Course Description (Program) The Enigma of the Mind

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State University

Higher School of Economics

Department of Philosophy

Course Description (Program)
The Enigma of the Mind:

Physicalistic and Anti Physicalistic Programs

in Contemporary Philosophy of Mind
For Masters

Author: Gasparyan Diana, Associate Professor

Moscow, 2013

The Enigma of the Mind:

Physicalistic and Anti Physicalistic Programs

in Contemporary Philosophy of Mind
Third Module

Instructor Information

Associate Professor Diana Gasparyan
Text Information

1. Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings, David Chalmers (ed.), Oxford University Press, 2002.

2. The Philosophy of Mind, Second Edition, by Jaegwon Kim (Westview Press, ISBN: 0195118278)

3. Numerous reprints of additional course readings. Additional readings will either be photocopies distributed in class or articles available in e-mail.

Relevant Websites:

Dave Chalmer’s Website:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

A Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind:

Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind:

Course Description and Objectives

In this course we will discuss the way in which physicalistic and anti physicalistic approaches has come a particular kind of hegemony over other subjects in philosophy of mind. We will try to understand why these two doctrines has come to prominence in recent decades and how they concern with the “Mind-Body problem”.

The branch of philosophy of Mind called the “Mind-Body problem” concerns our understanding of the mind’s place in the universe. We begin with our commonsense understanding of the mind, as that collection of properties, attributes, states activities and abilities that we refer to in our everyday use of psychological terms and expressions to characterize each other and ourselves. With this commonsense understanding in hand, we ask: What sort of entity is the mind? This is a metaphysical questions; it concerns the fundamental constitution of the universe, the things we find in that universe, and the way in which the mental exists in nature.

The focus of this course can be divided very roughly into four main sections, each of which, however, overlaps with and is many respects continuous with the other topics. (1) First, we address the traditional ‘mind-body’ problem – the question concerning the relationship between the mental and the physical world. We will canvass the most influential answers to the mind-body problem focusing on dualism and psycho-neural identity. (2) Second, we will examine in greater depth the doctrine of psysicalism and considerations for and against “reductive” and “non-reductive” physicalism. (3) Third, we will examine the problem of phenomenal consciousness and the proposal that the existence of “qualia” demonstrates that reductive physicalism is false. (4) Finally, we will examine the nature of phenomenal concepts – the cognitive tools our minds purportedly use to think and reason about phenomenal properties. Topics (1) and (3) we will occupy of our attention.

The primary aim of the course is to leave students with a firm grasp of many of the central problems and issues addressed in recent work by “analytic” philosophers of mind.

The course readings are for the most part quite difficult. In order to grasp, discuss and critique the ideas and arguments developed in the readings, students will find the material easier to manage if they attend all lectures and are committed to going over the readings on their own more than once. Moreover, it is strongly recommended that students have had substantive previous experience with reading philosophy and the technical aspects of critiquing arguments.
This course satisfies the advanced metaphysics requirement or an advanced elective requirement for the philosophy major.
Grading Policies:

Your grade in class will be determined by the following: reading discussion (40%), paper (30%), exam (30%).


There will be one paper. You will be asked to write essay in response to very specific questions. Your answers should draw from course material – readings and lectures-and should demonstrate a thorough grasp of the material, both descriptively and critically. In other words, in addition to understanding the ideas, you should be able to grasp the argumentative structure of these ideas and, if asked, critique the accompanying arguments persuasively.

In addition, students will also be asked to choose a relevant article that's been published in a major philosophy journal or anthology within the past five years, on which they are to write a brief (2-3 page) commentary to be presented in the class.
Parameters for suitable target articles: Your target article should…

  • have been published within the last 7 years,

  • in an established philosophy journal (i.e., one indexed in the Philosopher’s Index ) or anthology,

  • and deal with one of the following topics:

  • Intentionality and Mental Content

  • Mental Causation

  • Consciousness (The Hard Problem, Explanatory Gap, Knowledge Argument, Qualia)

  • First-Person Authority and Privileged Access (Knowledge of one’s own mind)


Topics for discussion (tentative, stay tuned for updates and revisions)

Introduction, “Welcoming” remarks




Dualism redux: Descartes, Huxley, and Smullyan


Behaviorism: Ryle, “Descartes’ Myth”


The Identity Theory: Place, “Is Consciousness a Brain Process?”

Smart, “Sensations and Brain Processes”


Token Identity: Davidson, “Mental Events”


Functionalism: Putnam, “The Nature of Mental States”


Armstrong, “The Causal Theory of Mind”

Lewis, “Psychophysical and Theoretical Identifications”


Churchland, “Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes”


Dennett, “True Believers: The Intentional Strategy and Why it Works”


Block, “Troubles with Functionalism”



Mental Causation: Yablo, “Mental Causation”


Consciousness: Chalmers, “Consciousness and its Place in Nature”


The Knowledge Argument: Jackson, “Epiphenomenal Qualia”

Lewis, “What Experience Teaches”


The Explanatory Gap: Levine, “Materialism and Qualia: The Explanatory Gap”: Churchland, “The Rediscovery of Light”


Representationalism: Dretske, “Conscious Experience”


Tye, “Visual Qualia and Visual Content Revisited”

Shoemaker, “Introspection and Phenomenal Character”


Intentionality: Chisholm, “Intentional Inexistence”

Dretske, “A Recipe for Thought”


Horgan and Tienson, “The Intentionality of Phenomenology and the Phenomenology of Intentionality”


Brandom, “Reasoning and Representing”


Student Presentations, Readings


There will be one final exam - Quiz. The material covered by this exam will be drawn both from lecture and from the readings.

Course Guide
This Course is built as a conceptual one.

It’s structure is the following:

  1. We put problem (s);

  2. We give (all) possible solutions-approaches-theories;

  3. We consider those main arguments.

  4. We mention the most significant names if it needed.

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