Phil. 153

Weekly topics and
reading assignments


Philosophy 153

Spring Semester 2008

Prof. Dowden





  • Week 1: Survey of problem areas in the philosophy of mind.

    What is the mind?

    What is consciousness?

    Are zombies possible?

    Is a thought a small sentence in the brain?

    Does the brain cause the mind?

    Can you be sure there's a world beyond your thoughts?

    Is your thought of a tree tree-like?

    Can free will be explained?

    What makes you be you from on time to the next?

    What's it like to be a bat?

    Is Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) possible?

    Are thoughts causes or only effects?

    Why are brain cells about anything?

    Are wants legitimate causes?

    Can subjectivity be described objectively?

    Read: "The Mystery of Consciousness" by Steven Pinker. [Be able to: (a) distinguish David Chalmer's Easy Problem from his Hard Problem, (b) state the evidence for Crick's "astonishing hypothesis," and (c) say why you favor or reject "meat chauvinism."]

    Read: Searle's Introduction and Chapter 1. [If you read chapter 1 carefully, the entire book will be an easy read.  Don't dash through the first chapter.]


  • Week 2: René Descartes' solutions.

    The rise and fall of the views of this most influential philosopher of 17th century Europe. Substance dualism and property dualism.

    Read: Searle, Part I of Chapter 2 "Troubles with Dualism."

    Read: "Dualism" by Howard Robinson, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

    Read: "Cells That Read Minds," by Sandra Blakeslee, The New York Times, Jan. 10, 2006.

  • Weeks 3-4: The turn toward physicalism.

    Physicalism is the modern version of materialism.

    Identity theory
    The Turing Test
    Strong A. I.
    Eliminative materialism
    The computational theory of mind

    Read: Parts II-V in Chapter 2 of Searle.

    Have a conversation with Eliza.

    Read: Summary of the Star Trek episode "The Measure of a Man."

    Read: Computing Machinery and Intelligence by Alan Turing (1950) in Mind, 59, pp. 433-460.

    Read: "Code Breaker: The Life and Death of Alan Turing" by  Jim Holt (2006), The New Yorker.

    Listen: Audio interview with John Searle about artificial intelligence.

    Read: "Searle's Chinese Room Argument" by Ned Block, part 4 of "The Mind as the Software of the Brain."

    Read: Interviews of Gregory and O'Regan in Blackmore.


  • Weeks 5-6:  Arguments against physicalism; and the physicalists' responses.

    If we learn everything about the physical world, will we have learned everything about the mind?

    Leaving out qualia
    Inverted spectrum
    What is it like to be a bat?
    Mary in the black & white room
    The conceivability of zombies
    Intentions essentially involve aspect

    Read: Chapter 3 in Searle.

    Read: "Epiphenomenal Qualia," by Frank Jackson.

    Read: "What RoboMary Knows," by Daniel Dennett.

    Read: Interviews of Block, Chalmers and Velmans in Blackmore.

  • Weeks 7-9:  Consciousness.

    How can mere bits of matter inside the skull be conscious?

    Read: Chapters 4 and 5 in Searle.

    Read: "Consciousness" by Robert Van Gulick, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

    Read: Interviews of Churchlands, Dennett, Greenfield, Ramachandran, Stoerig and Varela in Blackmore.

    View: The videos "Consciousness: The Human Quest" and "Matter Over Mind."

    Read: "Why Neuroscience May Be Able to Explain Consciousness," by Francis Crick and Christof Koch, Scientific American, Dec. 1995, pp. 84-5.

    Read: Brain-Wise by P. Churchland, pp. 136-144, 154-157.

  • Week 10: Innate mechanisms of the mind, mental representation, and intentionality.

    How can mere bits of matter inside the skull be about anything outside?

    View: Elephant painting

    Read: "Animal Minds," by Virginia Morell, National Geographic, March 2008, pp. 48-60.

    Read: "Grammar" (first three paragraphs) and "Mentalese" in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy by Robert Audi.

    Read: The Evolutionists, by Richard Morris, pages 200-2.

    Read: Chapter 6 in Searle.

    Read: Parts 1 and 2 of "Consciousness and Intentionality" by Charles Siewart, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

  • Week 11: Mental causation.

    When a thought causes your arm to move, there's a physical cause of the arm moving, but then isn't the mental cause redundant?

    Read: Chapter 7 in Searle.

    Read: "Mental Causation" by David Robb and John Heil, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

  • Week 12: Personal identity and the self.

    What sort of thing is the experiencer of experience
    s? "My one regret in life," said Woody Allen, "is that I am not someone else."

    Read: Ch. 11 and the Epilogue in Searle.

    Read: Interviews of both Metzinger and Searle in Blackmore.

  • Week 13: Free will.

    "All theory is against the freedom of the will; all experience is for it." --Samuel Johnson, 1778.

    Read: Chapter 8 in Searle.

    Read: "Free Will" by Timothy O'Connor, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

    Read: Interviews of both Hameroff and Wegner.

  • Week 14: Perception.

    Is our mind in direct perceptual contact with the external world?

    Read: Chapter 10 in Searle.

    Read: "The Problem of Perception," by Tim Crane, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

  • Week 15: Unconscious and subconscious.

    Is perception of a tree unconscious processing of sensory inputs caused by trees? Is digestion unconscious food processing?

    Read: Chapter 9, Searle.

    Read: Interviews of Baars, Koch, and Penrose.

    Review for the final exam.

  • Week 16: Final exam.



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updated: 6/29/09