Philosophy 496, Psychology 475

Past Assignments
30 August
Two assignments!
  1. Send me an email describing (1) your immediate plans after college. Do you intend to seek a job, go to graduate school, travel the world? (2) What would you like to ultimately do in the long term? What career are you aspiring to? My email is "". (If you answer to either or both is, "I don't know," that's fine. I want to know where philosophy or philosophy-psychology might fit into your plans, or how it might help you make plans.)
  2. A reading and some questions. Read Descartes's Meditations 1 and 2. (If you've not read the Meditations, try to take the time to read them all, in order.) The edition we put in the bookstore is good and cheap, but otherwise translations on the web can be found at and
There are three questions for you to answer on Blackboard.
1 September
Read Descartes's Meditation 6. (If you've not read the Meditations, try to take the time to read them all, in order.) The edition we put in the bookstore is good and cheap, but otherwise translations on the web can be found at and

There is a question for you to answer on Blackboard. Sorry that my reading questions show up as tests! That's just my lack of BlackBoard skills.
6 September
Homework and a reading.

Here's the reading:

Read at least the first half of William James's paper (available on JSTOR), up to an including page 194, "What is an Emotion?" (Mind, Vol. 9, No. 34 -- April 1884 -- pages 188-205). . Please read it closely. It's really very straightfoward, I'm pleased to say. The homework is a few brief questions on Blackboard.
September 8
Read the handout, which is a passage from The Interpretation of Dreams.

Homework: this week, try to record a dream that you've had. Keep pen and paper by your bed and attempt first thing in the morning to write down your dream. When you have captured a dream, log into Blackboard and record it there. We might look at some of these dreams later (we will make them anonymous, fear not). Due by Wednesday.
September 11
Read chapters 1 and 2 of Culture and Its Discontents. Answer the questions on BlackBoard.

Just a reminder: this semester I want you to make a LinkedIn profile/CV, and then link to me. I will then send you an invite to join the Philosophy or the Philosophy-Psychology alumni group.
September 13
Read chapters 3 and 4 of Culture and Its Discontents. Answer the questions on BlackBoard.
September 15
Read chapters 5 and 6 of Culture and Its Discontents.
September 18
Critical thinking assessment exam. You need do nothing to prepare.
September 20
Read chapters 7 and 8 of Civilization and Its Discontents. There is an optional/extra-credit question on BlackBoard.
September 25
Philosophy content assessment exam. You need do nothing to prepare.
September 27
We'll discuss logic briefly, do a dream analysis, and share our thoughts on Freud.
September 29
Last thoughts on Freud. Conditioning and Behaviorism. Watson.
October 2
Read chapters 1-4 of Skinner's Walden II. You'll find it fascinating, once you get into it. Read ahead if you like.
October 4
Read chapters 5-8 of Skinner.

Practice: answer the questions on BlackBoard.

Here are some interesting links:

October 6
Read chapters 9-14 of Skinner.

Purdue's APA guide.

Note: I have a conflict in the afternoon, and cannot stay for my whole office hours. I will need to leave around 3:30.

October 9
Read chapters 15-18 of Skinner.

October 11
Read chapters 19-22 of Skinner.

Here is a pop TED talk on the marshmallow test. Fun to watch.

October 13
Read chapters 23-27 of Skinner.

Answer the questions on BlackBoard.

October 16
Read chapters 28-33 of Skinner.

Worth watching is this interesting documentary about Skinner.

18 October
Read chapters 34-37 of Skinner. That is, finish the book.

Take home midterm is due. Answer one of the following questions, please in a typed document in the form of a short paper. You can drop a copy at the Philosophy Department on Thursday.
  • How would Freud critique Skinner's utopian vision of Walden II? Cite appropriate passages of Civilization and its Discontents and of Walden II to defend your argument.
  • How would Skinner critique Freud's anti-utopian vision? Cite appropriate passages of Civilization and its Discontents and of Walden II to defend your argument.
  • Both Freud and Skinner had a lasting influence on psychology. Pick one of the two, and demonstrate how key ideas of the psychologist endured in contemporary psychology. Please cite at least one contemporary work of psychology, and one work of the scholar you are discussing (Freud or Skinner) to provide textual evidence for your argument.

19 October
Guest speaker J. D. Trout will speak on "Explanation, Truthiness, and the False Climb to Knowledge." This will be a fascinating talk on epistemology and philosophy of science. Extra-credit sign up sheet in the back. The talk is at 4:00 pm, will last less than an hour, and is in the Marano Campus Center auditorium.
20 October
Some thoughts!
  • Read: chapter 1 of Obedience to Authority.
  • Finish Skinner if you have not already done so.
  • Take a peek at Chomsky's Review of Verbal Behavior.
  • To share a thought: I argued that in Chapter 29, Skinner presents us with a false dilemma: control people via a plan, or let them be randomly controlled. But another alternative is to share the plans for behavioral management with everyone. In practice, this would look quite mundane. For example, the psychologist Carol Dweck has discovered the importance of what she calls a growth mindset. She gives public lectures and wrote a book describing its importance and benefit. I would recommend both. Frazier/Skinner could perhaps reply that sharing the technology with everyone is not the best use of the technology, but now we have raised an ethical question, and we would need to agree on what is good, and how we will decide, in order to evaluate such a claim. Unfortunately, Frazier/Skinner does not understand that ethical questions are not reducible to "practical" and empirical questions; he pretends that they are all trivial and are all reducible to practical questions of management. As philosophers, you must recognize this kind of error for what it is.
  • Here are the slides we reviewed about our goals this semester and our most general framework for understanding those goals.

23 October
Read chapters 2 and 3 of Milgram.

Watch this film documenting the experiment in its basic form.
25 October
Read chapters 4-7 of Milgram.
27 October
Read chapters 8-11 of Milgram.

Extra-credit: there is a mistake on page 124. Can you identify the mistake?
30 October
Read chapters 12-15 of Milgram, and the appendices.
1 November
Read: the paper by Bargh et al. I will post a copy on BlackBoard. If you are pressed for time, focus on experiment 2.

We will discuss how peer review works, and some of its challenges, along with the paper by Bargh et al.
3 November
Read the paper trying to recreate the Bargh experiment, and also Kahane's letter. I emailed you each of these!

This is kind of fun.

This would be a good time for a pop quiz on Bargh experiment 2b and the recreation by Doyen et al. And maybe even on the letter by Kahane. Good questions would be:
  • Describe Bargh et al's first experiment. What did they claim to show?
  • Describe Doyen et al's two re-dos of Bargh et al's first experiment. What do they refute? What kind of priming do they show?
  • What does Kahane suggest we do?
6 November
We are going to spend a brief bit of time on neuropsychology, before moving on to evolutionary psychology.

Read beta-Adrenergic activation and memory for emotional events by Cahill et al.
8 November
Ok, now we're going to discuss some of the cautionary tails of neuropsych. Please read this paper by Logothetis. Please also look at these now-rather-infamous slides from the NYTimes.

If you have time for it, here is an interview with a neuropsychologist over the question of misuse of fMRIs.
10 November
I see I forgot to post some suggested or past paper topics, to spark ideas. Here are some:
  • Consider an emotion, like fear. What kind of theory of emotion does the behaviorist, the cognitivist, and the evolutionary psychologist offer? How should decide between them?
  • Do we still need introspection in psychology? Why or why not? And for what kinds of data do we need it? And how has use of introspection changed, if at all? Consider several examples.
  • Given one of the classic cognitivist papers, such as one describing the Stroop effect. Explain how that hypothesis requires that we emend behaviorism. Specifically, what elements of behaviorism are retained, and what altered, in contemporary experimental psychology (such as cognitive psychology)?
  • Explain and evaluate the concern raised about Kahane that we have a reproducibility crisis in social psychology.
  • Review a claim made in evolutionary psychology. What is being assumed (about inheritance, about the target of selection, etc.)? Does the argument plausibly show that the behavior is an evolutionary stable strategy? What are some concerns that we might have about this kind of explanation?
  • Is there a concensus about the method of psychology? Give examples. If not, then is this because psychology is new, or because the mind is special (that is, explaining the mind requires special methods because it is a different kind of thing)?
13 November
Read: the introduction and chapter 1 of Alcock.

Our last topic will be evolutionary psychology. We're reading a book on sociobiology, but this is because (1) it will help us review the basics, and (2) the book is in fact almost 50% evolutionary psychology.

This would be a good time for us to share paper hypotheses with each other. Please email me your hypothesis asap.
15 November
Read: chapter 2 of Alcock and the letter in The New York Review of Books that Alcock cites in his introduction.
17 November
Read: the article by Archer. Answer the questions on BlackBoard, which are: what is Archer's central claim? How does he defend the claim--what evidence does he cite? How might we decide whether the claim is true or false?
20 November
Read: chapters 3 and 4 of Alcock.
27 November
Read: chapter 6 of Alcock.
29 November
Read: chapter 7 of Alcock.
1 December
Read: chapter 8 of Alcock.
4 December
Read: chapter 9 of Alcock.

Unfortunately, I cannot have my office hours this day. I will have office hours all day December 11 to make up for this.
6 December
Read: chapter 10 of Alcock.
7 December
Extra office hours: 9:00 am - 12:30 pm.