Philosophy 290-6

Fall 2014

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
290-6 Graduate Seminar: “Does the Mind Have a Causal Structure?” Campbell Th 2-4 234 Moses Hall

The main theses I will be exploring in this class are:

  • Psychological explanation generally is causal explanation
  • Psychological understanding generally is causal understanding

A running question will be: ‘What is the relation between our ordinary understanding of the mind, and a scientific understanding of humans?’.

There are two types of philosophical objection to this picture, which suggest that psychological explanation and understanding are not merely a matter of causality:

  1. The mind is fundamentally a rational structure, and rational connections are a priori, rather than having to be discovered empirically, as causal connections are.

  2. Psychological understanding is fundamentally a matter of imaginative or empathetic understanding, and this kind of imaginative understanding is to be contrasted with causal explanation.

On these views, psychological explanation and understanding are not merely forms of causal explanation and understanding.

We will in general be looking at how phenomena of central interest in philosophy of mind, such as perception or consciousness, are to be described in terms of causation, and looking at current analyses of what causation as such is, in particular, analyses in terms of potential interventions, and analyses in terms of the idea of a causal process.

Background reading: