PHL471: Philosophy of Mind
Professor: Craig DeLancey
Office: CC212A

Past Assignments
27 January
From Aristotle's De Anima, please look at Book II part 1 (this is very short); an online version is this one at MIT.
30 January
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 and and

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 Descartes?

1 February
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. Here is a video of Skinner, an important behaviorist, on behaviorism. It's groovy.

If you want another source for studying, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has some relevant entries, such as this one:

3 February
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.

5 February
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 explain why.

I've posted my slides here.

For 15 minutes before we start, we will discuss our next topic, perception.

8 February
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:
  • Quizzes: 35%
  • Term paper: 20%
  • Practice assignments: 20%
  • Practice quizes (online quizzes): 10%
  • Final exam: 10%
  • Review of other student's paper: 5%
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).

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".

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 simplification.))

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.
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 practice quiz.