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Registration for the Fall 2019 semester begins June 25.  Watch your email for more details.

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Philosophy of Mind

Course Code: PHIL 3350
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Philosophy
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course will provide students with an introduction to the study of mind, its place in nature and the world. We all describe ourselves as having minds. But there are very different ways in which we can understand what it is to have a mind. For example, is the mind physical or non-physical? Is there an immaterial soul which inhabits the body? How do sciences such as chemistry, biology, and psychology contribute to the study of mind? And how does the philosophical account of mind differ from such scientific explanations? This course may also consider the nature of cognition, as well as the relation between such thinking processes and the emotions. Some philosophers hold the view that thinking is nothing but computation, while others strongly reject such a view. Interpersonal relations also raise important issues: Can we know that there are other minds and, if so, how much can we know about the contents of other minds? What is the relation between our inner subjective experiences and the world outside our minds? This course may also discuss non-human animals, and in what sense animals may be said to have minds. So, too, there is the question of whether machines could possess a conscious intelligence comparable to the human mind. We are also interested in what, if anything, the identity of a person consists. What is the relation between the mind and consciousness, or between the mind and the self? The Philosophy of Mind addresses many divergent views and the various reasons for them in this vital area of philosophical study.

Course Content

Instruction in this course will include some of the following:

  1. An introduction to the ordinary concept of mind and to our familiarity with psychological states including belief, desire, hope, fear, intention, anger, love, etc. A presentation and clarification of the ordinary notions that mental states receive information from the physical world, and that mental states cause effects to occur in the physical world.
  2. A presentation of the history of various forms of reductionism showing the degree to which such reductionisms have or have not succeeded.
  3. A presentation of the general problem of whether mind is physical or non-physical. A review of the history of physicalism, dualism, and idealism.
  4. A presentation of the various theories of how mind relates to the physical world: idealism, interactive dualism, physicalism by identities, physicalism by functional supervenience, epiphenomenalism, eliminativism, anomalous monism, and mysterianism.
  5. A presentation of the criticisms of each of the theories just mentioned, and some of the responses offered to these criticisms.
  6. An exploration of various theories on the relationship between thinking states and emotional states.
  7. A presentation of some epistemological problems related to the mind, such as whether we can establish that there are other minds, and if we can, whether, and how, we can establish their contents.
  8. An introduction to some of the main issues in the theories of consciousness and qualia, including, whether there are any qualia, whether conscious states are connectionist brain states, whether any non-human animals or plants are conscious, and whether machines can be conscious, and if so, how.
  9. An introduction to some of the main theories of personal identity, and the difficulties which each of them faces.
  10. An introduction to the problems of explaining the presence of minds in a physical world, either by evolutionary, or other means.

Methods of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following: any combination of lecture and seminar. Parts and/or entire classes may be devoted to formal lectures or to informal discussion. There may be student presentations on particular subjects. There may be some videos as well.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria for assessment during the first week of class. No one evaluation component may exceed 40%. Any possible combination of the following will be used to sum to 100%:

In-class tests, short written assignments    20% - 50%
Class presentations, essays, final exam  30% - 60%
Instructor's evaluation
(e.g., participation, class attendance)
    0%- 20%
Total          100%

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course, the successful student will be able to do the following:

  1. Explain the ordinary notion that the mind causes the body to do various things, and then explain the difficulties anyone will have integrating this notion with the apparent result of the sciences.
  2. Explain the differences between theories of mind such as substance dualism, property dualism, philosophical behaviorism, identity theory (reductive materialism), functionalism and eliminative materialism.
  3. Present arguments both in favor of and against some of the traditional problems that have arisen for any theory of mind, e.g.., the problem of other minds, the problem of self-consciousness, the problem of free will, the semantic problem, and the methodological problem.

    Students will also be able to do some of the following:

  4. Review the way in which psychology as a discipline emerged from the philosophical study of mind.
  5. Critically evaluate some of the following theories: physical identity theories, physical supervenience theories, functionalist theories, epiphenomenalist theories, eliminativist theories, anomalous monist theories, mysterian theories, and dual aspect theories.
  6. Show the argument(s) for the view, and critically assess the argument(s) for the view that we can establish that there are other minds.
  7. Review some of the main theories on personal identity, and critically examine these theories.

course prerequisites

18 credits or with instructor's consent.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.

assessments

If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.