Philosophy 290-4

Spring 2007

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
290-4 Graduate Seminar: Brains and Behavior Noë W 2-4 234 Moses Hall

Putnam’s classic paper “Brains and Behavior” argued that the relation between pain and behavior was causal, not constitutive. Apart from its substantive conclusions – that logical behaviorism is false; that pains and other mental states are not dispositions to behave – the paper is a landmark in twentieth-century philosophical methodology raising important questions about how to do philosophy and calling cherished assumptions into question. Among the issues put into play in this paper are: the role of thought experiments in philosophy; the relation between philosophy and science; the limits of verificationism; the relation between conceivability and possibility; the demarcation between epistemology and metaphysics; the distinction between causal and constitutive relationships.

The aim of this seminar is to explore themes in the contemporary philosophy of neuroscience and consciousness against the background of the issues raised by Putnam’s original paper. Among the questions we shall examine in this setting are: What is consciousness? Can there be experience without “access consciousness”? Are neural systems alone sufficient for consciousness? Are you your brain? These questions are important and worthwhile in themselves; in thinking about them it is hoped that we can also rethink the legacy of Putnam’s “Brains and Behavior.”

Among the philosophical authors we will read in the seminar are: Block, Chalmers, Noë and Putnam.

This is a research seminar for graduate students; students may be expected to make presentations. In exceptional circumstances undergraduates will be permitted to take this course.