Alva Noë




Philosophy and mind resources


Philosophy 3
The Nature of Mind
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 2-3 pm, Fall Semester 2006
100 GPB

Instructor: Professor Alva Noë
Office: Moses 303A
Telephone: 510 643 8412
Email: noe [AT sign]
Office Hours: to be announced

Graduate Student Instructors
Farid Masrour (fmasrour [AT Sign]
Joshua Sheptow (jshtow [AT Sign]
Michael Rieppel (mrieppel [AT Sign]

Course Description






This course is an introduction to the philosophical study of mind. We won't survey main issues and topics in the philosophy of mind. Instead, we'll examine a family of questions about the brain and mind that are at the foundations of cognitive science and that are of great philosophical interest. Many thinkers believe that the mind is the brain (or perhaps that it is in the brain, or made by it). Is this view justified? The guiding idea of this course is that it is not justified. In the course we explore the writings of critics, and also some defenders, of the mind-brain view. Our focus will be on the nature of consciousness. This course is designed for students with no previous background in philosophy or cognitive science.


To pass this course, students must satisfy each of the following four requirements:

1. Students must complete all written assignments on time. There will be three homeworks assignments (consisting of short answer and/or essay questions ) and one take-home final exam (which will be due on the day for which the final exam for the class is scheduled). The final exam will be cumulative (i.e. it will cover the whole semster's work). It will consist of three sets of two essay questions. Students will be required to answer one question in each section (for a total of three essays). Late work will not be accepted withhout the prior approval of the instructor.

2. Students must attend their assigned discussion section. The section will be led by a Graduate Student Instructor. Students missing more than four discussion section meetings without a medical excuse do not satisfy the section requirement and (therefore) do not pass the course. Attendence will be taken in section.

3. Students must do all assigned reading.

4. Students must receive a passing mark for the lecture component of the course (see "Note on Lecture and GradingĒ below).

GRADING    [ top ]

Grades for the course will be calculated as follows:

Each of the three homework assignments is worth 25%.

The final exam is worth 25%.

In addition, students will be graded Pass/Fail on Section Attendence and Lecture. To pass the course, students must get a passing mark for both of these components.


Attendence at lectures is strongly recommended. New material will be presented in lectures and students are responsible for lecture material. However, attendence will not not be taken at lecture.

To pass the lecture portion of the course it is not necessary that students attend lecture. However, students will receive failing grades for the lecture portion of the course (and so for the course) if they engage in disruptive behavior during lecture. This includes arriving late; leaving early; talking with your neighbors; using your phone for conversation or text; using the computer for email or the internet in ways that are not directly related to the work of the class.


Apparently, plagiarism is a problem on campus. Any student found to have plagiarized work in this class will receive a failing grade and be reported to university officials. The definition of plagiarism will be discussed when the first assignment is handed out. Many students plagiarize because they are in over their head and need desperate last minute help to complete assignments. Please donít let yourself get into this situation. Get in touch with the course instructors for help!

READINGS    [ top ]

There are two required texts for this course. They have been ordered at the university bookstore.

D. M. Rosenthal's The Nature of Mind. Oxford University Press.
Jean-Dominique Bauby's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Vintage, 1997.

Other readings for the course are available online. In addition, the following text is recommended but not required:

Alva NoŽ's Action in Perception, MIT Press, 2004.

Important Note on Reading: Readings should be completed before lecture

SCHEDULE    [ top ]

This is a preliminary schedule and is subject to change as we move along. Units are one-week long unless otherwise noted.

The take home final exam will be due on the day the final exam for this course is scheduled. The three homework assignments are tentatively scheduled to be due on 29 September, 20 October and 17 November 2006. Assignments will be handed out one week before they are due. Note: there will be no class on 27 October 2006.

1. Frailties of mind: Getting started
Steven Laureys et al: Brain function in a vegetative state. Download the paper at
Steven Laureys et al: The locked-in syndrome. Download the paper at
Jean-Dominique Bauby: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

2. From Behaviorism to Physicalism
Hilary Putnam, Brains and Behavior. In Rosenthal collection.

3. A fabulous journey
David Hubel: Nobel Prize Lecture - Evolution of ideas on the primary visual cortex, 1955-1978: A biased historical account. Download the paper here .
Alva NoŽ, Beyond the eye. Times Literary Supplement review of Brain and Visual Perception, by Hubel and Wiesel. Download the paper at

4. Functionalism and the computer model [two weeks]
David Marr, excerpts from Vision (Freeman, 1982). Download this reading at
Ned Block, Mind as the software of the brain. Download the paper here . at:
Daniel Dennett, Three kinds of intentional psychology. In Rosenthal collection.

5. Criticisms of functionalism [two weeks]
John R. Searle, Minds, brains, and programs. In Rosenthal collection.
Ned Block, Troubles with functionalism. In Rosenthal collection.

6. Are mental states brain states?
Donald Davidson, Mental events. In Rosenthal collection.
Daniel Dennett, True believers: the intentional strategy and why it works.

7. Externalism I [two weeks]
Hilary Putnam, The Meaning of "meaning." Download the paper at
Tyler Burge, Individualism and the mental. In Rosenthal collection.

8. Externalism II
Andy Clark and David Chalmers, The extended mind. Download the paper here .
Rob Rupert, Challenges to the hypothesis of extended cognition. Download the paper here .

9. Consciousness
Thomas Nagel, What is it like to be a bat. In Rosenthal collection.

10. Change blindness and Molyneux's Problem, Reversing goggles
Alva Noë, Action in Perception, chapters 1 - 3.

11. Neural plasticity and consciousness
Susan Hurley and Alva NoŽ, Neural plasticity and consciousness. Download the paper here .

12: The constitution of consciousness
Ned Block's review of Alva NoŽ's Action in Perception. Download the paper here .
Alva Noë, Magic realism and the limis of intelligibility: What makes us conscious? Download the paper here .