Philosophy 290-4

Fall 2015

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
290-4 Graduate Seminar: Experience Needed: Applying the Metaphysics of Mind Martin W 4-6 234 Moses

‘My earliest memory is dipped in red. I come out of a door on the arm of a maid, the floor in front of me is red, and to the left a staircase goes down, equally red. Across from us, at the same height, a door opens, and a smiling man steps forth, walking towards me in a friendly way. He steps right up close to me, halts, and says: “Show me your tongue.” I stick out my tongue, he reaches into his pocket, pulls out a jackknife, opens it, and brings the blade all the way to my tongue. He says: “Now we’ll cut off his tongue.” I don’t dare pull back my tongue, he comes closer and closer, the blade will touch me any second. In the last moment, he pulls back the knife, saying: “Not today, tomorrow.” He snaps the knife shut again and puts it back in his pocket. Every morning, we step out of the door and into the red hallway, the door opens, and the smiling man appears. I know what he’s going to say and I wait for the command to show my tongue. I know he’s going to cut it off, and I get more and more scared each time. That’s how the day starts, and it happens very often.’

This seminar has two interrelated themes. First, recent debates about the nature of action and about sensory experience have focused on the need to pay due attention to the categories in which action and experience fall: that it is important to recognize that these are events or processes as opposed to states. We’ll look at these claims – advanced by, among others, Michael Thompson, Jennifer Hornsby, Helen Steward, and Matthew Soteriou – in the context of the original views about the metaphysics of temporal entities first proposed by Anthony Kenny and Zeno Vendler, and then revised by Alexander Mourelatos. Second, we’ll explore the role that ‘the autobiographical notion of experience’ (as Hinton labelled it) informs our common conception of the relation between sense experience, action and self-consciousness. Here too we’ll apply some morals about the categories of mental phenomena.