November 15, 2021

PHIL 313: Philosophy of Mind - Spring 2022

Jay Odenbaugh PHIL 313: Philosophy of Mind
Jay Odenbaugh TTh 1:50 - 3:20 pm

Jay Odenbaugh is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy who specializes in the philosophy of science with a focus on biology and psychology. He just finished a book manuscript on the nature of emotions, their evolution, and expression.

In this course, we ask philosophical questions about our mental lives. Here are some examples.

  • Many believe that our minds are distinct from our brains and behaviors – i.e., they are soul-like. Is this view defensible?
  • Some suggest mental states are just states of our brains or nervous systems. For example, fear is just activation of the amygdala. Is this reductionism even plausible?
  • Cognitive science has been extremely successful, and it operates with the notion that mental states are computational. In effect, mental states are information processing states. The mind is like software and our brain is like hardware. Can functionalism explain consciousness though?
  • Psychology – including cognitive, developmental, and social – tries to formulate generalizations to explain the relationships between our perceptions, processing, and behavior. How predictive and explanatory is psychology? Should it be replaced with neuroscience?
  • Consciousness is one of the hardest phenomena to understand. Can the subjectivity of first-person experience be to understand through science? What really is experience?
  • Like all biological traits, mentality evolved over geological time. But this raises a question: are non-human animals conscious? It is plausible that mammals, birds, and fish are, but what about invertebrates? Will how we answer this question affect how we should treat those organisms? And what about artificial intelligence?
  • Some radical theories have been proposed that claim our minds extend beyond our skin. For example, your own mind might also extend to your smartphone or other pieces of technology. There might even be minds that encompass many people at once. Is this too radical?