Philosophy of Mind

Below are readings and essay questions for tutorials in Philosophy of Mind. Many of the readings are available online, and all are easily obtained from the college or other libraries in Oxford, but if you are struggling to get hold of anything, email me, as I have PDF copies of nearly everything.

I have divided the reading for each topic into CORE READING and FURTHER READING, with more introductory texts marked with a star (*). Focus on the Core Reading suggestions in writing tutorial essays, and use the Further Reading suggestions as starting points for exploring topics in more depth during vacations. You will find more suggestions in the Faculty Reading List.

The default plan is to cover the TUTORIAL TOPICS, but I am happy to cover other topics in place of some of these. Options include, but are not limited to, the OTHER TOPICS.


  1. The Type-Identity Theory
  2. Functionalism
  3. Zombies
  4. Perception
  5. Action: Reasons and Causes
  6. Anomalous Monism
  7. Self-Deception
  8. Mental Causation



David Chalmers, ed. (2002) Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings (OUP), referred to as Chalmers below, contains many of the papers you’ll need. There are no set textbooks, but I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy of Jaegwon Kim’s Philosophy of Mind, 3rd ed. (Westview Press, 2011), which is an excellent introduction to the subject, written by one of its foremost theorists, and covers most of the topics we’ll look at. (The exceptions are action and perception, which are only briefly discussed in chapter 7.) Also recommended are:




What is the type-identity theory, and what is the best argument for it? What problem does multiple realizability pose to the theory? Can it be met?

*Jaegwon Kim (2011) Philosophy of Mind, 3rd edition (Westview Press), Ch. 4.

J. J. C. Smart (1962) ‘Sensations and Brain Processes’ in Philosophical Review 68(2), pp. 141-156. In Chalmers.
David Lewis (1966) ‘An Argument for the Identity Theory’ in Journal of Philosophy 63(1), pp. 17-25. Reprinted in his (1983) Philosophical Papers, Volume I (OUP).
Hilary Putnam (1967/1975) ‘The Nature of Mental States’ in his Mind, Language and Reality (CUP). In Chalmers. (Originally published as ‘Psychological Predicates’.)

For this week, it’s enough to get a grasp of the multiple realizability objection that Putnam present in §III of his paper, but the rest of the paper is important for next week.

Lewis (1980) and Kim (1992) respond to the multiple realizability objection. Papineau (2002) presents a causal argument for the identity theory - an argument that we will re-encounter when we cover mental causation in more detail in 8th week.

David Lewis (1980) ‘Mad Pain and Martian Pain’ in N. Block, ed. Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology (MIT Press). Reprinted in Lewis (1983) Philosophical Papers, Volume I (OUP), and available online.
Jaegwon Kim (1992) ‘Multiple Realization and the Metaphysics of Reduction’ in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52(1), pp. 1-26.
David Papineau (2002) Thinking About Consciousness (OUP), Ch. 1.

‘In order to account for causal relations between the mental and the physical we must accept type-physicalism.’ Discuss. (2013)

Is the mere multiple realizability of psychological kinds a good objection to the central state identity theory? (2012)

Is type identity theory the only defensible solution to the problem of mental causation? (2009)



What is the difference between analytic or common-sense functionalism and psychofunctionalism? Which is more plausible? Can Ned Block’s objection that “no version of functionalism can avoid both liberalism and chauvinism” be met?

*Janet Levin (2004/13) ‘Functionalism’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

David Lewis (1972) ‘Psycho-Physical and Theoretical Identifications’ in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 50(3), pp. 249–258. Reprinted in his (1999) Papers in Epistemology and Metaphysics (CUP). In Chalmers.
Ned Block (1978) ‘Troubles with Functionalism’ in C. W. Savage, ed. Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 9, pp. 261-325. Reprinted in his (1997) Consciousness, Function, and Representation: Collected Papers, Volume 1 (MIT Press). In Chalmers.
Martina Nida-Rümelin (1996) ‘Pseudonormal Vision: An Actual Case of Qualia Inversion?’ in Philosophical Studies 82(2), pp. 145–157. In Chalmers.

For further reading on this topic, you could do a lot worse than follow up the debates between Block and Sidney Shoemaker over absent and inverted qualia. Shoemaker (1975) is a good way in, while his (1981) is a careful discussion of different forms of functionalism. Byrne (2004/15) is a detailed discussion of philosophical arguments, including Block’s, that appeal to the possibility of spectral inversion.

Sidney Shoemaker (1975) ‘Functionalism and Qualia’ in Philosophical Studies 27(5), pp. 291–315. Reprinted in his (2003) Identity, Cause, and Mind, 2nd edition (OUP).
Sidney Shoemaker (1981) ‘Some Varieties of Functionalism’ in Philosophical Topics 12(1), pp. 93–119. Reprinted in his (2003) Identity, Cause, and Mind, 2nd edition (OUP).
Alex Byrne (2004/15) ‘Inverted Qualia’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

‘Functionalism gives an accurate account of the propositional attitudes. But its attempts to account for experiences and sensations are a failure.’ Do you agree? (2016)

‘Functionalism is the best theory of the mind we currently have.’ Do you agree? (2015)

‘Ontologically, analytical functionalism is similar to the identity theory; conceptually, it is similar to analytical behaviourism. It is open to objection on both counts.’ Do you agree? (2014)



Are zombies — creatures who are physically or functionally identical to us but lacking in consciousness — conceivable? If so, what problems, if any, does this pose for type-identity and functionalist theories of the mind?

*Robert Kirk (2003/15) ‘Zombies’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Saul Kripke (1971) ‘Identity and Necessity’ in his (2011) collection Philosophical Troubles (OUP). Alternatively, try his (1980) Naming and Necessity (Blackwell), Ch. 3, which is reprinted in Chalmers.
Joseph Levine (1983) ‘Materialism and Qualia: the Explanatory Gap’ in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 64, pp. 354–361. Reprinted in Chalmers.
Christopher S. Hill (1997) ‘Imaginability, Conceivability, Possibility and the Mind-Body Problem’ in Philosophical Studies 87(1), pp. 61–85. In Chalmers.

Chalmers (2009) presents his influential Kripke-style modal argument against materialism, and responds to many of the objections that have pressed against it. Block and Stalnaker (1999) is a difficult, but extremely interesting critical discussion of both Levine’s and Chalmer’s arguments. Balog (2009) is a state of the art piece on the so-called phenomenal concepts strategy for defending materialism, which may be familiar to you from 1st year work on Frank Jackson’s Knowledge Argument.

David Chalmers (2009) ‘The Two‐Dimensional Argument Against Materialism’ in A. Beckermann, B. P. McLaughlin, and S. Walter, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind (OUP).
Ned Block and Robert Stalnaker (1999) ‘Conceptual Analysis, Dualism, and the Explanatory Gap’ in The Philosophical Review 108(1), pp. 1–46. Reprinted in Chalmers.
Katalin Balog (2009) ‘Phenomenal Concepts’ in A. Beckermann, B. P. McLaughlin, and S. Walter, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind (OUP).

Is the intuition that there is an element of contingency in the relation between pain and C-fibre stimulation any more reliable as a guide to what is really possible than the intuition that there is an element of contingency in the relation between heat and molecular motion? (2016)

‘Even if every behavioural and cognitive function related to consciousness were explained, there would still remain a further mystery.’ (CHALMERS) Discuss. (2014)

Is there an explanatory gap between the physical and the mental? (2013)



Can our ordinary conception of perceptual experience be reconciled with the possibility of perceptual illusion and hallucination? If not, how should we instead conceive of perceptual experience?

*Tim Crane and Craig French (2005/2015) ‘The Problem of Perception’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Howard Robinson (1994) Perception (Routledge), esp. Chs. II and VI.
G. E. M. Anscombe (1965) ‘The Intentionality of Sensation’ reprinted in her (1981) Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind: Collected Philosophical Papers, Vol. II (Blackwell).
Michael G. F. Martin (2009) ‘Perception’ in F. Jackson and M. Smith, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy (OUP).

Strawson (1979) argues that perceptual experiences strike us as involving the presentation of mind-independent objects. Harman (1990) argues for a closely related thesis, called transparency — roughly, that perceptual experiences don’t strike us as involving awareness of experiences themselves, but only of their mind-independent objects — and defends an intentionalist position akin to Anscombe’s. Martin (2002) is a critical discussion of the issue from a naive realist perspective. Nudds (2009) surveys recent work on naive realism.

P. F. Strawson (1979) ‘Perception and its Objects’ reprinted in his (2014) Philosophical Writings (OUP).
Gilbert Harman (1990) ‘The Intrinsic Quality of Experience’ in Philosophical Perspectives 4, pp. 31–52.
Michael G. F. Martin (2002) ‘The Transparency of Experience’ in Mind & Language 17(4), pp. 376-425.
Matthew Nudds (2009) ‘Recent Work in Perception: Naive Realism and its Opponents’ in Analysis 69(2), pp. 334–346.

‘One may be seeing a scene, and yet the scene looks some way that it isn’t. To accommodate this, it seems that we have to posit that visual perceptual experience has a representational content.’ (McLAUGHLIN) Discuss. (2016)

To the extent that perceptual experience is transparent, what does this tell us about the nature of perceptual experience? (2015)

What, if anything, can we conclude about the nature of perception from the fact that seeing the cup on the table is subjectively indistinguishable from hallucinating a cup on the table? (2014)



Why does Davidson think that rationalising explanations are causal explanations? Is he right?

*Wayne Davis (2010) ‘The Causal Theory of Action’ in Timothy O’Connor and Constantine Sandis, eds. A Companion to the Philosophy of Action (Blackwell). Available online.

Donald Davidson (1963) ‘Actions, Reasons, and Causes’ reprinted in his (2001) Essays on Actions and Events, 2nd ed. (OUP).
George Wilson (1985) ‘Davidson on Intentional Action’ in Ernie Lepore and Brian P. McLaughlin, eds. Actions and Events: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson (Blackwell).
Fred Dretske (1989) ‘Reasons and Causes’ in Philosophical Perspectives 3, pp. 1-15.

Other essential papers by Davidson on this topic are also collected in the Intention and Action section of his (2001), especially ‘Agency’ and ‘Intention’. Davidson (1963) is reprinted in Alfred Mele, ed. (1997) The Philosophy of Action (OUP) alongside Frankfurt (1978) and Hornsby (1993) below. The introduction to this collection, which contains many other classic readings, is an excellent overview of both this and other central issues in the philosophy of action.

Frankfurt (1978) criticises causal accounts of action on the grounds that action involves (the capacity for) ongoing guidance of movement. Hornsby (1993) provides an alternative treatment of the problem discussed by Dretske. Velleman (1992) argues that Davidson’s account does not make sufficient allowance for the fact that agents are paradigmatically the causes of their actions. Setiya (2003) replies to this and other objections.

Harry Frankfurt (1978) ‘The Problem of Action’ in American Philosophical Quarterly 15(2), pp. 157-162.
Jennifer Hornsby (1993) ‘Agency and Causal Explanation’ in J. Heil and A. Mele, eds. Mental Causation (OUP). Reprinted in her (1997) Simple Mindedness (Harvard).
David Velleman (1992) ‘What Happens When Someone Acts?’ in Mind 101(403), pp. 461-481.
Keiran Setiya (2003) ‘Explaining Action’ in The Philosophical Review 112(3), pp. 339–393.

What is the relation between explaining an action, justifying the action, and saying what caused the action? (2016)

How can reasons be causes if causes are events and reasons are states? (2015)

Can a rationalising explanation of a person’s action also be a causal explanation? (2014)



What is anomalous monism? What are Davidson’s arguments against psycho-physical laws? Does Davidson’s account of mental causation render mental properties epiphenomenal?

*Julie Yoo (2009) ‘Anomalous Monism’ in B. McLaughlin, A. Beckermann, and S. Walter, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind (OUP).

Donald Davidson (1970) ‘Mental Events’ reprinted in his (2001) Essays on Actions and Events, 2nd ed. (OUP) and in Chalmers.
Jaegwon Kim (1985) ‘Psychophysical Laws’ in E. Lepore and B. McLaughlin, eds. Actions and Events: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson (Blackwell). Reprinted in Kim’s (1993) Supervenience and Mind (CUP).
Mark Johnston (1985) ‘Why Having a Mind Matters’ in E. Lepore and B. McLaughlin, eds. Actions and Events: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson (Blackwell).

Other essential papers by Davidson on this topic include his (1973) ‘Material Mind’ and, especially, (1974) ‘Psychology as Philosophy’, both reprinted in his (2001) Essays on Actions and Events, 2nd ed. (OUP).

For alternative perspectives on Davidson’s arguments against psycho-physical laws, see McDowell (1985) and Child (1993). For Davidson’s response to the epiphenomenalism objection and replies from Kim, McLaughlin, and Sosa, see Part 1 of Heil and Mele, eds. (1993).

John McDowell (1985) ‘Functionalism and Anomalous Monism’ in E. Lepore and B. McLaughlin, eds. Actions and Events: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson (Blackwell). Reprinted in McDowell’s Mind, Value, & Reality (Harvard UP).
William Child (1993) ‘Anomalism, Uncodifiability, and Psychophysical Relations’ in Philosophical Review 102(2), pp. 215–245.
John Heil and Alfred Mele, eds. (1993) Mental Causation (OUP).

Can anomalous monism do justice to the causal relevance of mental properties? (2016)

Is it consistent to maintain that the mental supervenes on the physical, while denying that there are any psycho-physical laws? (2015)

‘The problem with Davidson’s anomalous monism is that it has the consequence that it is only qua physical events that mental events have physical consequences. The mental properties of mental events are epiphenomenal.’ Is this a consequence of anomalous monism? Is it a problem? (2014)



Is self-deception intentional? What, if anything, does the self-deceiver believe?

*Ian Deweese-Boyd (2006/16) ‘Self-Deception’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Donald Davidson (1985) ‘Deception and Division’ in E. Lepore and B. McLaughlin, eds. Actions and Events: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson (Blackwell). Reprinted in Davidson’s (2004) Problems of Rationality (OUP).
Alfred Mele (1997) ‘Real Self-Deception’ in Behavioral and Brain Sciences 20(1), pp. 91–102.
Sophie Archer (2013) ‘Nondoxasticism about Self-Deception’ in Dialectica 67(3), pp. 265–282.

Robert Audi (1982) ‘Self-Deception, Action, and Will’ in Erkenntnis 18(2), pp. 133-158.
Maria Baghramian and Anna Nicholson (2013) ‘The Puzzle of Self-Deception’ in Philosophy Compass 8(11), pp. 1018–1029.
Tamar Szabó Gendler (2007) ‘Self-Deception as PretensePhilosophical Perspectives 21(1), pp. 231–258.
Brian McLaughlin and Alice Oksenberg Rorty, eds. (1988) Perspectives on Self-Deception (University of California Press).

‘The phenomenon of self-deception seems paradoxical only if we assume that people are perfectly rational and perfectly self-aware. But that assumption is obviously false. So there is really no difficulty in making sense of self-deception.’ Discuss. (2016)

‘The very idea of self-deception is a contradiction.’ ‘The capacity for self-deception is an entrenched feature of human nature.’ Can these two statements be reconciled? (2013)

Is self-deception appropriately so-called? (2012)



What is the causal exclusion problem? What is the best response to it?

*Karen Bennett (2007) ‘Mental Causation’ in Philosophy Compass 2(2), pp. 316-37.

Jaegwon Kim (1998) Mind in a Physical World (MIT Press), pp. 29-47. Reprinted under the title ‘The Many Problems of Mental Causation’ in Chalmers.
Stephen Yablo (1992) ‘Mental Causation’ in The Philosophical Review 101(2), pp. 245–280. In Chalmers.
Ned Block (2003) ‘Do Causal Powers Drain Away?’ in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67(1), pp. 133–150.

John Gibbons (2006) ‘Mental Causation without Downward Causation’ in The Philosophical Review, 115(1), pp. 79–103.
Karen Bennett (2008) ‘Exclusion Again’ in J. Hohwy and J. Kallestrup, eds. Being Reduced (OUP).
Steinvör Árnadóttir and Tim Crane (2013) ‘There is No Exclusion Problem’ in Sophie Gibb et al., eds. Mental Causation and Ontology (OUP).

Can we accept the completeness of physics without being committed to epiphenomenalism about the mental? (2012)

Does the distinction between determinate and determinable properties give us any purchase on the problem of mental causation? (2011)

Does non-reductive physicalism exclude mental causation? (2010)