Phil 340.001: Philosophy of Mind

Fall 2020, MWF noon-12:50 pm, 3 credits

Professor Jim Pryor (he/him)

Sakai Site

UNC students enrolled in the course (or otherwise added to the roster by the instructor) can access the Sakai webpages for this course at https://sakai.unc.edu/portal/site/philmind. Those pages include the Zoom links for the course meetings and for Professor Pryor’s office hours. (These were also emailed to you, or can be retrieved from this restricted page.)

I’m still learning how to work within and around Sakai’s constraints. Some parts of the course will probably always be published here, outside of that system, so that they can also be viewed by people not enrolled in the course.

This front web page won’t be updated frequently. Regular announcements, readings, and lecture notes will be posted here instead.

Course Description

This course is a survey of central issues in contemporary philosophy of mind. We will consider:

These don’t exhaust the issues discussed in philosophy of mind, but they are a representative overview and a good introduction.

Some of these issues also belong to the philosophical fields of epistemology, metaphysics, and/or action theory. You may also come across specialty fields like moral psychology, philosophy of psychology, or cognitive science. Each of these overlaps a good deal with philosophy of mind; but they have special focuses, and draw on other disciplines too.

Prerequisites

One prior course in philosophy, or equivalent background with instructor’s approval. Familiarity with formal logic will be useful in this course, though it is not a prerequisite.

Target Audience and Course Goals

I’ll assume students have prior experience writing philosophical papers, reading texts critically, analyzing and responding to philosophical arguments, and so on. If you’ve already taken a prior course in philosophy, that will be adequate preparation. If you’ve just “read and thought a lot” about the issues this course covers, that is in most cases not adequate preparation. It won’t have given you practice and feedback on writing philosophy papers, and it won’t have given you experience analyzing and discussing arguments in the way we’ll be doing in this class.

Goals for the course include:

Instructor

The course is offered by Professor Jim Pryor (he/him).

Professor Pryor’s office is Caldwell 108A, but meetings during fall 2020 will be by Zoom. (The Zoom link for office hours can be found at the Sakai site, or at this restricted page.)

Professor Pryor’s office hours are Mondays 3:30-4:30, Wednesdays 1-2, or by appointment.

His office phone is (919) 962-4570, but email is a more reliable way to reach him.

Professor Pryor’s email is jimpryor@unc.edu.

Texts

These are available in the bookstore. You can also buy or rent them online. I’ll also make sure readings from the textbooks are available to everybody at the start of term.

Additional readings will be provided by web links. Some of these are in a restricted section of the course website. The username and password for these will be announced in class.

Course Requirements

Here are detailed explanations of how you’ll be expected to read philosophy papers, and how you’ll be expected to write them. An explanation of what different grades mean for written work is linked below.

It is essential that you attend the (online) lectures. Material not in the readings will be presented there, and useful background and framing for many of the readings will also be provided. The university’s policy on class attendance, and how to get absences approved, can be found here. You will be responsible for catching up with missed course content.

There is a reading assignment for most class meetings. These readings are often pretty short, but they all require close study. You should read them carefully before we discuss them in class, and you’ll need to read them more than once. For most of the readings, you won’t understand the material sufficiently with just a single reading. A good strategy would be to read the assignment once before we discuss it, and then go back and read it again after we’ve discussed it. If you don’t plan to do this, you should not take this course.

It is also essential that you ask questions, and participate when we have group discussion. I expect you to actively engage with each other in class, and encourage you to do it outside of class too. Talking about philosophy is one of the best ways of learning how to do it. Your overall participation will make up 10% of your grade for the course. See this page on participation for more details (though this class won’t have separate “discussion sections” as that page assumes; we’ll integrate discussion into the main meetings). Again, if you don’t plan to participate earnestly, you should not take this course.

You will have to submit three papers for the course, due on Sept 11, Oct 9, and Nov 6 (these are all Fridays). Papers should be 4-5 pages each. We will arrange that grading of your work is done without me knowing whose work is whose.

Here is an explanation of how I understand different grades for written work. (See also the “How you’ll be graded” section of the writing guidelines.)

The university honor code applies to all course assignments. You’ll be allowed (encouraged!) to get feedback from your peers on your work before submitting it, and to use their ideas as starting points. But what you submit must represent your own developed thoughts and expression, and you must give appropriate credit for ways that others influenced the product.

Papers submitted for this and another class (whether taken the same semester or not) must be substantially different.

There will also be a final exam, given in compliance with UNC-Chapel Hill’s final exam regulations and according to the final exam calendar. Our exam will be on Sat Nov 21 from noon-3 pm. You will be allowed to consult offline written resources during the exam.

Your grades for the different components of the course will be weighted as follows:

10% for participation
15% first paper
25% second paper
25% third paper
25% final exam

Calendar

This lists due dates for assignments and the rough order of our topics. See this page for announcements, readings, lecture notes, and any minor tweaks to the schedule. Check that page frequently.

Meeting 1 / Mon Aug 10
Discuss machine intelligence, mind uploading
Meetings 2–3 / Wed Aug 12, Fri Aug 14
Substances, Dualism
Leibniz’s Law
Meetings 4-5 / Mon Aug 17, Wed Aug 19
Conceivability/Imaginability Arguments for Dualism
Metaphysical Possibility and Imaginability
Supervenience and Materialism
Fri Aug 21
Discussion (optional meeting)
Mon Aug 24
Classes cancelled
Meeting 6 / Wed Aug 26
More on Supervenience, Possibility, Imaginability
Meeting 7 / Fri Aug 28
Causal Arguments against Dualism
Meeting 8 / Mon Aug 31
Animal and Machine Intelligence
Meetings 8-9 / Mon Aug 31, Wed Sept 2
Varieties of Mental States
Marks of the Mental
Meetings 9-10 / Wed Sept 2, Fri Sept 4
Turing Test
Labor Day / Mon Sept 7
No class
Meeting 11-12 / Wed Sept 9, Fri Sept 11
For and Against Logical Behaviorism
Paper 1 due on Friday Sept 11
Meeting 13-14 / Mon Sept 14, Wed Sept 16
Smart’s Identity Theory
Meeting 15 / Fri Sept 18
Discuss papers
Meeting 16-17 / Mon Sept 21, Wed Sept 23
Turing Machines
Introduction to Functionalism
Meetings 18-19 / Fri Sept 25, Mon Sept 28
Externalism
Meeting 20 / Wed Sept 30
Discuss, Catchup
Meetings 21–23 / Fri Oct 2, Mon Oct 5, Wed Oct 7
Mental Causation and Exclusion Arguments
Meetings 24–25? / Fri Oct 9, Wed Oct 14
Paper 2 due on Friday Oct 9
Explanatory autonomy
Meeting 26? / Fri Oct 16
Discuss, Catchup
Meetings 27?–28? / Mon Oct 19, Wed Oct 21
Ramsey/Lewis Definitions
Lewis vs Orthodox Functionalists
Meetings 29?–30? / Fri Oct 23, Mon Oct 26
Block’s Troubles with Functionalism
Searle’s Chinese Room
Meeting 31? / Wed Oct 28
Perception, Sense-Data, Primary vs Secondary Qualities
Meeting 32? / Fri Oct 31
Discuss, Catchup
Meetings 33?–34? / Mon Nov 2, Wed Nov 4
Inverted Spectra
Representational accounts of perception, Intentionalism vs Qualia
Meetings 35?–36? / Fri Nov 6, Mon Nov 9
Paper 3 due on Friday Nov 6
Jackson’s Mary/Knowledge Argument
Meeting 36? / Mon Nov 9
Loar/Horgan’s response to Jackson
Meeting 37? / Wed Nov 11
Veterans Day, but classes still meet
Hill on imaginability and possibility
Meeting 38?–39? / Fri Nov 13, Mon Nov 16
Discuss, Catchup, Review

Final Exam / Sat Nov 21 from noon-3 pm

Other Information

If you wish to be in the class, but aren’t yet enrolled

(Whether or not you’re on the waitlist, the procedure is the same.) Come to the first week of classes and be in touch with me asap about your interest in the class, how it fits into your larger educational plans, and what your background in other philosophy courses is.

Connectivity

Don’t browse the web, or read/send texts or social media posts during our class meetings. This is discourteous to me and your classmates. Finish all phone calls and send any messages before you join our Zoom sessions. If you are expecting an important message or call during class time, please let me know before class and turn off your video and sound if you have to take the call.

When completing assignments or taking exams, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have a stable and strong enough internet connection. If your internet connection at home is not good enough, please go to, say, a library and complete assignments and exams there. (Coffee shops or restaurants can’t be relied on to have stable/strong connections, and social distancing needs to be respected too.) I don’t recommend completing assignments or exams on your phone; use a laptop or computer.

Please document all technical issues you encounter when submitting assignments or taking exams, for instance by taking a screenshot or photo of the screen. Inform me about any issues promptly.

Deadlines

If you have good reason for being unable to submit work for a deadline, discuss this with me well in advance of the deadline (at least one week before), and we will make different arrangements. You will not be able to contact me about this at the last minute. The only other cases in which late work will be accepted will be for serious and documented emergencies. Appropriate documentation might be a note from a doctor/coach/judge or other official evidence, with letterhead and timestamp. Family emergencies may require written or oral substantiation from a relevant third party.

If I grant you an extension, the new due date must be met.

Accessibility Resources & Service (ARS)

UNC-Chapel Hill facilitates the implementation of reasonable accommodations for students with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, mental health struggles, chronic medical conditions, temporary disability, or pregnancy complications, all of which can impair student success. See the ARS website for contact and registration information: https://ars.unc.edu/about-ars/contact-us.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

CAPS is strongly committed to addressing the mental health needs of a diverse student body through timely access to consultation and connection to clinically appropriate services, whether for short- or long-term needs. Go to their website: caps.unc.edu or visit their facilities on the third floor of the Campus Health Service building for a walk-in evaluation to learn more.

Updates

The instructor reserves the right to make changes to the syllabus, including paper due dates and test dates, when unforeseen circumstances occur. These changes will be announced as early as possible so that students can adjust their schedules.

Feedback

I welcome your input about the class at any time. You are welcome to approach me directly. I’ll also provide opportunities for anonymous evaluation and feedback during the term.