Mind and Action

Course Level: 
Master’s
Doctoral
Campus: 
Vienna
Course Open to: 
Students on-site
Remote students
Academic Year: 
2020-2021
Term: 
Fall
US Credits: 
2
ECTS Credits: 
4
Course Description: 

Mind and world are related in two opposite directions. In one direction, our mind can change as a response to how we perceive the world; in the other direction, we can change the world by our conscious actions. The purpose of this course is to understand what happens when agents act intentionally and thereby knowingly bring about changes in the world. The topics for the course divide into two major groups. In the first part we shall investigate the nature of intentions to act as well as the relation between agents’ intentions and their intentional actions. In the second part we shall discuss whether, and how, agents’ mental attitudes and/or their reasons can explain their behavior.

Learning Outcomes: 

Students attending this course are expected to familiarize themselves with the most important issues concerning the philosophical problem of intentional action such as the difference between actions and other events that might happen to the agent, the nature of intentions and intentional action, problems about nomological, causal and purposive explanation. They are also expected to acquire the ability to reconstruct and analyze philosophical arguments or positions. These involve the understanding of validity and soundness of the arguments, the ability to identify background principles and assumptions as well as the ability to draw out the consequences of certain philosophical commitments. They should also learn how to identify and execute an appropriate writing project. Learning outcomes shall be measured by term papers and written answers to assignments.  

Assessment: 

Onsite:

After an introductory lecture in the first week, meetings will normally start with a structured discussion of a predetermined set of questions related to the background reading for that week (e.g. a background lecture of 10-15 min each week)

  • Mandatory readings will be specified for each session. Access to the elearning platform of the course is required. Class attendance is mandatory. Students will have to study course readings and participate in class discussions.
  • For each class, one or more students will take over special responsibility and do a written discussion report. Students will get faculty-feedback and/or peer-feedback on their written contributions. Certain extra tasks might be assigned on an irregular basis, depending on case.

Online:

After an introductory lecture in the first week (recorded and distributed as an audio-file), students will normally have to provide each week written answers to a predetermined set of questions related to the background reading for that week and the study material sent in addition to that (e.g. a background lecture of 10-15 min each week).

  • Mandatory readings will be specified for each week. The replies (the weekly study assignment regarding the questions sent to students) count towards active participation and will not be graded. Students will get faculty-feedback and/or peer-feedback on their written contributions.
  • Access to the elearning platform of the course is required; weekly reading of the background material, respective replies and thus online-participation is mandatory. Certain extra tasks might be assigned on an irregular basis, depending on case.

Students’ final grade shall be based on participation in class and/or replies to the study question and 2000 word long final term paper. Excellent class participation can contribute up to plus one grade to the final grade (e.g. from B to B+ etc).

Onsite/online: Replies to the study questions/learning goals normally involves reformulating the main thesis in the reading, reconstructing core concepts used, making implicit assumptions and argumentative structures explicit and finding a critical stance. More specific guidelines for class activities and for the term papers will be announced during the course as we move on.

The assessment criteria for the term paper will be an integral part of the last week of the course, to facilitate reflective engagement with these criteria and to prepare students for their main course output, the final term paper. The topic of the final essay can be either a careful critical reconstruction of a particular and important argument for some position discussed in the course; or a comparison between competing arguments about alternative solutions to a problem; or a defence of some particular position/argument against some relevant criticism.

Prerequisites: 

None

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