Philosophy 496, Psychology 475
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
Come to class able to answer the following questions:
- What is Descartes's method?
- What are the assumptions, requirements, advantages,
disadvantages of this method?
- How would we know if this method were successful?
How would we know if it were not successful?
Read Descartes's Meditations 6.
Come to class able to answer the following questions:
2. William James.
- What arguments does Descartes have that mind
and body are different things? Can you list them?
- Are the arguments sound?
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. While
reading, consider the following questions:
If you happen to print the article, please bring it to class.
- What is an emotion, according to James?
- What arguments does he offer for his view? (E.g., on pages 193-194)
- What is James's method? How does it differ from the method of Descartes?
(This is an especially important question to us.)
- What role do his theories about the brain play in his theory of
Here's the homework:
Briefly (this should only take a page or two) describe James's
thought experiment on page 193. What is it meant to show? Do
you think it succeeds? Do the thought experiment yourself --
do you agree with his conclusion?
The science journal Nature has a weekly
podcast. Last year, along with their usual episode, they
had a special issue with an interview with a biographer of
William James. It's only a few minutes long, and worth a
listen for a different view on his biography. I disagree
with the biographer's assessment of William James's
scientific value as a psychologist (she underestimates it,
I feel), but there were things here I didn't know at all
about his life that were interesting.
It is here
and also available via iTunes if you search for Nature
Podcast and then find the special episode on William James.
Finish William's James paper "What is an Emotion?"
if you have not already done so. Reminder: the
link for logging into J*Stor from off campus is
here. You log in using your campus
ID and password.
Continuing with discussion of James.
September 12, 14
Contrasting James's methods with Descartes.
Take a look at James's textbook on psychology, available
Read chapter 1. If you can, browse through some more of
it, read some parts, and think about how it is similar to,
and different from, the last psychology textbook you read.
Look up "associationism" if you don't already know about it.
Be ready to answer the questions:
- What role do other sciences and findings play in
psychology for James?
- What is the relation he proposes between science
and Cartesian theories (soul theories)?
- What criterion does he give for identifying the
"expressions of Mind"?
3. Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents
Background on Freud. Handout selection from The
Interpretation of Dreams. Assignment: start recording your
dreams, and continue to do so for the next week. Also: read
chapters 1 and 2 of Civilization and Its Discontents.
Homework: for the next week, keep paper and a pen by your
bed, and try to record your dreams the moment you wake up. I'll
ask you to share one with me and then I will pick a few for us
to analyze (anonymously! I won't tell anyone whose dream is
Class is on Tuesday! Read chapters 3 and 4 of Civilization and
Be sure to continue with your dream journals. If you forgot about this,
past assignments, September 14.
Read chapters 5 and 6 of Civilization and Its Discontents.
Be sure to continue with your dream journals.
Read chapter 7 and 8 of Civilization and Its Discontents.
This might be a good day to have a quiz on methods, providing
me an opportunity to see how well you're understanding the
question of comparing methods.
Interlude: First Person Authority. Carruthers.
September 24 and 28
Read selections from Carruthers.
Homework: type up and give to me a description of one
of your dreams from our dream records.
Two general things (look below for more day-by-day assignments):
(1) I'd like to see each of you individually. It would be a
chance to discuss your presentation topic, but also to discuss
how you are grasping our goal, where you might need extra work,
and so on. Schedule 30 minutes with me when you can; ideally,
during office hours, but if those don't work let's arrange over
email another time.
(2) We need to put together a schedule for presentations. Here
are some suggested topics. Act quickly or get stuck with a
topic that frightens you. You can suggest your own but if in
doubt these are good items. First come first serve. I will
specify what a presentation requires soon. (It will be OK if we
do these a bit belatedly: that is, we are not abandoning Freud
when we stop reading Freud, so for example it's acceptable to
discuss Freud when we are reading Skinner....)
- Freud's early view of mind (the pleasure principle),
- Freud's later social view of mind, and methods
- Falsifiability: what is it, how might it apply to
- Carruthers and why introspection is important in psychology.
Here there are fun examples to consider about dissociations: cases
in which people are wrong about their beliefs.
- What is conditioning? Skinner's notion of conditioning.
- Skinner's account of language
- The cognitive revolution: Chomsky's critique of Skinner
- The cognitive revolution: any classic paper
requiring reference to internal mental states (I can give you
one of these)
- The cognitive revolution: explaining aphasias and agnosias
- Milgram's results and methods
- Alternative explanations of Milgram's results
- The assumptions of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology
- Applications of sociobiological theories to human behavior
(we could have several talks on this topic; I can point you
to papers about things like why we like pets, or whether people
favor different sexes for their children based on social
Read the introduction and biography/afterward of Civilization
and Its Discontents.
4. Skinner, Walden II
Read chapters 1-4 of Skinner.
I will also email or give you hardcopy of the sample dream(s).
Homework: Interpret someone's dream. Bring to class your
interpretation of the dream assigned to you.
Also: read chapters 5-8 of Skinner.
Read chapters 9-12 of Skinner.
Read chapters 13-16 of Skinner.
Note regarding presentations. We'll mingle these into our
discussions. They should aim to be about 30 minutes, you should
consider visual aids such as the dreaded PowerPoint or Prezi, and
you should end with questions that we can discuss in the time that
follows. I will distrubute and discuss this day the rubric that
is used to assess the presentation itself.
Read chapters 17-20 of Skinner.
Read chapters 21-24 of Skinner.
Read chapters 25-28 of Skinner.
Retention exams. No preparation required.
Read chapters 25-36 of Skinner.
5. Some selection(s) of cognitive psychology
Final thoughts on Skinner. We'll be turning to the
cognitive revolution. I may introduce Chomsky's
critique of behaviorism. You may be interested to
read his famous review, which you can find here.
Note this begins with a preface that Chomsky added
later; you have to scroll down to where it clearly
identifies the 1959 review as such to find the original
article. This copy of the review appears to be missing
some italics, so reading it requires some careful
Ray will discuss some important results that helped
spark the cognitive revolution: Stroop and Shephard.
6. Milgram, Obedience to Authority
Read Milgram chapters 1-2.
Dan Goldman will bring us back to behaviorism, and introduce the
idea of philosophical behaviorism. We can contrast this
Read Milgram chapters 3-4.
Midterm test will be due at the beginning of class.
You will also get a homework assignment, handed out in class.
This will be due on November 5.
Midterm exam. The psychoanalytic school and the behaviorist
school of psychology overlapped in time, but there was little
interaction between them. Write a 4-5 page paper (approximately
1500 words), word processed, answering one of the following
questions. The paper will be due October 31. Give your paper a
title, such as you would give it if you were submitting it to a
journal. However, nowhere on the paper should you write your
In asking you to look at other works, I am not asking you to write
a research paper. Rather, can you show that the scholar in question
has the view that you attribute to him? Do that by finding a quote
that illustrates your characterization, if possible. For sources you
can use our books, of course, but you can also try the library and
psychology subject library guide.
- 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
- How would Skinner critique Freud's anti-utopian vision?
Cite appropriate passages of Civilization and its
Discontents and of Walden II to defend your
- 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.
Tyler will present.
Read Milgram chapters 5-6.
Akil will present.
Read Milgram chapters 7-8.
The homework, given to you on Wednesday October 31, is due
today November 5. The homework is:
Assignment: Blind Peer Review.
Read carefully and then review the attached paper. Evaluate it
for clarity of writing; validity or force of argument; and its
adherence to the assignment, which is copied below. Write up
your comments in a form that is constructive (that is, that
makes clear how the paper can be improved), put your
blind-peer-review number but not your name on the comments,
staple your comments to the paper, and hand them both in to me
on November 5. You may write on the paper also (e.g., comments
about grammar, and so on).
Your comments will be graded by me based on their
thoughtfulness. They will count like a homework assignment.
The person who wrote the paper will also see your comments, but
he or she will not know who you are.
Read Milgram chapters 9-10.
Dan Parks will present.
Read Milgram chapters 11-12.
Some observations about current status of the class:
Revised papers due.
Read Milgram chapters 13-15. You will be shocked with 450
volts if you do not complete the book.
Please read the short paper by Nissani, which is widely
available, including here
and also in pdf form in various places, along of course with my
handout. We would like to compare his explanation to Milgram's.
Please note that I am not in the habit of answering emails
from people who skip class. Think of it as me skipping your
7. Alcock, The Triumph of Sociobiology
Last thoughts on Milgram, and alternative interpretations
Background on sociobiology. Read Alcock chapters 1 and 2.
Don will present.
While re-reading Alcock chapter 1 and 2, Molly would like you to consider:
- What is an ultimate, and a proximate, explanation?
- What is the definition of sociobiology? Of evolutionary psychology?
- What were the (political) objections to sociobiology?
- What is the "just so stories" objection to sociobiology?
- According to Archer (whom Alcock reviews in chapter 2) why
do we keep pets?
Read Alcock chapters 3 and 4.
Homework. This can be handed in on the 16th if you want to hand
it in early. Consider Nissani's interpretation of the Milgram
experiment. Can you think of and describe an experiment that
would test whether Milgram or Nissani was right? Nissani gives
a vague gesture towards an idea, but if you use his idea, tell
us how in more detail you would set up the experiment. You can
do this in a page or two. The key challenge is to outline a way
to distinguish obedience from conceptual conservativism.
Don shared some good links for us.
Here's one where Zimbardo talks at TED and compares his
experiment to Abu Ghraib. Here is
Zimbardo's documentary on the experiment.
Remember, you should have read Alcock 1-3.
We were reviewing Archer's explanation of pet ownership (Alcock
chapter 2). What is it? More precisely, how do we define
"parasite," and what is a "social parasite"? Parasite on what?
That is, what trait is being posited and is supposedly being
Molly will present.
Read Alcock chapters 6 and 7.
Homework assignment due. This is a quick assignment, to get you
thinking about sociobiology -- and especially to think about
The evolutionary psychologist looks to describe some of human
behavior by offering theories about why such behavior might be
produced by an evolved and inherited trait. Apparent altruism
(which we understand here as actions which seem likely to reduce
the individual's fitness in order to benefit the fitness of
another unrelated individual) poses a special problem to such
explanation (especially if the apparent altruism appears to be
the product of an inheritable trait). After all, individuals
that refrain from such altruistic behaviors would seem to be
more likely to be more fit, and so more likely to pass on their
(less altruistic) traits. Thus, most altruism would appear to
not be an evolutionary stable strategy.
Your task is to do two things. (1) Using your own knowledge of
common human behaviors, find the best example you can of
apparent altruism. Your example can be something you've
observed, read about in a reliable news source, or otherwise is
reliably a common kind of behavior (and not a once-occuring
thing). (2) Briefly, assess what the prospects are, as far as
you can see, of the sociobiologists coming up with a theory of
how that apparent altruism might actually be a fitness-enhancing
trait. For example, can you offer a plausible explanation consistent
with evolutionary psychology?
(Let me note that helping your actual blood kin is not a good
example of apparent altruism. Recall Hamilton's explanation
of kin selection. Also, we are assuming genocentrism -- for our
purposes, this means we reject explanations that a behavior is
an evolutionary stable strategy because it helps the group or
You should be able to do this in two pages, typed, or less.
Bring them to class Wednesday, I'll bring them back Friday, and
we'll discuss them. They'll be graded generously for effort and
Marissa will present.
We will discuss your apparent altruism cases.
I'll also have some e.p. papers to see as examples more generally.
Read Alcock chapter 8.
Andrew will present.
Read Alcock chapter 9.
Several times Alcock mentions the critical response to (he
describes it as an underhanded attack of) Wilson's seminal
Sociobiology. The letter he mentions is easy to read,
Given that we are now allowing the option of either the final
term paper or the final exam, I'll have to alter the grading.
I will use the following weighting:
This counts the presentation and the homeworks a bit more,
and the logic test a bit less.
- Homeworks: 25%
- Presentation: 20%
- Logic exam: 5%
- Midterm: 25%
- Final paper/test: 25%
Tony will present.
We will also discuss some of the examples of evolutionary
psychology results that Alcock presents.
Read Alcock chapter 10. If you're behind in Alcock, catch up by
finishing the book (you may skip chapters 4 and 5).
A very simple homework, to be sure we reviewed evolutionary
psychological explanation. Consider, as Alcock does, the
widespread drinking of alcohol. In a brief note (1-2 pages),
answer all of the following questions.
- Why might we think drinking alcohol is related to
an inheritable trait?
- Why does the drinking of alcohol appear to present
a challenge to evolutionary psychological explanation?
What do we expect of evolutionary psychological
- What is the "novel environment hypothesis"? How
does Alcock use it to try to explain the widespread
drinking of alcohol?