In this course, we’ll be thinking about brains in vats, zombies, and androids. We will consider whether any of these characters can think, feel, or reason, and, if so, whether they think, feel, or reason in the same way that we do. These problems have practical consequences for how we approach each other, other animals, or technology. If consciousness can be reduced to brain processes, and brain processes can be replicated by sophisticated computers, can we cheat death by downloading our consciousness to a robot? Would we be the same person? Or, consider first contact with an extraterrestrial species. Is there any reason to think that they would believe in the mind in the same way in which we think about mind? Would they accept the same rules of logic? And, most importantly: Do androids dream of electric sheep?
This course is an introduction to philosophy of mind, the branch of metaphysics that deals with theories of the mind and the mind-body relation. This course is divided into three units. In the first unit, we will examine some of the historical accounts of the mind-body problem, such as dualism, materialism, and structuralism. In the second unit, we will consider whether machines can think, and under what conditions this must occur. Finally, we will consider whether non-human animals can think, and if so, if it is anything like how humans think.
Various readings on reserve.
Summary of Course Requirements
|Midterm||One midterm on the material from Unit One.||20%||Week 05|
|Comparative Paper||One 1750-word paper comparing two figures from Unit Two.||30%||Week 10|
|Participation||Assessed on the quality and quantity of participation.||10%||See description|
|Argumentative Paper||One sit-down, cumulative examination.||30%||TBA|
All information subject to change with notice.
The Mind-Body Problem
|01||Descartes, Rene. Meditations||Substance Dualism|
|02||Locke, John. Essay Concerning Human Understanding||Empiricism|
|03||Ryle, Gilbert. “Descartes’ Myth”||Behaviourism|
|04||Turing, Alan. “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”||Computat-tionalism|
|05||Putnam, Hilary. “The Nature of Mental States”||Functionalism|
Can Machines Think?
|06||Searle, John. “Minds, Brains, and Programs”||Objections|
|07||Dennett, Daniel. “Can Machines Think?”|
|08||Chalmers, David. “Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness”||Consciousness|
|09||Churchland, Patricia. “The hornswoggle problem”|
Can Animals Think?
|10||Nagel, Thomas. “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?”||Qualia|
|11||Akins, Kathleen. “What is it Like to Be Boring and Myopic?”|
|12||Dretske, Fred. “If You Can’t Make One, You Don’t Know How It Works”||Animal Thoughts|
|13||McGeer and Pettit. “The Self-Regulating Mind”|