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Introduction to Philosophy of Mind

Unit code: PHIL10632
Credit Rating: 20
Unit level: Level 1
Teaching period(s): Semester 2
Offered by Philosophy
Available as a free choice unit?: Y




This course aims to:

- Introduce some central problems concerning the relation between mind, body and the larger physical world
- Help students develop a properly philosophical approach, including the ability to work out, analyze and criticize arguments in the literature.


A major shift in perspective on the place of the mind in nature accompanied the rise of modern science in the 17th century. The revolutionary writings of Hobbes, Descartes, Galileo and other scientists and philosophers of the time sought to understand nature mechanically and mathematically and thereby supplant the older Aristotelian hylomorphic view of the world dominant in the earlier ancient Greek and medieval Christian periods of thought. What are the implications for the mind of this powerful scientific materialism? Are mental phenomena just further material phenomena in nature, susceptible to physical explanation?

The first part of this course unit explores issues arising out of the mind-body problem: How is the mind related to the body? We will read classic texts drawn from historical and contemporary sources, beginning with Descartes’s famous “conceivability argument” for mind-body distinctness, an argument so influential and beguiling that souped-up versions of it are still vigorously defended today. Subsequent topics will vary from year to year and may include (but are not limited to): reductive mind-brain materialist theories of mind, functionalism, mind as computer, animal minds, consciousness. In the second part of the course, we turn to the mind-world problem: What is the relation between the mind and the objects in the world that it thinks about? How do thought and language manage to reach out beyond themselves and refer to and represent, things in reality? We can think about things that no longer exist, such as Marie Curie, and things that have never existed, such as Pegasus and phlogiston. How are we able to do this? If we were all disembodied brains in vats living in a virtual reality à la the film The Matrix what implications would this have for the contents of our thoughts?

Teaching and learning methods

Two 1-hour lecture/discussion and one 1-hour tutorial per week

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to demonstrate:

- Introductory knowledge of some central philosophical problems in philosophy of mind.
- A clear understanding of the problems raised by the texts studied.
- A clear sense of the arguments and positions defended in the texts studied.
- The ability to respond to these positions and arguments critically and with arguments of their own.

Employability skills

  • Analytical skills
  • Group/team working
  • Innovation/creativity
  • Oral communication
  • Problem solving
  • Research
  • Written communication

Assessment methods

  • Written exam - 67%
  • Written assignment (inc essay) - 33%

Recommended reading

Simon Blackburn, Think, chapter 2
Barbara Montero, On the Philosophy of Mind
George Graham, Philosophy of Mind. An Introduction, 2nd ed.
Sean Crawford, Aspects of Mind

Feedback methods

The main forms of feedback in this course unit are markers’ written comments on assessed essays and exam answers. The School of Social Sciences (SoSS) is committed to providing timely and appropriate feedback to students on their academic progress and achievement, thereby enabling students to reflect on their progress and plan their academic and skills development effectively. Feedback, of course, is necessarily responsive: only when a student has done a certain amount of work and approaches us with it at the appropriate fora is it possible for us to feed back on the student's work.

There are also a variety of generic forms of feedback available to you on this as on all SoSS course units. These include: meeting the lecturer/tutor during their office hours; e-mailing questions to the lecturer/tutor; asking questions before, during (if appropriate) and after lecture; presenting a question on the discussion board on Blackboard; and obtaining feedback from your peers during tutorials.

Study hours

  • Lectures - 20 hours
  • Tutorials - 10 hours
  • Independent study hours - 170 hours

Teaching staff

Michael Crawford - Unit coordinator

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