PHL471: Philosophy of Mind
Professor: Craig DeLancey
From Aristotle's De Anima, please look at Book II part
1 (this is very short); an online version is this one at
Reading and an assignment.
Review Descartes's Meditations 6. If you somehow lost
your personal copy of Meditations, translations on the
web can be found at
Reading Practice 0. Answer the question on Blackboard.
(This is: What do you you think Descartes's arguments are for
believing that the mind is not a material thing? He has
several arguments to this effect in Meditation 6, and they
largely occur in the last third of that Meditation; try to
summarize or describe at least one of them. You can do this
in one page or a tiny bit more -- typed please. Please write
in complete sentences; think of this as a very short paper.)
In class, we want to ask: what changed between Aristotle and
We want to discuss the odds and ends of ontological views. This
includes behaviorism, of two flavors. Here is review
(a little simplistic) via TED talk of classical conditioning.
is a video of Skinner, an important behaviorist, on behaviorism.
If you want another source for studying, the Stanford Encyclopedia
of Philosophy has some relevant entries, such as this one:
I've posted and emailed to you a paper by Rorty, "Mind Body
Identity...." Please read it.
Also: there is a short online quiz for you due before midnight
on BlackBoard, as practice for Friday. This is our first of our
biweekly practice quizes, meant to give you some idea of your
understanding of the material, before our primary quiz.
Remember to check the syllabus to see how these are weighted.
Quiz 0: ontology concepts. You should be prepared to be
able to apply any of the concepts in our concept list, but
especialy the main ontological distinctions (dualism, reductive
physicalism, functionalism, behaviorism). I'll give you some
passages of philosophers describing some feature of mind, for
example, and ask you to determine whether it is best interpreted
as dualist, reductivist, behaviorist, etc. And I'll ask you to
I've posted my slides here.
For 15 minutes before we start, we will discuss our next topic,
Before class read sections 1.1 through 1.4 (pages 1-17) of
Action in Perception. You might want to
read all of the chapter, especially if you are
a philosophy major, but that's not required.
Two notes of interest.
1. I received some questions about grading. Remember to check
the syllabus to determine that the weighting will be:
So in Blackboard I used the default point count, being a BB
novice, but that's not proportional! Our practice quiz was out
of 90 points, the actual in class quiz was out of 30 points, but
that actual quiz will count 3.5 times as much as that practice
quiz. Write me at any time if you want an approximate grade for
the course as a whole (though now is a bit early to do so).
- Quizzes: 35%
- Term paper: 20%
- Practice assignments: 20%
- Practice quizes (online quizzes): 10%
- Final exam: 10%
- Review of other student's paper: 5%
2. Here are some comments about quiz 0.
I.1. This quote is from the famous behaviorist B. F. Skinner.
He was arguing that even his opponents resort to behaviorism
when pressed for explanations. Note that he says the mental
kinds proposed are "fictions".
The scores ranged from 5 to 26, with a mean of 21.5. Consider
anything over 19 respectably goodish. Please note:
people who did the online practice quiz did 5 points better on
average on the in-class quiz than did those who skipped the
I.2. This quote is from a scholarly article on functionalism.
It was meant to illustrate the idea of functionalism. Note
that it refers to internal events or states other than
conditioning, a strong sign that this is not a behaviorist
account. And it describes those events or states in terms of
their inter-relations, along with the relevant input-output
relations. The scholar is also a physicalist, though this is not
explicitly stated in this passage.
I.3. This quote was from a scholarly article defending
physicalist reductionism. (Be careful to understand the
difference between reduction and eliminativism. If I reduce
pain as part of a physicalist reductionist theory, then I
claims that pain exists and it turns out to be a physical
event or state. If I eliminate pain, I say, there is no such
thing as pain. So, the reductivist is not denying the mind
exists, or ignoring the mind -- several people wrote such
things. The reductionist about mental event kind M claims
that M exists and is a physical phenomenon. (There is some
confusing overlap between reductionism and eliminativism,
which is what Rorty was trying to describe in that paper we
read; but we can mostly ignore that through some
II.1. Note that eliminativism is about supposed beings; what
I sometimes call "ontological posits" (things we suppose
exist; and we include, in our theory, claims that they exist).
So we need to distinguish that something is eliminated (a
supposed kind of thing proposed in some theory) from theory
change; no doubt these are related (often changes in theory
eliminate something) but the meaning of "eliminativism" is the
elimination of a kind of things from our theories.
"Eliminativism" is not just theory change; it is a specific
feature of some kinds of theory change.