Phil. 153

Philosophy of Mind


One goal of our course is to explain the mind:


The philosophy of mind is an area of metaphysics that asks and explores questions about the mind.  Here are some we will explore.

Because consciousness is the essence of mind, we'd like to know whether we can expect scientists someday to be able to measure the onset of consciousness in a growing fetus or human infant.  Is it gradual, or does it "switch on" abruptly?

Consider what sorts of animals have consciousness. How about dogs and mosquitoes? It's important to decide this question because we treat you better if we decide you can be conscious, or better yet, self-conscious.

I wonder if cats have a concept of dog. What do you think? Philosophers of mind want to know. 

It has been suggested that plants might just be very slow thinkers, enjoying their awareness of sunshine, wincing when uprooted, and all this being overlooked by us humans because of our timescale chauvinism. Consider how you'd decide whether that's correct.

One goal of philosophers of mind is to figure out how important having flesh and blood is to having a mind. Is it essential? "No," say some computer scientists who are aiming to build a robot with a mind. Will they someday succeed in building one? 

Philosophers also ask whether there could be "philosophical" zombies--not the kind in films,

but rather beings who behave just like us normal human beings, yet who are not conscious. Is it a theoretical possibility?

This semester we will have fun exploring these and many of the other interesting questions and answers in the philosophy of mind.  "Philosophy deems it acceptable to kick the tires of every governing paradigm, examine every sacred cow, and peer behind the curtains of every magic show," says Patricia Churchland.

Syllabus: Click here to see the course syllabus.