Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE The Philosophy of Mind: (a) An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind; (b) A Contemporary Theory of Mind - John McDowell

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION An introduction to the philosophy of mind


What is the philosophy of mind? How can questions about the nature of mind be viewed from a philosophical perspective? A historical overview of the subject is first given. This will be followed by an analysis of contemporary theories of mind. The merits and shortcomings of dualism, monism, naturalism and functionalism will be discussed. Philosophical issues to be investigated include the concepts of experience, intentionality, consciousness and mental causation.

Reading List:

- Graham, G., Philosophy of Mind, An Introduction, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, 1993
- Guttenplan, S. (Ed.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., Oxford, 1994, 1998
- Lyons, W. (Ed.), Modern Philosophy of Mind, Orion Publishing Group, London, 1995
- Morton, P.A., A Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind, Readings with Commentary, Broadview Press, Ontario, Canada, 1997
- O'Hear, A., (Ed.), Current Issues in Philosophy of Mind, Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 43, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998
- Smith P. & S., O.R., The Philosophy of Mind, An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986, 1988
- Warner S. & R., Tadeusz (Eds.), The Mind-Body Problem, A Guide to the Current Debate, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, 1994, 1996

A contemporary theory of mind - John McDowell's view of mind and world


An in-depth investigation of a contemporary theory of mind that has generated a great deal of debate, namely, John McDowell's view of mind and world published in Mind and World. McDowell investigates how concepts mediate the relation between minds and the world and draws attention to the unsustainability of particular philosophical positions between which philosophers have 'oscillated' in the past. In a Wittgensteinian vein, he attempts to achieve 'peace for philosophy' by postulating a concept, 'second nature,' which he claims to draw from Aristotelian ethics. McDowell claims that a number of 'anxieties' arise as a result of problems in existing philosophical theories, in particular, from the thought, "often no doubt only inchoate - that the structure of the logical space of reasons is sui generis, as compared with the logical framework in which natural-scientific understanding is achieved." (xxii)

An in-depth investigation of McDowell's ideas on mind and world will draw out the implications of the methodology which McDowell uses and the historical sources he draws upon. His criticism of contemporary theories of mind, such as that of Donald Davidson will be discussed, together with his attempt to 'dissolve' philosophical dualisms such as those of scheme and content and reason and nature.

Reading List:

- Davidson, D., 'On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme,' Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation, 1984, pp. 183-98. First published (1973-74) Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association
- McCullough, G., 'Dismounting from the see-saw, Critical Notice of Mind and World,' International Journal of Philosophical Studies, Vol. 4, (1), pp. 309-327, 1996
- McDowell, J., Mind and World, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1996
- McDowell, J., 'A Precis of Mind and World', Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. LVIII, No. 2, June, 1998, pp. 365-68
(The 'Precis' is followed by a number of critical essays on Mind and World by philosophers including Robert Brandom, Richard Rorty, Christopher Peacocke and Arthur Collins)

Study-Units Aims:

The aims of this study unit are that:
a. students will understand the various theories of mind;
b. students will understand the specific position of John McDowell's philosophy of mind.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

a. define the nature of mind;
b. explain the various theoretical justifications for the concept of mind;
c. interpret McDowell's philosophy of mind.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

a. analyze arguments for or against a particular thesis on the nature of the mind;
b. defend or critique for the various theses proposed;
c. formulate a thesis on the nature of the mind or on McDowells' theories.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM1 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Sandra M. Dingli

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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2021/2. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.