Philosophy of Mind

Dr. Matt McCormick

Phil. 153, sect.

MW, 1:30-2:45, DH 208

Spring 2009


Office:  Mendocino 3020          Office Hours            Office phone:  278-7372             email:                          



Philosophy Department Office:  Mendocino 3032, 278-6424


Catalog Description


Required Texts: Brain-Wise:  Studies in Neurophilosophy.   by Patricia Smith Churchland.  MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2002.  ISBN:  0-262-03301-1


Blindsight  by Peter Watts, Tor books, 2008.  ISBN-10:  076531960


CPS Gen 2 RF HE  Response Pad, from Einstruction.            Bookstore link to books and clicker


CPS Course Code:  M49271I921  (the seventh letter is a capital "i") 


The Course:  Traditionally, philosophy of mind has concerned itself with questions like, what is a mind?  how are they constructed, what are they made of? What sorts of things can have minds?  Can computers or machines think?  Are there even such things as minds?   Since minds are produced by the functioning of brains, work in this field of philosophy on these questions has been massively and irreversibly affected by the rapid expansion of modern neuroscience.  This course is about philosophical attempts to understand the mind as it has been informed by relevant developments in neuroscience.




Grading Structure



Papers 2 10%
Clicker Quizzes 12 3%
Midterm 1 12%
Final Exam 1 12%
Attendance and Participation  


Google Groups discussion board  









Being Tardy




Grading Guidelines


Writing Guidelines


Students with Disabilities


Late Assignments


Missed Assignments


Laptops in class



Course schedule:  Here is an outline of the authors and topics that we will be discussing, and the page numbers of the readings.  The schedule is subject to change to fit class lectures.


SacCT:  lecture notes and some readings will be posted on SacCT:



Week 1: Course Introduction and Philosophy of Mind Overview


Readings:  Thinking Meat? Terry Bisson


Week 2:  Philosophy of Mind Overview continued.


Readings:  Descartes, Meditations 2 and 6


Week 3:  Connectionism


Readings:  "Connectionism, Eliminativism and The Future of Folk Psychology," Ramsey, Stich, Garon.  In SacCT Readings folder.



Introduction to Connectionism:

    Anatomy of a Connectionist Model

    Unit Behavior, Activations, Weights, and Outputs

    Network Behavior, Emergence, and Learning


Week 4:  Mind and Neuroscience



Neurons, Synapses, Action Potentials, and Neurotransmission


Brainwise:  Introduction, 1-34

Blindsight, Prologue, 1-18.

Week 5:  Neuroscience and the Metaphysics of Mind



Brainwise:  An Introduction to Metaphysics, 37-58.

Week 6 and 7:  Self and Knowing One's Own Mind



Brainwise:  Self and Self-Knowledge, 59-126.

Blindsight, Theseus, 19-138.


First Paper:  Naysayers! due on Wed. March 18th

Week 8:  Consciousness



Brainwise, Consciousness, 127-200. 

Brainwise, Free Will, 201-238.

How Unconscious Mechanisms Affect Thought:

Week 9:  Spring Break


Week 10:  Consciousness continued.



Brainwise, Consciousness, 127-200. 

Brainwise, Free Will, 201-238.



Week 11:  Epistemology of Mind:  How do brains know? 



Brainwise, Epistemology Introduction, 241-272.

Blindsight, Rorschach, 139-354.

Week 12:  Epistemology of Mind continued.


Brainwise, Epistemology Introduction, 241-272.

Blindsight, Rorschach, 139-354


Week 13:  Representation



Brainwise, How Do Brains Represent?  273-320.

Week 14:  Representation, contined.



Brainwise, How Do Brains Represent?  273-320.

Week 15:  Learning



Brainwise, How Do Brains Learn?  321-370. 

Blindsight, Charybdis, 355-362.

Week 16:  Course Summary and Review


Final Exam:  Monday, May 18, 12:45-2:45






Google Groups Discussions:


All students are required to make regular, constructive, and considered contributions to our discussion board on Google Groups.  The address is:  


Getting started: 


Create a Google Account:

1.  Go to:  If you don't already have an account, create one with the link on the lower right. 

2.  Once you have an account and you are logged in you can join the group at this address:

3.  Posting questions, comments, and ideas:  Under "Discussions," there will be different threads of conversation with questions and comments from Prof. McCormick and other students.  Choose topics and questions that you find interesting and make a post, or ask new questions and start a thread of your own. 



Grading:  Students who make frequent, reflective, and helpful posts (at least 10 for the semester) will receive a full 10% for this portion of the grade.  Lesser contributions will be graded proportionally lower.  Contributions will be evaluated on the basis of these criteria:

  1. How frequently did the student post?

  2. How constructive and thoughtful were the student's contributions?

  3. To what extent did the student's posts reflect an engagement in the concepts, issues, and philosophical challenges focused on in the course?

  4. To what extent did the student's posts reflect his or her familiarity with the assigned readings for the course?



Links and Notes:





Eliminative materialism

Turing test

Chinese room argument



Philosophy of Neuroscience


Patricia Churchland's links for the book:


Neuroscience vocabulary  http://

Comp. Neuro

CogSci Encyclopedia

Consciousness    and


Daniel Dennett, Quining Qualia, pages 226-246.

David Chalmers, Consciousness and Its Place in Nature, pages 247-272.

Koch and Crick, On the Zombie Within:

H.G. Wells, The Country of the Blind,

Paul Churchland, The Rediscovery of Light, pages 362-370

David Chalmers, What is a Neural Correlate of Consciousness?

Koch and Crick, A framework for consciousness. Nature Neuroscience (2003) 6, 119-126

Daniel Dennett, The Global Workspace Model,

Churchland, Patricia "Consciousness: The Transmutation of a Concept," Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, (1983) pp. 80-95.