Boundaries of the Mind

Graduate Program (& Advanced Certificate) Status

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Course Open to: 
Students on-site
Remote students
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Course Description: 

The subject of mental processes or mental states is usually assumed to be an individual, and hence the boundaries of mental features – in a strict or metaphorical sense – are naturally regarded as reaching no further than the boundaries of the individual. This course addresses various philosophical developments in the 20th- and 21st century that questioned this natural assumption. We will frame this discussion by first investigating a historically influential commitment to the individualistic nature of the mental in Descartes's theory. We will identify various elements in the Cartesian conception of the mind that were subsequently criticized and rejected by various externalist theories, advocates of the extended mind hypothesis and defenders of embodied cognition. Then we will analyse the main trends in these critiques. The goal of this course is to make students familiar with the philosophical debates of the 20-21st century surrounding the boundaries of the mind.

Learning Outcomes: 

Students will become familiar with the philosophical debates of the 20-21st century surrounding the boundaries of the mind. Through the discussion and evaluation of readings, they will further develop their analytic, reading and critical skills. Through critical reflection on arguments and positions, they will develop their ability to formulate their own positions, and will take a step towards offering original contributions to philosophical debates. Students who are interested in in depth-engagement with this area of the philosophy of mind or related fields for their thesis work or further graduate studies will acquire  background to support their research.


Conditions for passing the course:

  • For credit and for audit: at least two 1-page reading summaries submitted throughout the term, ahead of the class. At least one reading summary each week is shared with the other students ahead of the class. These summaries are not graded. The first is prepared by the instructor.
  • For credit and for audit: conscientious attendance, reading of the assigned material, participation in discussions;
  • for credit: a 10 minute presentation introducing a reading or readings. The presentation can be developed into a term paper.
  • For credit: a 2000-2500 word term paper, to be submitted by the end of the term, on a suitable topic related to the course. Students are asked to submit a(n at least) 1-page plan of their essay by the 5th of November.



  • 20% presentation
  • 80% term paper