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.

The current version of this reading list was put together in light of my experience using previous incarnations in teaching Philosophy of Mind to undergraduates in Oxford over the years. If you’re teaching a similar course, and want to make use of this reading list at all, as occasional emails suggest people sometimes do, please feel free. I’d love to hear how it goes!

TUTORIAL TOPICS

  1. The Type-Identity Theory
  2. Functionalism
  3. Zombies
  4. Mental Causation
  5. Action
  6. Anomalous Monism
  7. Externalism about Mental Content
  8. Externalism and Self-Knowledge

OTHER TOPICS

ANTHOLOGIES and TEXTBOOKS

David Chalmers, ed. (2002) Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings (OUP), referred to below as Chalmers, contains many of the papers you’ll need. There are no set textbooks, but I strongly recommend 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 covering most of the topics we’ll look at. I’ve suggested chapters from it as introductory reading for some topics, but it would be profitably read in the vacation before you do the course. At the very least, you should read the first three chapters, which discuss topics we don’t cover but which it will be useful to know about, such as substance dualism and behaviourism.

If you want some alternative perspectives on the subject, the following books are also highly recommended:

*David Braddon-Mitchell and Frank Jackson (2007) Philosophy of Mind and Cognition: An Introduction, 2nd ed. (Blackwell).

*E. J. Lowe (2000) An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind (Cambridge UP).

TUTORIAL TOPICS

1. THE TYPE-IDENTITY THEORY

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is the type-identity theory, and what is the best argument for it? What is the multiple realizability argument against the theory? Is it decisive?

CORE READING

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

J. J. C. Smart (1962) 'Sensations and Brain Processes' in The Philosophical Review 68(2), pp. 141-156. Reprinted 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) 'Psychological Predicates' in W. H. Capitan and D. D. Merril, eds. Art, Mind, and Religion (University of Pittsburgh Press), esp. §III. Reprinted as 'The Nature of Mental States' in his (1975) Mind, Language and Reality: Philosophical Papers, Volume II (Cambridge UP) and in Chalmers.

Jaegwon Kim (1992) 'Multiple Realization and the Metaphysics of Reduction' in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52(1), pp. 1-26.

FURTHER READING

Papineau (2002) presents a causal argument for the type-identity theory, connecting with issues you can look at concerning MENTAL CAUSATION. Most of the other readings are focused on the multiple realizability argument against the theory. Lewis (1980) offers a response to the argument, as does Bechtel and Mundale (1999)—a particularly nice paper if you’re interested in relevant empirical work. Fodor (1997) is a defence of the argument, written by one of its original proponents. Bickle’s (1998/2013) entry for the Stanford Encyclopedia provides a useful overview, and Polger and Shapiro (2016) is a recent book-length treatment of the topic. Lewis (1995) discusses a range of issues, including multiple realizability, and provides a useful summary of his views in the philosophy of mind.

William Bechtel and Jennifer Mundale (1999) 'Multiple Realizability Revisited: Linking Cognitive and Neural States' in Philosophy of Science 66(2), pp. 175–207.

*John Bickle (1998/2013) 'Multiple Realizability' in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 edition): http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/multiple-realizability/.

Jerry Fodor (1997) 'Special Sciences: Still Autonomous After All These Years' in Philosophical Perspectives 11, Mind, Causation, and World, pp. 149-63.

David Lewis (1980) 'Mad Pain and Martian Pain' in Ned Block, ed. Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology (MIT Press). Reprinted in his (1983) Philosophical Papers, Volume I (OUP).

— (1995) 'Reduction of Mind' in his (1999) Papers in Epistemology and Metaphysics (Cambridge UP). First published in Samuel Guttenplan, ed. A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind (Blackwell).

David Papineau (2002) Thinking About Consciousness (OUP), Ch. 1.

Thomas Polger and Lawrence Shapiro (2016) The Multiple Realization Book (OUP).

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Why might one think that mental states are identical to brain states? (2017)

‘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)

2. FUNCTIONALISM

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

”[N]o version of functionalism can avoid both liberalism and chauvinism” (BLOCK). Discuss.

CORE READING

*Jaegwon Kim (2011) Philosophy of Mind, 3rd edition (Westview Press), Ch. 5 and 6.

Ned Block and Jerry Fodor (1972) 'What Psychological States Are Not' in The Philosophical Review 81(2), pp. 159–81. Reprinted in Block's (2007) Consciousness, Function, and Representation (MIT Press).

Ned Block (1978) 'Troubles with Functionalism' in C. W. Savage, ed. Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 9, pp. 261-325. Excerpts reprinted in Chalmers.

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).

Daniel Dennett (1978) 'Toward a Cognitive Theory of Consciousness' in Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 9, pp. 201-28. Reprinted in his (1978) Brainstorms (Bradford Books).

FURTHER READING

Lewis (1972) is the follow-up to his (1966) paper from last week, and a classic statement of what Kim calls causal-theoretical functionalism. Block (1980) and Shoemaker (1981) continue the debate over whether absent qualia cases are possible. Tye (2006) is a more recent paper on the issue; van Gulick (2012) is a response. For discussion of inverted qualia, see especially Block (1990) and Nida-Rümelin (1996), the latter arguing that cases of qualia inversion are scientifically possible.

Ned Block (1980) 'Are Absent Qualia Impossible?' in The Philosophical Review 89(2), pp. 257–74. Reprinted in Block's (2007) Consciousness, Function, and Representation (MIT Press).

— (1990) 'Inverted Earth' in Philosophical Perspectives 4, pp. 53–79. Reprinted in Block's (2007) Consciousness, Function, and Representation (MIT Press).

Robert Van Gulick (2012) 'On the Supposed Inconceivability of Absent Qualia Functional Duplicates—A Reply to Tye' in The Philosophical Review 121(2), pp. 277–84.

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 (Cambridge UP) and Chalmers.

Martine Nida-Rümelin (1996) 'Pseudonormal Vision: An Actual Case of Qualia Inversion?' in Philosophical Studies 82(2), pp. 145-57. Reprinted in Chalmers.

Sydney Shoemaker (1981) 'Absent Qualia are Impossible—A Reply to Block' in The Philosophical Review 90(4), pp. 581–99. Reprinted in his (2003) Identity, Cause, and Mind, 2nd edition (OUP).

Michael Tye (2006) 'Absent Qualia and the Mind-Body Problem' in The Philosophical Review 115(2), pp. 139-168.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

What does Block’s homunculus-head thought experiment tell us about functionalist theories of propositional attitudes? And what does it tell us about qualia? (2017)

‘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)

3. ZOMBIES

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is Kripke’s modal argument against materialism? What, if anything, does it tell us about the relationship between the mental and the physical?

CORE READING

*John P. Burgess (2012) Kripke: Puzzles and Mysteries (Polity), Ch. 6.

Saul Kripke (1971) 'Identity and Necessity' in Milton K. Munitz, ed. Identity and Individuation (NYU Press), pp. 135–64. Reprinted in his (2011) Philosophical Troubles (OUP).

— (1980) Naming and Necessity (Blackwell), Lecture 3. First published in Donald Davidson and Gilbert Harman, eds. (1972) Semantics of Natural Language (D. Reidel), pp. 253-355. Relevant excerpts in Chalmers.

Joseph Levine (1983) 'Materialism and Qualia: the Explanatory Gap' in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 64, pp. 354–61. Reprinted in Chalmers.

Christopher S. Hill (1997) 'Imaginability, Conceivability, Possibility and the Mind-Body Problem' in Philosophical Studies 87(1), pp. 61–85. Relevant excerpts in Chalmers.

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.

Both pieces by Kripke cover much the same ground. Only read one of them, leaving the other as Further Reading.

FURTHER READING

Maxwell (1978) offers a response to Kripke’s modal argument inspired by Bertrand Russell, arguing that, when we imagine something with the same physical properties as us but without the same mental properties, we are imagining something with a different intrinsic nature to ours. Balog (2009) is a survey piece on the key idea behind Hill’s response, that imagining mental states involves the use of special, so-called phenomenal concepts. Gendler and Hawthorne (2002) is a great collection of papers on conceivability and possibility; the editors’ introduction is especially useful. Chalmers and Jackson (2001) respond to Block and Stalnaker. See also Chalmers (2010), which presents Chalmers’ distinctive “two-dimensional” modal argument against materialism; the appendix discusses Kripke. Dennett (1999) argues that the intuitions on which the various modal arguments depend is a cognitive illusion. Kirk’s (2003/15) entry for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a useful survey piece on the topic.

Katalin Balog (2009) 'Phenomenal Concepts' in Brian P. McLaughlin, Ansgar Beckermann, and Sven Walter, eds. (2009) The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind (OUP).

David Chalmers (2010) 'The Two‐Dimensional Argument Against Materialism' in his The Character of Consciousness (OUP). An abbreviated version, omitting among other things the appendix, appears in Brian P. McLaughlin, Ansgar Beckermann, and Sven Walter, eds. (2009) The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind (OUP).

David Chalmers and Frank Jackson (2001) 'Conceptual Analysis and Reductive Explanation' in The Philosophical Review 110(1), pp. 315–61. Reprinted in Chalmers' (2010) The Character of Consciousness (OUP).

Daniel Dennett (1999) 'The Zombic Hunch: Extinction of an Intuition?' in Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements 48, pp. 27–43.

Tamar Szabó Gendler and John Hawthorne, eds. (2002) Conceivability and Possibility (OUP).

*Robert Kirk (2003/15) 'Zombies' in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 edition): http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/zombies.

Grover Maxwell (1978) 'Rigid Designators and Mind-Brain Identity' in Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 9, pp. 365-403. Reprinted in Chalmers.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) Why might one think that an intuition of contingency can be explained away in cases such as ‘Heat might not be molecular motion’ but not in cases such as ‘Pain might not be C-fibre firing’? What does that tell us about the mind?
OR
(b) Is there any way to block Kripke’s modal argument for dualism about phenomenal states? (2017)

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 mental and the physical? (2013)

4. MENTAL CAUSATION

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is Jaegwon Kim’s causal exclusion problem? What is the best way to respond to it?

CORE READING

*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.

Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit (1990) 'Program Explanation: A General Perspective' in Analysis 50(2), pp. 107–117.

Stephen Yablo (1992) 'Mental Causation' in The Philosophical Review 101(2), pp. 245–280. Reprinted in Chalmers.

Ned Block (2003) 'Do Causal Powers Drain Away?' in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67(1), pp. 133–150.

FURTHER READING

Kim responds to Block in his (2005). For critical discussion of Jackson and Pettit’s program model, see Menzies (2007). For critical discussion of Yablo’s account of mental causation, see Funkhouser (2006). For some alternative responses to the exclusion problem, see Bennett (2003), Gibbons (2006), and Árnadóttir and Crane (2013)—the last a nice, relatively recent paper, arguing that the exclusion principle can be rejected without appeal to any heavy-duty assumptions about the metaphysics of causation. Robb and Heil’s (2003/18) entry for the Stanford Encyclopedia is a survey piece discussing the exclusion problem and various other problems concerning mental causation. You can look at some of these in later weeks on ANOMALOUS MONISM and EXTERNALISM about MENTAL CONTENT.

Steinvör Árnadóttir and Tim Crane (2013) 'There is No Exclusion Problem' in Sophie Gibb, E. J. Lowe, and R. D. Ingthorsson, eds. Mental Causation and Ontology (OUP).

Karen Bennett (2003) 'Why the Exclusion Problem Seems Intractable, and How, Just Maybe, to Tract It' in Noûs 37(3), pp. 471–97.

John Gibbons (2006) 'Mental Causation without Downward Causation' in The Philosophical Review 115(1), pp. 79–103.

Eric Funkhouser (2006) 'The Determinable‐Determinate Relation' in Noûs 40(3), pp. 548–69.

Jaegwon Kim (2005) Physicalism, or Something Near Enough (Princeton UP), especially Ch. 1 and 2.

Peter Menzies (2007) 'Mental Causation on the Program Model' in Geoffrey Brennan, Robert Goodin, Frank C Jackson, and Michael A Smith, eds. Common Minds: Themes From the Philosophy of Philip Pettit (OUP).

*David Robb and John Heil (2003/18) 'Mental Causation' in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 edition): http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/mental-causation/.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) Are the mental properties of mental events epiphenomenal? Could epiphenomenal mental properties figure in causal explanations of transitions between mental events?
OR
(b) Can externalism about mental content provide a plausible account of mental causation? (2017)

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)

5. ACTION

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

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

CORE READING

*Timothy O'Connor (2010) 'Reasons and Causes' in Timothy O'Connor and Constantine Sandis, eds. A Companion to the Philosophy of Action (Blackwell).

Donald Davidson (1963) 'Actions, Reasons, and Causes' in Journal of Philosophy 60(23), pp. 685-700. Reprinted in his (2001) Essays on Actions and Events, 2nd edition (OUP).

George Wilson (1985) 'Davidson on Intentional Action' in Ernie Lepore and Brian 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.

Jonathan Dancy (2000) Practical Reality (OUP), Ch. 8.

FURTHER READING

If you are pursuing this topic in more depth, the rest of the essays in the first part of Davidson’s (2001) collection are essential reading. You’ll also want to think more about the debate between causalists like Davidson and non-causalists like Wilson. Sehon, a leading non-causalist, usefully summarises the issues in his (2010). McLaughlin (2013) is a recent contribution to the debate. Thompson (2008) offers a radically different approach, on which actions are understood on a part-whole model. Hornsby (1993) offers a distinctive take on the sorts of issues raised by Dretske, which will occupy us again next week. Alvarez (2010) is a nuanced discussion of different sorts of reasons, bearing among other things on Dancy’s position. Stout (2005) is a great book on all sorts of issues in the philosophy of action. See especially Ch. 5, though you’ll find much of relevance in the rest too. See also Joseph (2004), an introduction to Davidson’s philosophy for undergraduates.

Maria Alvarez (2010) Kinds of Reason: An Essay in the Philosophy of Action (OUP), esp. Ch. 6.

Jennifer Hornsby (1993) 'Agency and Causal Explanation' in John Heil and Alfred Mele, eds. Mental Causation (OUP). Reprinted in her (1997) Simple-Mindedness: In Defense of Naïve Naturalism in the Philosophy of Mind (Harvard UP).

*Marc Joseph (2004) Donald Davidson (Acumen), Ch. 7.

Brian McLaughlin (2013) 'Why Rationalization Is Not a Species of Causal Explanation' in Giuseppina D'Oro and Constantine Sandis, eds. Reasons and Causes: Causalism and Anti-Causalism in the Philosophy of Action (Palgrave Macmillan).

*Scott Sehon (2010) 'Teleological Explanation' in Timothy O'Connor and Constantine Sandis, eds. A Companion to the Philosophy of Action (Blackwell).

*Rowland Stout (2005) Action (Acumen Press).

Michael Thompson (2008) Life and Action: Elementary Structures of Practice and Practical Thought (Harvard UP), Part II.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Is doing something intentionally the same as doing it for a reason? (2017)

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)

6. ANOMALOUS MONISM

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is anomalous monism? What is Davidson’s argument for it? In particular, what reason, if any, is there for thinking that the mental is anomalous? Can anomalous monism avoid epiphenomenalism?

CORE READING

*Julie Yoo (2009) 'Anomalous Monism' in Brian P. McLaughlin, Ansgar Beckermann, and Sven Walter, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind (OUP).

Donald Davidson (1970) 'Mental Events' in L. Foster and J. W. Swanson, eds. Experience and Theory (Duckworth). Reprinted in his (2001) Essays on Actions and Events, 2nd edition (OUP) and in Chalmers.

Jaegwon Kim (1985) 'Psychophysical Laws' in Ernie Lepore and Brian McLaughlin, eds. Actions and Events: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson (Blackwell). Reprinted in his (1993) Supervenience and Mind (Cambridge UP).

William Child (1993) 'Anomalism, Uncodifiability, and Psychophysical Relations' in The Philosophical Review 102(2), pp. 215–245.

Donald Davidson (1993) 'Thinking Causes' in John Heil and Alfred Mele, eds. Mental Causation (OUP). Reprinted in his (2005) Truth, Language, and History (OUP).

FURTHER READING

Other essential papers by Davidson on this topic include his (1974) and (1995). And you’ll find much of interest besides Kim’s paper in Part III of Ernie Lepore and Brian McLaughlin, eds. (1985) Actions and Events: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson (Blackwell). Particularly recommended are McLaughlin’s introduction, and the papers by Horgan and Tye, Hornsby, Johnston, and McDowell. McDowell’s paper is particularly important if you’re thinking about what the argument for the anomalousness of the mental might be. On that issue, see also Tiffany (2001), which critically discusses Kim, McDowell, and Child. For more on epiphenomenalism, which tends to be the issue past paper questions focus on, see McLaughlin (1989), which usefully reviews earlier literature on the topic, and the replies to Davidson (1993) in Part I of John Heil and Alfred Mele, eds. (1993) Mental Causation (OUP), especially Kim’s. Of more recent work on the issue, try Heil (2009). Also of relevance here is an issue of interpretation. The standard take on Davidson’s anomalous monism is that it’s a form of non-reductive physicalism. In a series of papers, Frederick Stoutland has argued that this is a mistake, and that it’s ontologically neutral, more akin to the sort of view that can be found in Spinoza. See, for example, Stoutland (2011). For another introductory discussion of anomalous monism, see Ch. 8 of the book by Marc Joseph listed in last week’s Further Reading. Yalowitz (2005/12) is a bit too advanced to count as introductory, but a useful survey of the issues and a good source of further references.

Donald Davidson (1974) 'Psychology as Philosophy' in S. C. Brown, ed. Philosophy of Psychology (Barnes and Noble Books), pp. 41-52. Reprinted in his (2001) Essays on Actions and Events, 2nd edition (OUP).

— (1995) 'Laws and Cause' in Dialectica 49(2-4), pp. 263-79. Reprinted in his (2005) Truth, Language, and History (OUP).

John Heil (2009) 'Anomalous Monism' in Heather Dyke, ed. From Truth to Reality: New Essays in Metaphysics (Routledge).

Brian McLaughlin (1989) 'Type Epiphenomenalism, Type Dualism, and the Causal Priority of the Physical' in Philosophical Perspectives 3, pp. 109–135.

Frederick Stoutland (2011) 'Interpreting Davidson on Intentional Action' in Jeff Malpas, ed. Dialogues with Davidson: Acting, Interpreting, Understanding (MIT Press).

E. C. Tiffany (2001) 'The Rational Character of Belief and the Argument for Mental Anomalism' in Philosophical Studies 103(3), pp. 285 – 314.

*Steven Yalowitz (2005/12) 'Anomalous Monism' in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, esp. §§5 and 6: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/anomalous-monism/.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) Are the mental properties of mental events epiphenomenal? Could epiphenomenal mental properties figure in causal explanations of transitions between mental events?
OR
(b) Can externalism about mental content provide a plausible account of mental causation? (2017)

Can there be (scientific) laws governing mental events? (2017)

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

EITHER
(a) What place do norms of rationality have in an account of the nature of propositional attitudes?
OR
(b) 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)