Overview (for details see 'Lectures')
In this course we will be looking at the relation of psychological states, such as
desires or memories, to the physical world. There are five units in the course:
1. Foundations (Dualism, Behaviorism and Central-State Materialism)
4. Personal Identity
5. Psychological Explanation.
What is the mind? Are mental states, such as beliefs and desires, memories and hopes,
characteristics of a non-physical substance, or are they configurations of the physical
world? And if we think that mental states are entirely physical, should we think of them
as relating to the ways in which a person tends to behave, or are they rather states of
the person's brain? We shall begin the course by looking at these fundamental questions
about the nature of the psychological.
One of the most powerful ideas in contemporary philosophy of mind is functionalism,
the idea that the character of a mental state is constituted by its potential for
causal relations with other mental states and with behavior. In the second unit we
look at the strengths and limitations of this idea.
One limitation of functionalism is its trouble in providing an analysis of consciousness.
What is the relation between conscious experience and the brain? Is consciousness something
over and above the ordinary biological functioning of the brain, or can it somehow be
explained in biological terms? We will try to identify the aspects of conscious experience
that make it difficult to explain this characteristic of the mental life in physicalist terms.
How is it possble for us to think about our surroundings? How could a biological system be capable of thinking about its environment? Can we analyse the capacity for thought in purely functionalist terms? In the fourth unit we look at these questions.
What is a person? Is a person merely a biological entity, and the identity of a person just the identity of a physical thing? Do psychological states enter into the identity of the self, or can we explain the continued existence of the self in terms that do not appeal to psychological states? And what is the importance of personal identity? Recently some theorists have argued that we should give it much less weight than we seem to ordinarily; we will look at those arguments.
In one way or another, throughout this course we will be going over the relation of the psychological life to the physical. By the end you should have some knowledge of the principal problems and theories in this area, and you should be able to make an independent assessment of them.
There are no specific prerequisites for this course. We'll
do our best to introduce you to philosophical reading and writing. In
order to do well, you will have to spend a lot of time reading, rereading,
and thinking about the texts. (You will find that if you read them as you
would read a novel or book of history, you won't get much out of them.)
David Chalmers (ed.), Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings (New
York: Oxford University Press, 2002)
John Perry (ed.), Personal Identity (Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of
California Press, 1975)
Your grade will be based on the following:
Essay 1: Due 2.00pm Friday October 12th.
Essay 2: Due 2.00pm Friday November 9th.
Examination: 3.00-6.00pm Thursday, December 13th.
Performance in section will not be formally graded but may be taken into account in adjudicating borderline cases.
All students must attend a discussion section. We will pass out
section preference cards on the first day class. Section assignments will
be emailed to you 2 days later, and section meetings will begin
the second week of class. If you are enrolled in the course and do
not receive an email about your section assignment, please contact me.
Plagiarism and cheating will not be tolerated in this
course: students caught cheating or plagiarizing will receive an F in the
course. Please review university policy at
100.00 POLICY ON STUDENT CONDUCT AND DISCIPLINE.
My office is 140 Moses Hall.
My office hours are Wednesday, 3.30-5.00pm. The
best way to reach me is by e-mail: jjcampbellberkeley.edu.