Current Issues in the Philosophy of Mind

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Course Open to: 
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Academic Year: 
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Course Description: 

The course will cover problems associated with giving a naturalistic account of perceptual consciousness, and problems associated with a naturalistic account of thinking – the latter is a topic much less covered, until recently, than the former.

We will follow the development of materialist theories of perceptual consciousness from the early work of J.J.C. Smart  and D. M. Armstrong (still the best and most lucid, in my view), through Davidson and Putnam, to the currently fashionable ‘phenomenal concept strategy’.

We will then consider the rise of neutral monism and panpsychism.

On thinking, we will start by considering radical empiricist views, such as associationism and behaviourism, then computational theories. From Searle’s ‘Chinese Room’ argument, we will move on to cognitive phenomenology, which is the investigation of the role of consciousness in thought, then finally the possibility of a immaterialist theory of thought with Platonic and Aristotelian roots.

Learning Outcomes: 

The outcome should be for students to understand in what ways both these aspects of the mind – consciousness and thought – are problematic from a naturalistic point of view.


Final evaluation will be based on an essay of 2,000 words. The crude American marking system we employ  (A, A-, B+, B, B-, etc) is insufficiently sensitive. I shall mark essays according to a finer grain, but adjust to a permitted mark on the basis of contribution in class. For example, if I think and essay is worth B+?+ and the writer said little in class, he or she will receive a B+, but if they have shone in class, it will be an A-.


There are no formal prerequisites, but it would help if students have some acquaintance with the literature on the mind-body problem.