Philosophy 3

Summer 2016 Session D

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
3 The Nature of Mind Bradley MTuWTh 12-2 229 Dwinelle

Out of all that exists in the universe, out of all of the rocks, stars, galaxies, and protons, almost nothing has any kind of mental life at all. As far as we now know, the only things in the entirety of the universe that have minds are some animals on planet Earth, ourselves included. This observation raises at least two serious questions. First, could things other than living animals like ourselves have minds, or be conscious? That’s one question, about the possible extent of mental features in the universe. A second, even deeper question, is why anything in our universe has any kind of inner mental life at all. Since so much of the universe operates in compete unfeeling darkness, why does anything in it have a mind? We are incredibly lucky to be among the things that have minds, that are conscious, that can think, feel, love, and reflect. But we, like everything else in the universe, are complex physical systems composed of mindless sub-atomic particles. Why do the mindless particles that compose my brain and body produce a conscious experience, while the mindless particles that compose a table, or a hurricane, or a galaxy generate nothing of the kind? These are both fundamental questions about what it takes for something to have a mind, which is the main them of this class.

In the course we will examine some of the most fundamental questions about the nature of the mind. Topics that we will cover include the relationship between the mind and our physical bodies and brains (The Mind-Body Problem), and in particular the status of conscious experience in the physical world (The Problem of Consciousness). We will also look at the nature of perceptual experience, and the question of whether it accurately presents the world to us (The Problem of Perception), as well as the nature of the self, or the question of what a person is (The Problem of the Self). Readings will be drawn from classic and contemporary sources. Philosophers we might discuss include Descartes, Hume, Russell, Putnam, Smart, Byrne, Nagel, Chalmers, Locke, and Williams. This is an introductory philosophy course with no pre-requisites.