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. The focus is on the main contemporary positions on the mind-body problem, looking at related issues concerning consciousness and causation. The last two weeks have been left open for topics of your choice. Options here include, but are not limited to, the OTHER TOPICS. I’ve also included some SPECIAL TOPICS, which are less likely to come up in exams, and may presuppose familiarity with other topics, but will help to deepen your understanding.

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. Anomalous Monism
  3. Kripke’s Challenge
  4. Functionalism
  5. Mental Causation
  6. Externalism about Mental Content
  7. TBA
  8. TBA

OTHER TOPICS

SPECIAL TOPICS

ANTHOLOGIES and TEXTBOOKS

The following anthologies are particularly useful, and contain many of the key readings. I refer to them below as Chalmers, Heil, L&P, and Rosenthal respectively.

David Chalmers, ed. (2002) Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings (OUP).

John Heil, ed. (2004) Philosophy of Mind: A Guide and Anthology (OUP).

William Lycan and Jesse Prinz, eds. (2008) Mind and Cognition: An Anthology, 3rd edition (Blackwell).

David Rosenthal, ed. (1991) The Nature of Mind (OUP).

There is no set textbook, but it will be useful to do some introductory reading in the vacation beforehand. The following are all recommended.

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

Tim Crane (2001) Elements of Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind (OUP).

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

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, Heil, and Rosenthal.

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) and Heil.

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 in Heil and, as 'The Nature of Mental States', in Putnam's (1975) Mind, Language and Reality: Philosophical Papers, Volume II (Cambridge UP), Chalmers, L&P, and Rosenthal.

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

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) and Rosenthal.

— (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

EITHER
(a) ‘The appeal of functionalism was supposed to be that it could account for the multiple realizability of the mental. But it cannot do so whilst setting a plausible boundary to mentality.’ Discuss.
OR
(b) ‘We could be made of Swiss cheese, and it wouldn’t matter.’ (HILARY PUTNAM) Discuss this comment in relation to the multiple realizability of the mental. (2018)

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

EITHER
(a) ‘Either we are functionalists or we are physicalists.’ Discuss.
OR
‘In order to account for causal relations between the mental and the physical we must accept type-physicalism.’ Discuss. (2013)

EITHER
(a) Is the mere multiple realizability of psychological kinds a good objection to the central state identity theory?
OR
(b) Is there a good argument against the thesis that every mental event token is a physical event token? (2012)

2. 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, Heil, L&P, and Rosenthal.

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).

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

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

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 Davidson’s response to the charge of epiphenomenalism, see his contribution, ‘Thinking Causes’, to Heil and Mele, eds. (1993). The other papers in Part I of this volume are replies to Davidson, and are well worth reading, particularly Kim’s. For 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 perhaps a bit too advanced to count as introductory, but it is a useful survey and a good source for 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).

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

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) ‘We have no right to conclude that there are no psychophysical laws, only that we’ve not yet found any.’ Discuss.
OR
(b) Does Davidson’s anomalous monism imply type-epiphenomenalism? (2018)

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)

3. KRIPKE’S CHALLENGE

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is Kripke’s challenge to the type- and token-identity theories? Can proponents of either theory meet this challenge?

CORE READING

*John P. Burgess (2012) Kripke: Puzzles and Mysteries (Polity), Ch. 6. (You can safely skim the discussion of functionalism on pp. 131-6.)

EITHER

Saul Kripke (1971) 'Identity and Necessity' reprinted in his (2011) Philosophical Troubles (OUP). See esp. pp. 21-6. Relevant extract reprinted in Heil.

OR

Saul Kripke (1980) Naming and Necessity (Blackwell), Lecture III. See esp. pp. 144-55. Relevant extracts reprinted in Chalmers and Rosenthal.

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

Sydney Shoemaker (2011) 'Kripke and Cartesianism' in Alan Berger, ed. Saul Kripke (CUP). (If you can't get hold of this, email me for a PDF copy of it.)

NOTE: Both of the pieces by Kripke cover much the same ground, and you only need to read one of them in advance of the tutorial, leaving the other as Further Reading.

FURTHER READING

Very crudely, Kripke’s challenge revolves around two claims, first, that the relevant identities—e.g. that pain is the firing of c-fibres—are false if it is possible for them to be false, and second, that it is possible for them to be false. The first claim is widely accepted, though see Lewis (1980) and (1995), listed in the Further Reading for TYPE-IDENTITY THEORIES for a dissenting voice. Most of the discussion focuses on the second claim, and in particular whether or not the fact that we can, in some sense, imagine or conceive of the relevant identities being false gives us a good reason to think that it is possible for them to be false. Yablo (1993) is a classic discussion of the connection between conceivability and possibility. See also Gendler and Hawthorne, eds. (2004), especially the extremely useful editors’ introduction—§3 of which offers a nice introduction to Kripke’s argument and some of the technical concepts that figure in it—and the papers by Bealer, Chalmers, Wright, and Yablo. And see Byrne (2007) for argument to the effect that the focus on conceivability and imaginability is misplaced. Though his challenge is primarily directed against the type-identity theory, Kripke thinks it also tells against token-identity theories, such as ANOMALOUS MONISM. McGinn (1977) is a short piece arguing that this is a mistake. Hughes (2004) discusses both versions of the challenge in detail, and is strongly recommended. Indeed, if you’re going to read just one other thing on Kripke’s challenge, read this. See also Shoemaker (1994) for discussion of how it might be thought to tell against FUNCTIONALISM—although this is best left until after you’ve done some work on that topic. Bealer (1994) defends a version of Kripke’s modal argument, arguing that it favourably compares with the multiple realizability argument, the certainty argument (also known as the argument from doubt), and THE KNOWLEDGE ARGUMENT, and that, suitably adapted, it goes through. Contemporary discussion often focuses on a similar modal argument defended by David Chalmers. If you are working on Kripke’s challenge for finals, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with this. See the entry for ZOMBIES.

George Bealer (1994) 'Mental Properties' in Journal of Philosophy 91(4), pp. 185–208.

Alex Byrne (2007) 'Possibility and Imagination' in Philosophical Perspectives 21(1), pp. 125–144.

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

Christopher Hughes (2004) Kripke: Names, Necessity, and Identity (OUP), Ch. 4, esp. pp. 200-34.

Colin McGinn (1977) 'Anomalous Monism and Kripke's Cartesian Intuitions' in Analysis 37(2), pp. 78-80.

Sydney Shoemaker (1994) 'The First-Person Perspective' in Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 68(2), pp. 7–22.

Stephen Yablo (1993) 'Is Conceivability a Guide to Possibility?' in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53(1), pp. 1–42.

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)

EITHER
(a) 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?
OR
(b) What accounts for the subjectivity of pain? (2016)

Is the statement ‘pain state = brain state’ necessary and a posteriori? What, if anything, does this tell us about the identification of the mental and the physical? (2011)

‘The correspondence between a brain state and a mental state seems to have a certain obvious element of contingency…. [Ildentity is not a relation which can hold contingently between objects. Therefore, if the identity thesis were correct, the element of contingency would not lie in the relation between the mental and physical states.’ (KRIPKE) Discuss. (2010)

4. 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.

David Lewis (1972) 'Psychophysical and Theoretical Identifications' in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 50(3), pp. 249–258. Reprinted in his (1999) Papers in Epistemology and Metaphysics (Cambridge UP), Chalmers, and Rosenthal.

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, L&P, and Rosenthal.

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).

FURTHER READING

Block (1980) and Shoemaker (1981) continue the debate over whether absent qualia cases are possible. For an alternative approach, defending functionalism, try Dennett (1978). 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).

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).

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.

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

EITHER
(a) ‘The appeal of functionalism was supposed to be that it could account for the multiple realizability of the mental. But it cannot do so whilst setting a plausible boundary to mentality.’ Discuss.
OR
(b) ‘We could be made of Swiss cheese, and it wouldn’t matter.’ (HILARY PUTNAM) Discuss this comment in relation to the multiple realizability of the mental. (2018)

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)

5. 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’ll have looked at one of these when studying ANOMALOUS MONISM, and will look at another next week on 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

‘If it isn’t literally true that my wanting is causally responsible for my reaching, and my itching is causally responsible for my scratching, and my believing is causally responsible for my saying . . . if none of that is literally true, then practically everything I believe about anything is false and it’s the end of the world.’ (JERRY FODOR) Discuss. (2018)

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)

EITHER
(a) How can externalist views of mental content account for the apparent causal efficacy of the mind?
OR
(b) Can we accept the completeness of physics without being committed to epiphenomenalism about the mental? (2012)

EITHER
(a) Does the distinction between determinate and determinable properties give us any purchase on the problem of mental causation?
OR
(b) Does Davidson’s anomalous monism provide a satisfactory response to Kim’s causal exclusion argument? (2011)

6. EXTERNALISM about MENTAL CONTENT

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Should we be externalists about mental content? How, if at all, can such externalism be reconciled with (a) mental causation and (b) privileged self-knowledge?

CORE READING

*Joe Lau and Max Deutsch (2002/14) 'Externalism about Mental Content' in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2019 edition): https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2019/entries/content-externalism/

Tyler Burge (1979) 'Individualism and the Mental' in Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4, pp. 73–121, esp. §§I and II. Relevant extract reprinted in Chalmers, Heil, and Rosenthal.

Tim Crane (1991) 'All The Difference in the World' in The Philosophical Quarterly 41(162), pp. 1–25.

Michael McKinsey (1991) 'Anti-Individualism and Privileged Access' in Analysis 51(1), pp. 9–16. Reprinted in Chalmers and Heil.

FURTHER READING

Pessin and Goldberg, eds. (1996) is an invaluable collection, containing all the Core Readings and much more besides. Especially recommended are Putnam’s ‘The Meaning of “Meaning”’, which kick-started the whole debate, the papers by Loar, Fodor, Jackson and Pettit, and Stalnaker in Part III, and the papers by Davidson and Burge in Part IV. Beyond these, you’ll want to think about recent internalist developments, especially Chalmers’ two dimensionalism (building on Loar’s approach) and Segal’s radical internalism. For the former, see Chalmers’ paper ‘The Components of Content (Revised Version)’ in Chalmers, and the critical discussion in Byrne and Pryor (2006). For the latter, see Segal’s (2004), as well as his debate with Sarah Sawyer in McLaughlin and Cohen, eds. (2007). You’ll also want to think about how externalists might respond to worries about mental causation. Yablo (2003) is recommended, as is the work of Fred Dretske, which you might look at in connection with ACTIONS, REASONS, and CAUSES. Lastly, you’ll want to think about whether externalism is compatible with privileged access. Ludlow and Martin, eds. (1998) is useful here, containing various classic papers, including both Burge (1979) and McKinsey (1991). See especially Paul Boghossian’s ‘Content and Self-Knowledge’, presenting the so-called slow switching argument for incompatibilism. See also the debate between Brueckner and McKinsey in McLaughlin and Cohen, eds. (2007), and Parent (2013/17), a useful survey article on the issue.

Alex Byrne and Jim Pryor (2006) 'Bad Intensions' in Manuel García-Carpintero and Josep Macià, eds. Two-Dimensional Semantics: Foundations and Applications (OUP).

Peter Ludlow and Norah Martin, eds. (1998) Externalism and Self-Knowledge (CSLI Publications).

Brian McLaughlin and Jonathan Cohen, eds. (2007) Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind (Blackwell).

Ted Parent (2013/17) 'Externalism and Self-Knowledge' in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition): https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/self-knowledge-externalism/

Andrew Pessin and Sanford Goldberg, eds. (1996) The Twin Earth Chronicles: Twenty Years of Reflection on Hilary Putnam's 'The Meaning of “Meaning”' (M. E. Sharpe).

Gabriel Segal (2004) 'Reference, Causal Powers, Externalist Intuitions and Unicorns' in Richard Schantz, ed. The Externalist Challenge (Walter de Gruyter). Reprinted in L&P.

Stephen Yablo (2003) 'Causal Relevance' in Philosophical Issues 13, pp. 316–328.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) What role should causation play in an account of mental content?
OR
(b) Can your counterpart on Twin Earth think about water? (2018)

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)

‘Anne’s Twin Earth doppelgänger is a physical replica of Anne. So there can be no causal difference between them. But if there is no causal difference between them, there can be no mental difference either. So externalism about content is false.’ Discuss. (2016)

What role, if any, does a subject’s socio-linguistic environment play in fixing the content of her propositional attitudes? (2015)

OTHER TOPICS

The following topics come up fairly regularly in past papers, and I recommend that, in selecting topics for the last two weeks of term, you choose at least one from these. To help you get a rough sense of what is involved, I have provided past paper questions for each topic, but I have not yet got round to settling on essay questions and reading for the majority of them, and even where I have, I may want to make some revisions. Consequently, let me as soon as possible if you want to study any of them, so as to give me time to make any necessary changes.

ACTIONS, REASONS, and CAUSES

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Why does Davidson think that rationalising explanations of actions are causal explanations? Is his argument compelling?

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 you will also look in connection with ANOMALOUS MONISM. 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

‘When we explain why someone acted a certain way, we make sense of their action.’ Does it follow that the explanation of action is not a form of causal explanation? (2018)

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

EITHER
(a) What is the relation between explaining an action, justifying the action, and saying what caused the action?
OR
(b) Do deviant causal chains pose an insuperable problem for a causal account of action? (2016)

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

AGENCY

TOP

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘What is left over if I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm?’ (WITTGENSTEIN) What is your answer to Wittgenstein’s question? (2017)

EITHER
(a) What is the relation between explaining an action, justifying the action, and saying what caused the action?
OR
(b) Do deviant causal chains pose an insuperable problem for a causal account of action? (2016)

EITHER
(a) Should we think of rolling over in our sleep as an action?
OR
(b) What, if anything, makes it right to think of twiddling one’s thumbs absentmindedly, laughing at a joke, playing a violin concerto, and checking a proof in one’s head as all actions? (2015)

When I intentionally raise my arm, is my action the event of my arm’s rising, or the event of my trying to raise my arm, or what? (2014)

OTHER MINDS

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘There are interesting questions about how we know things. But there are no interesting questions about how we know about others’ minds as opposed to, say, how we know about pineapples.’ Is this true? (2018)

EITHER
(a) Which of analogy, induction or perception best helps us when it comes to knowing the mind of another?
OR
(b) ‘The problem isn’t: “how do I know my own mind?”, rather, it’s: “how do I know the mind of another?”.’ Discuss. (2017)

Is our knowledge of other people’s mental properties a form of perceptual knowledge? (2016)

‘If one has to imagine someone else’s pain on the model of one’s own, this is none too easy a thing to do: for I have to imagine pain which I do not feel on the model of the pain which I do feel.’ (WITTGENSTEIN) How then am I able to think of pain as a type of condition that both myself and another person may suffer? (2015)

SELF-KNOWLEDGE

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘Self-knowledge is simply the limit case of knowing lots about someone who you spend a lot of time with.’ Discuss. (2018)

‘I get myself in a position to answer the question whether I believe that p by putting into operation whatever procedure I have for answering the question whether p.’ (EVANS) Does this observation point to a satisfying explanation of our knowledge of our own mental states? (2016)

Is there a good reason to think that my knowledge that I am in pain is distinct from my being in pain? (2014)

‘Mental self-knowledge involves no substantial cognitive achievement, it is merely an artefact of the grammar of mental concepts.’ Discuss. (2013)

NATURALISING CONTENT

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Would information-based or teleosemantic accounts of representational states say that simple organisms represent their environment? How plausible are these accounts? (2017)

Suppose you think the thought, ‘Cats are unfriendly’. What makes your thought a thought about cats? (2016)

‘What it is to be a … believer is to be an intentional system, a system whose behaviour is reliably and voluminously predictable via the intentional strategy.’ (DENNETT) Is this correct? (2015)

‘The correctness of propositional attitude attributions consists in this: that they contribute to the best possible interpretation of people – that is, the interpretation that makes the best sense possible of the people’s total life and conduct.’ Discuss. (2014)

PERCEPTION

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Can one explain the nature of perceptual experience without appeal to metaphysically extravagant entities? (2018)

EITHER
(a) What threat if any do hallucinations pose to our naïve conception of perception?
OR
(b) ‘The employment of our ordinary, full-blooded concepts of physical objects is indispensable to a strict, and strictly veridical, account of our sensible experience.’ (STRAWSON) What consequences does this observation have for theories of perception? (2017)

‘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)

MEMORY

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Should memory be understood in terms of preserved knowledge? (2018)

Is all memory fundamentally a matter of retaining factual knowledge? (2017)

What is the difference between remembering an event and perceiving an event? (2016)

Can any sense be made of the claim that memory is the ‘continuance or renewal of a former acquaintance with the thing remembered’ (REID)? (2015)

EMOTION

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘To experience an emotion is just to experience certain bodily changes.’ What might be said against this claim? (2018)

EITHER
(a) Are emotions anything more than various combinations of cognitive states?
OR
(b) What, if anything, is the difference between feeling angry and being angry? (2017)

Are emotions just complex patterns of bodily feelings? (2016)

‘If we fancy some strong emotion, and then try to abstract from our consciousness of it all the feelings of its characteristic bodily symptoms, we find we have nothing left behind.’ (JAMES) Discuss. (2015)

SPECIAL TOPICS

The following topics come up less frequently in recent past papers. I haven’t yet got round to providing essay questions or reading for them, so if you wish to study any of them, let me know as soon as possible so as to give me enough time.

BEHAVIOURISM

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Suppose that pain experiences are not always followed by typical pain behaviour. Would this be a problem for behaviourism? (2018)

‘All we have to go in ascribing mental states to others is their behaviour.’ Is there any way of spelling out ‘behaviour’ on which this is an interesting truth? (2015)

BELIEF

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

What needs to be true of an individual to count them as believing something? (2017)

What do cases of partial belief or quasi-belief teach us about the nature of ordinary belief? (2016)

BODILY SENSATIONS

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Is pain just the sensory discrimination of bodily damage? (2017)

EITHER
(a) 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?
OR
(b) What accounts for the subjectivity of pain? (2016)

Is feeling nauseous a form of perception? (2015)

Are bodily sensations intentional states? (2012)

DUALISM

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

What is the best formulation of dualism, and why is that formulation preferable to alternative formulations? (2012)

ELIMINATIVISM

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Is the belief that eliminativism about propositional attitudes is true self-defeating? (2018)

‘The claim that human beings have beliefs, desires, and intentions is a useful fiction. But it isn’t literally true.’ Discuss. (2017)

Is eliminativism about the propositional attitudes a believable doctrine? (2014)

Could folk-psychology go the same way as folk-physics? (2013)

IMAGINATION

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

What is the role of mental images in imagination? (2016)

EITHER
(a) Why might anyone deny that dreams are experiences?
OR
(b) In what sense if any is imagination essentially subject to the will? (2015)

EITHER
(a) What, if anything, is the difference between imagining that the Queen is an alien and believing that the Queen is an alien?
OR
(b) ‘The actual occurrent perception of an enduring object as an object of a certain kind, or as a particular object of that kind, is soaked with or animated by or infused with imagination.’ (P.F. STRAWSON) Discuss. (2014)

Does imagining that P involve mental imagery? (2013)

INTENTIONALITY

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

If a mental state cannot be brought to consciousness, should it really be categorised as a mental state? (2018)

Which has the better claim on the title ‘the mark of the mental’: intentionality or subjectivity? Or are they inseparable? (2014)

‘The essential feature of the mental is intentionality.’ Do you agree? (2013)

Must the advocate of Brentano’s Thesis reduce phenomenal character to representational content? (2011)

THE KNOWLEDGE ARGUMENT

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) Will neuroscientists one day tell us what consciousness really is?
OR
(b) ‘When someone tastes a pineapple for the first time, they find out a fact about reality that they were previously ignorant of.’ Is this true? If so, what are the implications for physicalism? (2015)

EITHER
(a) ‘Having an experience is surely one good way, and surely the only practical way, of coming to know what that experience is like. Can we say, flatly, that it is the only possible way? Probably not.’ (LEWIS) Discuss.
OR
(b) If there is information about a certain type of experience that is not physical information, does that show that there are certain types of non-physical phenomenal properties? (2014)

EITHER
(a) What does the conceivability of zombies tell us about the relationship between mind and body?
OR
(b) When Mary leaves her black and white room, and experiences red for the first time, does she merely acquire new knowledge of an old fact? (2011)

PERCEPTUAL CONTENT

TOP

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Does the phenomenal character of visual experiences supervene on their representational contents? (2017)

PHYSICALISM

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Should physicalism be understood as the thesis that possible worlds that are physically alike are also mentally alike? (2018)

EITHER
(a) Can physicalism be satisfactorily defined in terms of supervenience?
OR
(b) ‘Materialism seems not to adequately find a place in the world for consciousness. The world as dualism represents it to be is just the material world with consciousness grafted on. An important task in philosophy of mind, therefore, is to develop and assess positions that are neither materialism nor dualism in the standard sense.’ (STOLJAR) Discuss. (2014)

‘The challenge is not just to come to understand our concept of the mental, but to further understand our concept of the physical.’ Discuss. (2013)

What is it that distinguishes physicalists from those who reject physicalism? (2011)

SELF-DECEPTION

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘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)

Could there be self-deception without selves? (2011)

ZOMBIES

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Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) ‘To find a place for consciousness within the natural order, we must either revise our conception of consciousness, or revise our conception of nature.’ (DAVID CHALMERS) Discuss.
OR
(b) In what sense, if any, are zombies conceivable? What does this tell us about the mind-body problem? (2018)

EITHER
(a) ‘I do not believe we can ever specify what it is about the brain that is responsible for consciousness, but I am sure that whatever it is it is not inherently miraculous. The problem arises … because we are cut off by our very constitution from achieving a conception of the natural property of the brain (or of consciousness) that accounts for the link.’ (McGINN) Discuss.
OR
(b) What implications, if any, does Wittgenstein’s private language argument have for debates about the conceivability of zombies? (2012)

EITHER
(a) What does the conceivability of zombies tell us about the relationship between mind and body?
OR
(b) When Mary leaves her black and white room, and experiences red for the first time, does she merely acquire new knowledge of an old fact? (2011)

Assuming that zombies are possible, how do you know that you are not a zombie? (2009)