Philosophy 132

Summer 2006 Session A

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
132 Philosophy of Mind Khatchirian WThF 10-12:30 136 Barrows

What does it take to be a bearer of mental properties? In this course, we will survey different philosophical accounts of the nature of the mind and of the relation between mental properties and physical properties. We will examine the extent to which we can think of being in a certain mental state (such as having a headache, seeing a color, or hoping to win a race) as a matter of being in a certain physical state, exhibiting a certain kind of behavior, or realizing a functional state.

We will focus mostly, though not exclusively, on mental states that have content, such as beliefs, desires, hopes and experiences. To say that these states have content is to say that we can describe them by specifying what they are about. What does it take to have mental states that are about something or other? We will be particularly concerned with mental states that are about objects in one’s environment and their properties. Can one’s capacity for thought about the external world be explained in terms of more primitive sorts of mental states or more basic sorts of content?

We will contrast two approaches to thought. The first takes the contents of one’s thoughts to be inner items of which one is immediately aware, while the second takes them to be constituted by one’s relations to objects and properties in the environment. We will examine the extent to which either of these opposing conceptions can give us a satisfying picture of the relation between our thoughts and the environment we live in.

Throughout the course, we will pay special attention to a peculiar feature of mental states, or at least of our conception of mental states. This is the difference between the sort of knowledge each of us has of his or her own mental states and the sort of knowledge each of us has of the mental states of others. It is very tempting to think that any knowledge of other people’s mental states has to be derived from a more immediate awareness of one’s own mental states. If this is right, can one ever really gain knowledge of other people’s mental states? If not, what is the relation between knowledge of one’s own mental states and knowledge of others’ mental states?

The readings will include texts from Descartes, Ryle, Strawson, Putnam, Nagel, Davidson and Burge.

Previously taught: SP06, FL05, SU05D, FL04, SU04D.