

 

 

Revised course syllabus

 

 

What is the relationship between the mind and the body? Is the mind the same thing as the brain or is it something else? Can we explain our conscious experience in terms of what goes on in our nerve cells? How can mere thoughts cause things to happen in a physical universe? Is it merely a delusion on our part to believe that our thoughts matter? Does evolutionary theory shed light on any of these problems? Could a computer think the way we do? How will our answers to these questions affect the way we choose to study psychology – the science of the mind? These are the sorts of questions we will discuss in this course.

 

We will begin with an introduction to several different philosophical theories of the relationship between the mind and the body, starting with mind-body dualism, the view that the mind and body are two distinct substances with no properties in common. After discussing the problems with that view, we will then turn to several alternatives, including behaviorism, materialism, and functionalism. We will also consider the problems of what we mean when we talk about the mind and its contents, whether we can really know anything about the mind, and if so, how?

 

In sum, philosophy of mind involves four closely related philosophical problems: First, there's the metaphysical problem. What sort of thing is the mind, or is it even a thing at all? Second, there's the semantic problem. Just what do our words mean when we talk about mental states? Do they refer to anything at all? Third, there's the epistemological problem. What can we know about the mind? Can we ever be certain about it? And finally, fourth, the methodological problem. Are the methods of the sciences sufficient for understanding consciousness? Or does this require some special philosophical method distinct from that of the sciences? Or is the phenomenon of consciousness beyond human understanding?

 

Required Texts:

 

                 Churchland, Patricia Smith, Brain-Wise: Studies in Neurophilosophy, ISBN 9780262532006 (BW)

                 Churchland, Paul, Matter and Consciousness, third edition ISBN 9780262519588 (MC)

                 Heil, John, ed. Philosophy of Mind: A guide and anthology. ISBN 9780199253838 (PM)

                          

Course requirements:

 

3 500-word essays, 10 points each, due  2/4, 2/25, 3/23

 

30 %

8 Surprise quizzes

 

10 %

Class Participation

 

10 %

Research Project:

 

 

3/11

Proposal:  Title, description, bibliography

 6 %

 

4/6

4 - page progress report, with bibliography

 12 %

 

4/22 – 5/6

Class presentation

 12 %

 

Exam week

8 - 10 - page final paper

 20 %

 

Total for project:

 

 50 %

Total:

 

100 %

 

Class Participation and Attendance:

 

Classes will be conducted through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. Although I will try to remember to record each class, I would prefer students to participate during the regularly scheduled time for the class. However, because I respect your privacy, I will not require students to have their cameras on. It's up to you. Also, as a matter of courtesy not only to me but also to your classmates, one should keep one's mic muted unless one wishes to ask a question or make a comment. This eliminates background noise. You can of course also use the chat function to participate in class.

 

Class participation and attendance will count towards another 10 % of your grade.

 

Office Hours:

 

Office hours will be held online and by scheduled appointment. Just send me an email (schmaus@iit.edu) so we can set up a time. I will then create a session in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for office hours. 

 

 

Essays:

 

The three 500-word essays will be based on material covered in class. For each assignment, you will choose and write about one of the three or four questions I will ask. 

 

I will be providing notes on the web for all of the classes, which should help you with the short essays as well as the quizzes. Take your web browser to the web site named above. There you will find this syllabus with highlighted links to lecture outlines (in parentheses), paper topic assignments, and a guide to paper writing. The URL for this syllabus is also linked to the Blackboard course page.

 

All written work, including the essays, the research proposal, the progress report, and the final paper, are to be double-spaced and in a readable 11 or 12-point font, and submitted as Word documents as email attachments. Please, no pdfs. Name the file after yourself, so I don't get 20+ Word documents with a name like "First essay." Students whose written work is not up to college level will be requested to seek assistance at the Writing Center, to be arranged with Prof. Naum Neskoski (nneskosk@iit.edu) .

 

Plagiarized work receives a failing grade and cannot be made up, and will be reported to the university committee on academic honesty.. 

 

Quizzes:

 

In addition, there will be approximately 8 quizzes, which typically consist of 7 true-and-false questions and one 3-point question that requires a written answer. Your average quiz grade will count for 10 % of your final grade. 

 

I will email a copy of the quiz to everyone in the class 15 minutes before class starts. Students should then return it to me with their answers within the first 10 to 15 minutes of that class. Just like the essays, return it to me as an email attachment, naming the file after yourself to avoid confusion. After I receive everyone’s quiz, I’ll go over the answers in class, as they often provide important clues for the essays, which are worth considerably more towards your grade.

 

Students may make up missed quizzes only if they have an excused absence. Valid excuses concern things that are outside a student’s control, such as an out-of-town trip by a sports team or ROTC unit, an illness, or other medical problem. It is the student’s responsibility to inform the professor ahead of time when the student knows he or she will be absent from class. 

 

Research Project:

 

Every student will be responsible for a library research paper of about 8 - 10 pages and a 10 -15 minute presentation based on that paper. The topic may be drawn from either recent philosophy of mind, the history of the philosophy of mind, or related work in the cognitive sciences, artificial intelligence, or the neurosciences. A list of suggested topics is linked to the on-line syllabus.  Alternative topics may be worked out with the professor. 

 

A librarian from Galvin Library, Ms. Nichole Novak, will visit our online class on March 2 to introduce you to some of the research tools available to you. She has also prepared an online research guide for philosophy papers: http://guides.library.iit.edu/philosophy.

 

This research project will proceed through a series of guided stages, each of which shall contribute towards your grade for the course. 

 

·                  First each student will turn in a project proposal, including a tentative title, a one-paragraph description of the topic to be investigated, and a tentative bibliography of at least three peer-reviewed sources of the sort we learned about during our visit from the librarian. This will be returned with comments by the professor. 

·                  The next stage will be a progress report of about 1000 words, in either paragraph or outline form. It should also include the current bibliography on a separate page.  You may think of this progress report as serving as the basis of the class presentation. 

·                  The third stage is a class presentation of about 10 to 15 minutes. Students will send me a power point or pdf document ahead of time, which I will distribute to the class and upload to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. You'll be promoted from a participant to a presenter on the day of your presentation. Presenters should try to reserve a few minutes at the end for questions. Grades will be based on content.    

·                  Comments on this progress report and class discussion generated by your class presentation will then provide you with feedback for writing your final paper. The final research paper is due on the day scheduled for the final examination for this course and serves in place of it.

 

Disability Accommodations:

 

Reasonable accommodations will be made for students with documented disabilities.  In order to receive accommodations, students must obtain a letter of accommodation from the Center for Disability Resources and speak with me about it as soon as possible.  The Center for Disability Resources is located in Suite 3F3-1, 10 W 35th St. You can also call them at 312-567-5744 or email them at disabilities@iit.edu.

 

Readings and Assignments:

 

Date

 

Assignment (All required unless otherwise indicated)

 

1/19

T

Introduction to course.  Descartes on people, machines, and animals. Handout from Discourse on Method, V (Discourse).

1/21

R

Descartes’s Mind-Body Dualism.  Meditations, II, VI, with objections and replies.  PM, pp. 16-18, 36-58 (Descartes). 

1/26

T

Descartes’s Mind-Body Dualism, cont’d. FIRST ESSAY WILL BE ASSIGNED.  DUE:  2/11.

1/28

R

Locke and concluding discussion of dualism.  PM, pp. 18-20, 59-67; MC, pp. 11-35 (Locke, dualism). 

2/2

T

Behaviorism and the Semantic Problem.  PM, pp. 75-79, 85-104; MC, pp. 36-40, 87-97 (behaviorism). 

2/4

R

Do Martians feel pain? Tuesday's readings, continued (behaviorism).

2/9

T

STUDY DAY. NO CLASS.

2/11

R

Materialism.  PM, pp. 79-84, 116-127; MC, pp. 40-45 (materialism).  FIRST ESSAY DUE.   SECOND ESSAY WILL BE ASSIGNED.  DUE:  2/25.

2/16

T

Functionalism.  PM, pp. 139-149, 168-182; MC, pp. 63-72 (Fodor).

2/18

R

Can Machines Think? PM, pp. 205-234; recommended:  MC, pp. 157-82 (Turing).

2/23

T

The Chinese Room.  PM, pp. 235-252; MC, pp. 182-89 (Searle). 

2/25

R

Chinese Room, cont’d.  PM, pp. 253-66 (Boden). SECOND ESSAY DUE. THIRD ESSAY ASSIGNED.  DUE:  3/23. 

3/2

T

Class visit by Nichole Novak, librarian

3/4

R

Dennett’s Intentional Stance.  PM, pp. 277-279, 298-320 (Dennett) . 

3/9

T

Intentional stance, concluded.

3/11

R

Eliminative Materialism.  PM, pp. 357-364, 382-400; MC, pp. 73-85, 103-108 (eliminativism). PROPOSALS DUE.

3/16

T

Cognitive Suicide. PM, 401-13. (Baker).

3/18

R

Property Dualism: The Mind of a Bat. PM, pp. 521-527, 528-538 (Nagel).

3/23

T

Mary's black-and-white world. PM, pp. 762-771 (Jackson). THIRD ESSAY DUE.

3/25

R

Materialist replies to the property dualists.  MC, pp. 45-62 (materialism2).  

3/30

T

The Mystery of Consciousness.  PM, pp. 599-606, 617-640 (Chalmers) 

4/1

R

Consciousnessd is not mysterious! PM 798-806. (Hardcastle).

4/6

T

What we can know, and how we can learn about minds.  MC pp. 111-56, BW plp. 117-25 (epistemology, methodology). PROGRESS REPORTS DUE.

4/8

R

STUDY DAY: NO CLASS

4/13

T

Consciousness and neuroscience.  BW, pp. 127-170; recommended:  pp. 20-32 (Churchland1).

4/15

R

Consciousness and neuroscience, cont’d.  BW, pp. 171-199 (Churchland2).

4/20

T

Concluding discussion of neuroscience. 

4/22

R

Student presentations

4/27

T

Student presentations, cont’d.

4/29

R

Student presentations, cont’d. 

5/4

T

Student presentations, cont’d. 

5/6

R

Student presentations, cont’d. 

5/10 M – 5/14 F EXAM WEEK.  FINAL PAPERS DUE ON SCHEDULED EXAM DATE.