Course Description

This course is an introduction to the methods of contemporary philosophy, concentrating on the following questions:
  1. The Problem of Other Minds: How can we tell whether animals and future computers have minds, or whether they're instead just mindless automata? How can we tell that other people have minds?  
  2. The Mind/Body Problem: What is the relation between your mind and your body? Are they made up of different stuffs? If a computer duplicates the neural structure of your brain, will it have the same thoughts and self-awareness that you have?  
  3. Life and Death: What does it mean to die? Why is death bad? Do you have an immortal soul which is able to survive the death of your body?
  4. Personal Identity: What makes you the person you are? Why would a clone of you have to be a different person than you are yourself? If we perfectly recorded all the neural patterns in your brain right now, could we use that recording to "bring you back" after a fatal accident?  

Info about the Course and Section Meetings

Our Contact Info

See the Course Requirements


Last lecture today.
Remember, the final exam will be on Monday 12/21 from 8 AM -- 10 AM in WHERE. Note that the exam starts at 8:00, not at 9:30.
Here is an email exchange from a past year about the material we've been discussing.
Here is a review sheet for the final exam. We will also distribute a sample final in class, so that you can see what the format and kinds of questions will be.
There will be a review session for the final in class on Monday. As mentioned in class, this session will be most useful to you if you make the effort to study and review as much as you can on your own before the session.
The final exam will be on Monday 12/21 from 8 AM -- 10 AM in our normal classroom. Note that the exam starts at 8:00, not at 9:30. On Wednesday we'll distribute a review sheet for the final and a sample of what the final will look like.
On Wednesday we'll discuss Feldman's Ch 9.
Those of you who weren't in class today may want to avail yourself of the paper extension we offered in class. The rules are explained in the linked document.
Here are some segments from Kagan's presentations on death and value theory, which we'll be discussing in our remaining classes.
For Monday 12/7, read Feldman Ch 8 and 9. I won't be posting lecture notes for these last two weeks' lectures on Feldman.
Here's some optional historical information about Epicurus and Lucretius and their school of thought.
Remember, 2nd papers are due Monday 12/7.
Here are some links about the movie Memento:

Remember, for Wednesday 12/2, read Feldman Ch 4 and 6. (We assigned Chapter 4 last week; be sure you've read it, and also read Chapter 6.)
Remember also, 2nd papers are due Monday 12/7.
Here's a Calvin & Hobbes series I mentioned in earlier lectures.
Lecture notes on Parfit. I won't be posting lecture notes for the remainder of the course. You will need to summarize the material yourself, from the (multiple) readings we'll give on it, and discussion in lecture and sections.
For Wednesday 12/2, read Feldman Ch 4 and 6. (We assigned Chapter 4 last week; be sure you've read it, and also read Chapter 6.)
Reminder: movie tonight, in Silver Center #207. We'll start at 7:30, so get there beforehand. The movie is also available on reserve at the Avery Fisher Center in Bobst. Its call number is DVD 10454.
There will be no lecture on Wednesday, and no sections this week. We meet next on Monday 11/30.
Your second graded papers will be due on Monday 12/7.
Many of you saw substantial improvements in the second draft of your first paper. Here's a hint for your second paper: write multiple drafts. We're not going to collect them and give you feedback on them, but you can realize many of the benefits by simply making a serious attempt at a draft, and then stepping away from it a day or two, then coming back and rewriting it from scratch. Or ask other students in the class to give you feedback on it---we highly recommend this. (Though give credit to anyone who helps you substantially.) Or come talk to the TAs or me about your argument---we can do this with you, though we won't read drafts. Or talk to other students about your argument. All of these steps help you write a better paper.

We will announce extra office hours after the break. You should absolutely be starting on the assignment now, and work on it in several chunks, with time off in betweeen to think about what you're doing.

The material we're covering in this course overlaps with a course offered by Shelly Kagan at Yale. And also with many other introduction to philosophy courses---but Kagan has released videos and transcripts of his course, which you may enjoy and find helpful. I'll excerpt some parts of the transcripts of his lectures that cover material we're discussing in our course. I recommend you to read these alongside the Feldman---or watch or listen to Kagan lecture. We'll begin with some segments on metaphysical and conceptual questions about death:

After the break, we'll give you a review sheet for the final exam, and also a sample final so that you can see what the format and kinds of questions will be.
Lecture notes on Perry's Third Night. Partly these online notes speak about Bernard Williams' article, "The Self and the Future", which I'll just leave as optional reading.
For Monday 11/23, remember you should have finished reading the Perry dialogue by now; and also read Parfit, "The Unimportance of Identity"
Remember we'll be showing Memento next Monday, 11/23, at 7:30 pm in 7 East 12th Street, room LL23 Silver Center #207.
Links re The Prestige:
Here are expanded lecture notes on Fission Cases.
For Wednesday 11/18, finish reading the Perry dialogues. You should also start on (another) article by Parfit, "The Unimportance of Identity"; though we may not start discussing this until next Monday.
The Chapter 4 of Feldman that you read for today, we will discuss in more detail in a few classes.
Here is some more info about the Star Trek: TNG episode I mentioned in class (more links)
Random links: A former TA found a terrific YouTube video illustrating some philosophical issues with teletransportation.
Our next movie, Memento, will be shown next Monday, 11/23, at 7:30 pm in Silver Center #207. Again, if you can't make the showing, you'll need to make arrangements on your own to view it and be ready to discuss it. It's also on reserve in the Avery Fisher Center at Bobst Library, with the call number DVD 10454.
Some students have been asking about the final exam. There will be a sit-down final, where you have to write a couple short and medium length essays. We will distribute a sample final towards the end of term so that you have a sense of the format. We will also give you a sheet listing all the concepts and arguments we expect you to have become familiar with during the term, and will schedule a review session to help answer questions that are still puzzling you about material from earlier in the semester. The final is scheduled for the morning of Monday 12/21. (I'm sorry it's so late in finals period; but I'm not in charge of the scheduling.)
Here are expanded lecture notes on Perry's Second Night.
Lecture notes on Fission Cases, which Andrew began discussing on Wednesday and we will continue discussing on Monday.
For Monday 11/16, read Parfit, "What We Believe Ourselves To Be." Also read selections from John Varley, The Ophiuchi Hotline. Also read Feldman Ch 4 (that pdf also includes Chapter 6, which you don't need to read just yet).
Optional readings: Mind's I Ch 6: "The Princess Ineffable." And Philip K. Dick, "Impostor" (there's also a movie version).
The movie The Prestige, which we'll be showing Wednesday night at 7:40 pm in 5 Washington Place #101, is also available on reserve at the Avery Fisher Center in Bobst. Its call number is DVD 18467. You can also rent it on Amazon Instant Video. It's available from NetFlix by mail but not for streaming.
Rewrites are due at 5 PM on Wednesday.
Lecture notes on Perry's Second Night (first part).
Finish reading Perry's Second Night for class on Wednesday.
If you want to read ahead, then for Monday 11/16, read Parfit, "What We Believe Ourselves To Be." Also read selections from John Varley, The Ophiuchi Hotline. Also read Feldman Ch 4 (that pdf also includes Chapter 6, which you don't need to read just yet).
Lecture notes on Perry's First Night
For Monday 11/9, start reading the "Second Night" of Perry, Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality (not online). Reminder that your rewrites are due Wednesday 11/11.
We'll be showing two movies for the class. The first will be The Prestige, and we'll show it at 7:30 pm on Wednesday 11/11, in 5 Washington Place #101. Please try to be available to see the movie then. There will be a short written assignment about the movie (comparable to the quizzes in lecture). We'll distribute and explain the assignment after showing the movie. If you won't be able to make the screening, you'll need to watch the movie on your own and make arrangements with your TA to get the assignment. This assignment won't be graded, but everyone must do it: it will be part of your participation grade for the class.
The second movie will be Memento and we'll show it at 7:30 pm on Monday 11/23, in Silver Center #207. Again, if you can't make the showing, you'll need to make arrangements on your own to view it and be ready to discuss it.
I haven't checked yet whether these movies are available on NetFlix or on Amazon streaming. We did also put copies on reserve in the Avery Fisher Center at Bobst Library; so it's possible for you to go watch the movies there. (You have to watch them in the library.) The call #s are: The Prestige (DVD 18467), Memento (DVD 10454).
Remember, as we discussed a few classes ago, don't be discouraged by your grades on the first drafts. This is only a small contribution to your final grade for the course. It is giving you feedback about the quality of the paper you've so far written. But you now have the opportunity to take that feedback and make a much better product. Your rewrites will be due by 5 PM on Wednesday Nov 11. The rewrites are permitted to be a page or two longer; many of you will need that extra space to further develop parts of your paper. The TAs have extra office hours this week to discuss your plans for the rewrite. Prof Pryor will also have office hours at the start of next week. (He'll only have a little bit of availability this Wednesday.)
Lecture notes on What is Personal Identity? (complete)
Lecture notes on Some Problem Cases about Personal Identity
For Wednesday 11/4, read the "First Night" of Perry, Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality (not online).
Lecture notes on Numerical Identity and Identity over Time
Lecture notes on What is Personal Identity? (part 1)
Wikipedia on The Ship of Theseus
Optional reading: Spider-Man's Identity Crisis. (I don't know why, but the pages aren't loading fully in my own broswer. If you see numbers like "00" or "46", it means some page hasn't been displayed. Try telling your browser to reload and you may be able to see the missing page.)
It appears that a substantial number of you aren't attending the lectures regularly. I'm sorry that the material isn't engaging enough, or that your schedules are otherwise too full, for you to commit to this. I tried to emphasize at the start of the semester that the course required serious commitment and work to keep up. I feel I should repeat that warning. If you aren't keeping up and making full use of all the opportunities to master this material, including the lectures, you're really not going to be able to do well in the course. I'm not saying this because of the quizzes I sometimes give at the start of lecture. Those are to keep you on your toes, and to give us information about who is coming to class and whether you're caught up with the reading. They do count towards your participation, but they aren't a major determinant of your final grade. I'm saying it because this material is hard and it's very easy to think you're on top of it when you're really not. I hope that your main motivation is to understand the material we're working through, and how to become better at reading, discussing, and writing philosophy; not what grade you'll get at the end of term. But in either case, I think many of you probably don't have realistic expectations about how much work you need to do to reach that goal. I hope you can make the best use of the time remaining.
Unfortunately, Penn isn't able to finish teaching the whole semester. This isn't ideal, but we've found a replacement TA, Matt Moss <>, who is a philosophy grad student at Columbia. We're coordinating carefully to make sure the handoff goes smoothly, and Penn has told Matt in detail about how great all of you guys have been :-). I really appreciate the good work Penn has done for the course, and I'm also very thankful that Matt is able to take over for him.
Here is a video of two processes of the same chatbot talking to each other. Here is a similar video, and another, and another, and one more. (Some of them are different chatbot programs.)
Lecture notes on Searle's Chinese Room (complete).
Here is a summary of the philosophical issues raised in the Mind's I Ch. 26 (Einstein's Brain) reading; and here is one for Ch. 11. As I said earlier in the term when summarizing another dialogue, you should yourself be mapping out which topics are being discussed where, where the characters are changing topic, and so on. Don't rely on others to do that work for you. But sometimes, especially as you're starting out, it can be helpful to compare your notes with someone else's attempt to do the same thing.
Questions about "A Conversation with Einstein's Brain".
We've been asking questions like: would a computer running the same software as your brain have the same thoughts and experiences you do? Now the class is going to turn to a different question: would it be you? Would "uploading" your mind to a computer be a way to survive the death of your body---either by running that mind in the computer, or by restoring it back into another organic body?
For Wednesday 10/28, read Ch. 3 of Cory Doctorow's Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom. The fictional notion of "Whuffie" plays a role in this story, as in the story Truncat we read a few days ago. Basically it's something like a scoring system of how much other people appreciate and admire you and the things you've done; the economies of Doctorow's future societies have given up money and work on Whuffie instead. You can have a look at Wikipedia for more details. What's important for our purposes aren't the social changes he imagines, but rather the stuff about backing up and restoring your memories, in case your body dies. To get some context for Ch. 3 of this book, you could: (i) scroll up a bit and read the last six paragraphs of Ch. 2; or (ii) read all of the Preface, Ch. 1 and Ch. 2; or (iii) read the Wikipedia entry on the book, which includes a plot summary.
Also read Mind's I Ch 13: Dennett, Where Am I?.
Random links: Wikipedia on Mind uploading in fiction. Another similar list on Ask Metafilter.
Our next readings will be from John Perry's A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality (no online version). But we won't be getting to that until 11/4. For a few classes I'll instead be just talking through some preparatory issues.
Lecture notes on Searle's Chinese Room (part 1).
For Monday 10/26, read Mind's I Ch 26: "A Conversation with Einstein's Brain" and Mind's I Ch 11: Prelude... Ant Fugue.
Random links:
Optional readings:
I came across this interesting biographical article in The Atlantic, about Douglas Hofstadter, one of the editors of our anthology The Mind's I (and also the author of the dialogues in that volume). There's more at Wikipedia. Of course this is all just trivia, which you'd only bother with after having thoroughly understood and thought through functionalism and the Chinese Room argument, right?
Random links:
If you want to read ahead, then for Wednesday 10/28, read Ch. 3 of Cory Doctorow's Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom. Also for Wednesday 10/28, read Mind's I Ch 13: Dennett, Where Am I?.
Soon we will be reading John Perry's A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality. You will need to purchase that book if you haven't already done so.
Lecture notes on Behaviorism vs. the Causal Theories of Mind (complete).
Here's another very helpful optional reading, by my colleague Ned Block: The Mind as the Software of the Brain.
Here are two email exchanges with students from past versions of the class: Can pigs fly? and Behaviorism vs functionalism.
Remember, first graded papers are due Wednesday 10/21, by the start of class. Papers turned in after Prof Pryor begins lecturing are considered late. Here is our policy for late papers.
For Wednesday 10/21, read Mind's I Ch 22: Searle, "Minds, Brains, and Programs"
Some interesting links:
Here is an email exchange I just had with one of you about the physicalist's argument that the interactionist dualist is committed to implausible kinds of overdetermination.
Optional: Here is Chapter 1 to Greg Egan's book Diaspora. He's the author who wrote the "Learning to be me" story (with the jewel computer) we read earlier. This chapter describes how one computer program grows, in a future society amongst other computer programs, from a mere seed up to the first moments of self-awareness. I found it a touching and mind-opening story.
Optional: here's another, shorter story about the prejudice that only flesh-and-blood creeatures can think.
When discussing the "overdetermination argument" against some forms of dualism, one principle that is sometimes invoked is Occam's Razor. That link is to a Wikipedia article which is just for optional historical details.
Lecture notes on Behaviorism vs. the Causal Theories of Mind (part 1).
For Monday 10/19, read Cory Doctorow's Truncat. What would the mind have to be like, so that feeding it a computer program recorded from another person's brain, and stored on a network, could give you some of the experiences and memories of the original subject?
If you want to read ahead, in upcoming classes we'll be discussing Mind's I Ch 22: Searle, "Minds, Brains, and Programs", then Mind's I Ch 26: "A Conversation with Einstein's Brain".
Today we finished up discussing Necessity and Conceivability, and Descartes' Argument that He is Distinct from His Body.
We also started discussing Arguments for Materialism. Those notes also describe the strongest argument I mentioned, which we didn't get to today but will discuss in class on Wednesday.
For Wednesday 10/14, read Armstrong, The Nature of Mind and Lycan, Machine Consciousness. (Optional reading: Block, What is Functionalism?.)
If you want to read ahead, then for Monday 10/19, read Cory Doctorow's Truncat; and for Wednesday 10/19, read Mind's I Ch 22: Searle, "Minds, Brains, and Programs".
Prof Pryor has one more office hour slot available this week, on Thursday from 11:30-11:50. The first of you to email requesting this slot will be given it. (taken)
One question during class today brought up the issue of whether you can conceive of your own non-existence. Here is a transcript from lectures by Shelly Kagan, a philosopher at Yale, discussing arguments about this.
When our Ph.D. students apply for jobs as professors, they have to write a statement about their attitudes and strategies for teaching. I recently had occasion to read one of these, and the student began like this:
When I think of the professors who have most shaped my intellectual development, and what I admire about them, a few things stand out. They all had high expectations from their students. At the same time, they conveyed to us that, through hard work and dedication, anyone could meet those expectations. And they were approachable and willing to serve as mentors. By being generous with their time and attention outside of the classroom, they made us feel that we were being taken seriously, that we were doing something important, and that there was progress to be made. These are the traits I aspire to emulate and what I try to convey to my students in my own teaching practice.
(The student gave me permission to post that.) I think these are beautiful words, and they also express my own attitude towards our course (and teaching in general). I hope you'll all be fortunate enough to encounter it many of your courses, and that you'll make the best use of it.
Your first graded papers are due Wednesday 10/21. We will grade these and give you comments, and then you will need to rewrite the paper. The rewrite will also then be graded. You want to do the best job possible on the first draft, so that we can give you comments that will help you improve in the most productive and rewarding way. Decide on a paper topic now and start going over in your mind what your argument is. Roughly plan out the argument you want to make. Come to one of our office hours, or talk to someone else in the class, and give your central argument orally. (Best if you do both!) Get people's feedback on that, then once you're finally happy with your argument, you can sit down to write it up. If you wait until a few days before the paper is due to begin this process, the result will be poor and you'll have cheated yourself of one of the major learning exercises in this course.
Here is a question about supervenience that a student from a previous year emailed, with my reply.
There is no class on Monday 10/12 (University closed). School is on a Monday schedule on Tuesday 10/13, so we'll meet then; and we'll be back to regularly scheduled lectures on Wednesday 10/14. The readings for Wednesday's meeting are Armstrong, The Nature of Mind and Lycan, Machine Consciousness. (Optional reading: Block, What is Functionalism?.)
On Tuesday, we'll finish up discussing Necessity and Conceivability, and Descartes' argument in Meditation 6. Then we'll begin discussing some arguments for materialism. Some of what we say will overlap with the van Inwagen chapters you looked at before. There is no additional reading assigned for that meeting. But have a special look at the passages from Descartes on the back of the handout distributed in class today.
Some comments about the quiz at the start of today's class. Many of you were able to properly state Leibniz's Law, but others confused it with a different, more controversial thesis. (And others were even more "creative.") All of the following quotes state something I do recognize as Leibniz's Law: "If A=B then A and B have all the same properties," "If A is F and B is not F, then A is not B," "If there is at least one property that A and B do not both share in common then the two things aren't the same." (The last quote can be interpreted in several ways, but I take it the author meant that one of A and B has the property, and the other lacks it.) I count all these as expressing the same idea, because in general if you say "If A=B then Y", that's equivalent to saying "If not-Y then it must be that not(A=B)."

Note however that it's not equivalent to saying "If Y then A=B." A susbtantial number of you offered the following thesis as being Leibniz's Law: that if A and B have all the same properties, then A=B. This is not the view we're calling Leibniz's Law; it's another, more controversial thesis. (This more controversial thesis has a name: it's called the Identity of Indiscernibles. Confusingly, this more controversial thesis was one that Leibniz also held, and is famous for defending. But when contemporary philosophers say "Leibniz's Law", they mean the thesis described in the previous paragraph, not the Identity of Indiscernibles.) This more controversial thesis may commit you to denying that it's even in principle possible for there to be two snowflakes that are exactly alike and have all the same properties. A defender of the controversial thesis will say, even if two snowflakes are perfect copies they'd at least have different locations so there'd have to be some difference in their properties, so that's okay. An opponent of the controversial thesis may complain that there are other kinds of perfect duplicates that they think are possible, but that this principle says are impossible. (Perhaps a statue and the clay it is made of are two objects, but have all the same properties?) This is all controversial. The important point is that there is controversy and argument over this principle, whereas there is not the same kind of controvery over the principle voiced in the previous paragraph, called "Leibniz's Law." (Philosophers do dispute the fine details of exactly how Leibniz's Law should be formulated; but they all agree that something in that vicinity must be right.) Confusing Leibniz's Law with the more controversial thesis that if A and B have all the same properties they are the same thing is like, if I told you that all humans are mammals and someone asked you, What did Pryor say? and you answered, "He says that all mammals are humans."

Statistics: 33 of you stated Leibniz's Law correctly (or more or less correctly), and 13 of you instead stated the other, more controversial thesis. 4 of you said other things that were either confusing or were clear but not right. (It looks like 29 of you missed the quiz!?) Many of you were able to give plausible illustrations of Leibniz's Law being used in an argument, both legitimately and illegitimately, but a fair number of you had trouble with this. The notions of epistemic versus metaphysical possibility or contingency, that we introduced at the end of last class (and were explained further in the lecture notes posted on Monday) were clearly ones that a lot of you had trouble understanding. I hope today's discussion helped with that a bit more, and that if your lack of understanding persists, you'll take steps of your own to clear it up. Ask us questions, in section or after class; or read the notes again; or both. We can guide you but like a physical trainer, we can't do the workout for you.

Coming up with properties that are plausibly essential to us is challenging, but a number of you had good suggestions. A handful of you said that "thinking" is essential to you, and two said that "free will" is. (Perhaps it is; some would disagree, but maybe they're wrong, and we really do have free will, not only in fact, but in any possible situation in which we exist.) One of you suggested "being the first-born daughter of R and L". That's an interesting proposal, one that some philosophers have also defended; there's also been interesting work arguing against it. One of you suggested that "being born in California" is essential to him. I find that kind of hard to believe, but a philosopher with ingenuity might make a case for it. Note that the issue is not whether this student would have been different in some ways if he had been born elsewhere. He's committing himself to the claim that it would be literally impossible, even in the broadest sense, for him to have born in any other location. It'd be interesting to see how far that view could be defended. It does seem kind of surprising.

Here are lecture notes for Leibniz's Law and Arguments for Dualism, Privileged Access and Inverted Spectrums, and Illegitimate Uses of Leibniz's Law.
Optional: here is more information about Leibniz (pronounced like the first syllable of "library", then "nits").
Optional: videos of the Home Headache Test and Mouse from the Matrix discussing an inverted taste spectrum.
Optional: here are some papers by philosophers who argue that we don't have privileged access to our own minds: Armstrong, "Is Introspective Knowledge Incorrigible?" and Heil, "Privileged Access".
Lecture notes on Descartes' Argument that He is Distinct from His Body.
At the end of class today I began talking about Necessity and Conceivability. Normally I'll post the lecture summaries after the lectures, but in this case, because the material is important and complex, I'll post it all now. I will summarize again in class, and I hope we'll have more time this way to talk through your questions.
There are no additional readings for Wednesday. But we strongly encourage you to be going over the recent lecture notes and especially the van Inwagen article again to solidify your understanding of them, and to make it clearer to yourselves what you're unclear on, and would like us to help you sort out. It should be understood that you should always be going over the readings and notes multiple times like this; but in this case we doubly recommend it.
I haven't taken an exact count of how many people are in lecture, but from a casual visual estimate it seems to be only about 3/4 of those registered for the class. We're aware that people are sometimes sick and so on, but it is crucial for you to keep in mind that if you're only relying on doing the reading, reading the lecture notes, and going to sections, you are almost certainly going to do much worse in this course than you think. Philosophy is very hard but can look deceptively easy. We provide many routes for you to understand the material, and different ways of coaching you into how to think about it and respond to it, because experience has shown that that's what it takes. If you think Of course I wouldn't show up for the final without reading the central texts for the course, you should be thinking just the same way about all the other components of the course, including the lectures. We tried to emphasize this in the "ambitions for the course" section of the forms you gave us at the start of term. If you recall, almost all of you stated:

In this class, I’m aiming for a grade between B and A. Barring accidents, I’ll be making sure to do all of the reading for the dates it was assigned, taking my own notes and figuring out the main structure and arguments of the readings on my own ahead of time, and returning to the readings again while (and after) we’ve discussed them to study them again with fresh eyes. I’ll be plotting my papers out in advance, seeking feedback about my plans from multiple sources, then (inevitably) completely re-designing the paper in response to feedback, writing a draft, setting it aside, coming back to it and rewriting it (multiple times if I can). I’ll be actively participating in our section discussions, every week.

In short, there are many reasons some of you might miss lectures and if you're sick I hope you'll recover quickly, and that the lecture notes and sections can help you catch up again quickly. But I also hope none of you will delude yourself into thinking you'll be able to get by with less work and engagement with the course than it really takes. We tried to make this clear from the beginning.

Finally, there seems to be an ongoing issue with ten or so of you trickling in after class has begun. You will miss announcements, the framing remarks at the start of lecture that might be important to understand what's going on, and when we give the surprise quizzes you won't be able to take them. Also, it's distracting to me and other students and slightly slows down how much material we can get through. Each case of a student coming in late doesn't have that much effect, but five to ten students showing up late each time does make a noticeable difference. Cumulatively, it really is distracting and discouraging. I'll be gentle about this for now: please try harder.

For 10/5, read selections from Meditation 6 and the Objections and Replies to it. We will be discussing some issues surrounding that reading for a few classes.

If you want to read ahead, for Wednesday 10/14 we'll be discussing Armstrong, The Nature of Mind and Lycan, Machine Consciousness. (Optional reading: Block, What is Functionalism?.)

Lecture notes for Meditation 1 and Meditation 2. The notes for Meditation 2 go on to discuss the stuff we didn't get to in lecture today (about "I am a thinking thing"). Do continue to read through that part of the summary. We'll review it in our next meeting. It is difficult and subtle material. I expect it will take some care and concentration to keep track of everything that's going on.
Some more optional reading about The Cogito Argument.
Remember, second writing exercises are due on Wednesday (before lecture begins).
The reading assignment for Wednesday is just to re-read the van Inwagen article and the Descartes material, especially the Second Meditation. For class on Wednesday, again bring a copy of the Second Meditation to look at.

Test your understanding: How many arguments does van Inwagen offer for dualism? Can you say in a sentence or two what is the main strategy of each of the arguments? Where does his discussion of the "second" argument for dualism begin, and where does it end? Which side (the dualist, or the physicalist) is "ahead" at the start of each paragraph in that discussion? What does van Inwagen mean by "interactionism" and "epiphenomenalism"? What question are these views competing answers to? Then: how many arguments does van Inwagen offer for physicalism? (these come after the blank page in the pdf).

It's to be expected that you'll have trouble answering some of these questions: after all, you've just started studying philosophy. We will be discussing most of them in more detail in the coming weeks. But to the extent that you can't answer the questions, it means you haven't fully understood that part of van Inwagen's discussion. When you find yourself in that position, you should work hard to improve your position. Reread the article several times, trying to keep track of the details. We can't gift you with understanding. We're more like personal trainers who can guide you ways that may help you learn more efficiently---but only if you're already seriously engaged in the attempt in the first place.

One thing you may notice, if you're alert, is that van Inwagen will define some terms a bit differently than I do, and also states some debates a bit differently than I will. As I've said in lecture, this is inevitable in philosophy. You need to learn how to work around it. The first step is noticing when different philosophers are using the same words in slightly different ways. I'm aware of at least one word I introduced during previous lectures that van Inwagen defines a bit differently: can you identify it?

For 9/28, read selections from Descartes' First Meditation and Second Meditation. Note that this reading though short will be challenging, and will take some work to really understand. Please bring a printout of these texts to class on Monday.
When Descartes wrote the Meditations, he sent them out to various other intellectuals in Europe, some of whom were sympathetic to his arguments and others of whom thought those arguments weren't very good. Some of these other intellectuals composed seven booklets of "Objections" to Descartes, and Descartes in turn wrote "Replies" to the Objections. Some excerpts from the Objections and Replies are included in our reading selection. However, Descartes also considers argumentative objections and replies to them even in his initial presentation. Sometimes he shifts between stating an objection and giving the reply even within a single paragraph. So important argumentative moves can happen within a sentence or two. Other times, several paragraphs in the text all constitute a single unit pushing in a single direction. Try to map out the dialectical structure of the Descartes reading, in the same way you did for van Inwagen. This will probably be a more challenging exercise. Even if you get confused, at least form a hypothesis about what direction each sentence is pushing in, what it's supposed to accomplish.
Here are lecture notes on Dualism vs. Materialism. Some of the terms explained there (realism, reductionism, error-theory and so on) we didn't have time to cover in class, but I'll expect you to get enough familiarity with them just from those notes.
Another idea I meant to introduce in class but didn't have time to is the contrast between particular tokens of things, like your current laptop, and types or kinds of things, like whatever model laptop it is you have. Many laptops might all be of the same type. (In principle, there can also be very unusual types of things that have only one example or token. Philosphers argue about whether we should admit that there can be types of things that have no examples.) An example often used to illustrate this contrast is this: How many letters are there in the word "hello"? There are five letter tokens, but only four letter types, because two of those tokens (the two "l"s) are tokens of a single type. This terminology comes up in some places in van Inwagen's reading, and we'll encounter it a couple of times through the semester.
A second writing exercise is due Wednesday Sept 30.
If you want to read ahead, we will be discussing selections from Meditation 6 and the Objections and Replies to it on 10/5.
The quizzes like we had at the start of class today will happen occasionally through the term, as I said at the start of the semester. They are meant to be an easy, gentle way to prod you to keep up with the readings and to get to class on time. If you miss a quiz, because you missed class or came late, or you weren't caught up with the reading and so aren't able to answer a quiz, don't get too upset about it. Yes these will contribute to your final grade but not in such a way that one or two slip-ups is going to be a disaster. But the effects will accummulate.
Here are lecture notes on What is Life?.
Random link: Here's a video by chemist Martin Hanczyc about his research on "protocells," simple chemical models of living cells. He discusses how this research may help us understand the difference between living and nonliving systems, and recognize life on other planets that might be fundamentally different from the forms of life we find on earth.
Random link: here is another video about a possible new form of life(?)
For 9/23, read selections from Peter van Inwagen's book Metaphysics. This introduces a number of arguments that we'll be discussing over the next few weeks. Warning: this reading will be challenging. Also note that the selection goes to p. 168 and then continues: it picks up again on middle of p. 178 and ends at p. 183. Some people don't notice the latter segment.
An important task when approaching philosophical writing is to identify the "dialectical structure" of the text. For example, here there's an argument for thesis X (I usually draw a box around the text containing the argument); here an objection to that argument is being described; here a response is being given to that objection; here is an objection to that response; here is a second objection to the original argument; here an argument is being given for a weaker thesis Y; and so on. Some of our texts are in the form of dialogues, and there each of these shifts usually corresponds to a new speaker. But in other texts, we have to do more work to see these shifts. Try to figure out and pencil in the back-and-forth structure of the argument in the van Inwagen reading. This will help position you better to understand what the arguments are actually saying.
I sent out an email this morning to everyone that Albert says is enrolled in the course. If you didn't receive the email, please get in touch with us.
Here's a note on a detail in Turing's article. (This concerns the "harder" passage on the back side of the handout of copied passges that I distributed in class.)
Optional: If you want to read more about neurons or other brain cells, whose function we're still learning about, you can start reading at those links.
We will come back to questions about what it takes to have a mind, and how we can know who else has minds. But we're going to turn now to a neighboring topic: what it takes to be alive. Plants and bacteria are alive but presumably don't have minds. Maybe we can bioengineer more living things, that also lack minds. So "living" doesn't imply "has a mind." What about the other direction? Arguably, there may someday be computer programs that think and have intentions, but aren't alive. Now, maybe, we shouldn't take it for granted that computer programs necessarily fail to be alive. There is a research field devoted to trying to create "artificial life." But even if we decide it is possible for some computer programs to be alive, it's not obvious that only the programs that are alive will be capable of thinking. So perhaps "has a mind" doesn't imply "living", either.
Random links: A-Life, Synthetic biology (more, more)
Start reading for Monday 9/21: Feldman Ch 1-3
Optional: After you're read, digested, and thought through your reactions to the Feldman chapters, you may want to have a look at a more advanced article covering the same ground, and pointing to ongoing contemporary debates about it.
Here are some sample writing exercises from previous years, with comments. A previous teaching assistant David Barnett provided another helpful example of how to do the first assignment poorly, and then improve it. I strongly recommend you study these examples, and also the comments your TAs will give you next week. When reading the examples, be sure to click the links at the very top of the page. They will display the papers at various stages of revision. (I notice that the javascript + css I used doesn't work right on some versions of Safari, I don't know why. It works on Firefox. I haven't checked other browsers. If anyone has the time and know-how to look into it and see what's wrong, I'd welcome suggestions.)
Remember, first writing assignments are due on Wednesday.
Lecture notes on AI and the Turing Test. I guess I wrote the first draft of those notes a long time ago, since I talk about Palm Pilots. This is some ancient, steampunk-era technology you kids won't have heard of. Maybe next year it will be retro-fashionable. Some of what's summarized in the lecture notes we won't get to until Wednesday.
Turing is a very interesting character who made huge contributions to several areas of thought, beyond what we're looking at in class. If you read about his life, you'll see he also had a hard time for being homosexual, and may have committed suicide as a result. Or his death may have been a tragic accident; from what I've read it seems to be unclear. In any event, much of our contemporary life has been profoundly shaped by his contributions.
Here is a summary of the philosophical issues raised in the Mind's I Ch. 5 reading. You should yourself be mapping out which topics are being discussed where, where the characters are changing topic, and so on. Don't rely on others to do that work for you. But sometimes, especially as you're starting out, it can be helpful to compare your notes with someone else's attempt to do the same thing. For van Inwagen and most of our other readings, you'll need to attempt this on your own.
For Wednesday read: Greg Egan, Learning to Be Me. This is one of my favorite sci-fi explorations of the philosophical ideas we'll be discussing this term.
Optional reading: here is a novel about building a computer to pass the Turing test. (Here is a summary.)
Another "random link": Philosophical issues in the movie Blade Runner
Among Turing's best-known contributions were the development of early computers. If you find this interesting and want to read more, here are some links (again, this is all completely optional):
Another video about animal mentality?
I promised to make available pointers to further reading and my lecture notes on free will. They're there if you want to read independently on those topics.
At least one of you is insterested in reading more about the philosophical interpretation of quantum mechanics. Here are two books you could look at to get into these hard but fascinating issues: Quantum Mechanics and Experience, and Sneaking a Look at God's Cards.
Here is a question about definitions that a past student of this class emailed, with my reply.
Readings for Monday 9/14 were already posted (scroll down).
A short writing assignment is due Wednesday 9/16. Here are some Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper.
Some random links about animal intelligence. When I say "random links" that means I'm not asking or expecting the class to read these. I'm just making these available for those who are interested or bored and want to read further. You should not think that reading these is any part of our first writing assignment. But of course, it's possible that you may get ideas for arguments that you weren't already considering, when browsing these links or re-reading Allen's "Star Witness" article.
In class last week I mentioned a pair of articles exemplifying the method of philosophical analysis applied to the concept of "flirting." Here is the article by Carrie Jenkins and here is a response by Daniel Nolan. These are optional reading. I haven't listened to it yet, but I see that there was also an episode of the Philosophy Talk radio show devoted to this subject.
As mentioned in class, we will let you know by next Monday how things look with the waiting list. (The last day for add/drop is Tuesday.) Only 63 students turned in the info sheet today in class, so that's good evidence that we don't really have a full 80 students planning to attend. In past years, the enrollment has also been capped at 80, and there was always a waiting list at the beginning, but then we stabilized to a class of between 65-75.
Read for Wednesday 9/9: (i) Mind's I Ch 8: "Mark III Beast", (ii) Colin Allen, "Star Witness"
The assignment at the end of Allen's article is part of Allen's paper; it's not specifically an assignment for this course. However, you will be writing an assignment for this course shortly which is in the same spirit as that one.
Read for the class after that (Monday 9/14): (i) Brian Aldiss' story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long"; (ii) Mind's I Ch 4-5. Don't rush! The last articles need to be read several times. Try to get a solid understanding of what the arguments are in each of them. You might look again at How to Read a Philosophy Paper.
The following story is longer than the Super-Toys one listed above, and addresses some similar themes. It isn't required reading. I'm just linking to it for those who might be interested: "The Lifecycle of software objects", by Ted Chiang.
If you're trying to figure out whether this course is right for you, you may find it useful to look ahead at one of the more difficult (but not the most difficult) readings we'll be working with this term. That is a selection from Peter van Inwagen's book Metaphysics. We will be discussing the arguments in this reading around the end of September, over a number of classes. We will not be holding your hand and summarizing the article for you; we will be expecting you to read it and re-read it and map out its structure for yourself until you understand it. If you have a look at this reading and find it really engaging (regardless of whether you agree with van Inwagen or completely disagree with him), that's a good sign you will enjoy this class. If you find it really boring and too detailed, and can't imagine what the point might be and aren't really that motivated to figure it out, that's a good sign that you won't engage fully with this class and won't enjoy it. If you find the article interesting but confusing, and hard to keep track of, and uses words you never heard before, don't worry about that for now. These are obstacles that we will be working to overcome by the time we assign the reading later in the course.
The Philosophy Department offers a number of courses each semester open to (and aimed at) students with no or relatively little background in philosophy. (If you've taken a course in philosophy in high school, or in departments other than philosophy, then you should presume that counts as "relatively little" background---we hope that preparation will be useful to you, but you most likely won't yet have acquired the main skills our introductory courses aim to build.)

In addition to our course---that is, Phil UA 1 section 1 (the lecture) and sections 2-5 (the recitations)---this semester the department also offers:

For more details about these other courses, see the department course listings.

The primary aim of all of these courses is a common one: to teach you how to reason, argue, and write like a philosopher. Additionally, there is moderate overlap between the issues discussed in our course and each of the others. So it's not easy to choose between them based on what material the courses propose to cover.

Perhaps the focus of one of these courses will appeal to you more than the others. Or perhaps one will fit your schedule best. Or if you're on the fence, perhaps you can arrange to sit in on a few sessions of two of the classes and see which you're more comfortable in. It's not obvious that will be feasible: some of these courses may hit their enrollment limits. But you might look into it if you genuinely can't decide. Note that it's far better to sit in from the beginning in a class you're hoping eventually to enroll in, even if you're not enrolled in it yet, than to try to drop in in the middle of things in the second week or so.

If you decide that ours is the course that suits you (or your schedule) best, and you get wait-listed for the course, then be patient. We'll try to accommodate you; but we won't be able to settle this until after a lecture or three. Have a back-up plan---for example, you might also attend one of the other introductory philosophy classes if you can---but in the meantime, just attend our course on the assumption it may work out.
Our first lecture meeting is on Wednesday 9/2 in Silver #206. Recitations will meet during the first week of class: on Wednesday 9/2 and Thursday 9/3. Our second lecture meeting is on Wednesday 9/9. After that, the scheduling becomes more regular.
If you have issues about which of the recitation sessions you're signed up for, please be patient about this as well. To take this course, it's mandatory that you have space in your schedule to attend at least one of our scheduled recitations. But if you can't sign up for the one that suits you best, we'll sort this out later too. Make sure you go to one of the sections the first week anyway, even if it's not the section you ultimately hope to be in. Email the TAs rather than Professor Pryor about any section-scheduling matters. All our emails are listed under "Contact Info". At this point you don't have to worry about whether Albert thinks you are taking the section we think you are taking. (Though it's likely you do have to tell Albert you're taking some section.)
You will have to purchase some texts (listed under "Course Requirements"); others will be available on the course website using a password announced in class. Some (but not all) readings will be available both ways. The texts will be available at the NYU Bookstore. (Let us know if they're available yet.) We've also posted links so that you can purchase them from Amazon or Barnes&Noble.
Some introductory readings for the course: (i) Philosophical Terms and Methods and (ii) How to Read a Philosophy Paper. For your entertainment (though it is instructive): What is an argument?.