Philosophy 333

Philosophy of Mind: The Mind-Body Problem

University of Chicago, Fall 2001



Course Instructor: Jason Bridges

Office hours: Thursday 3-5pm, Harper Memorial E589





A survey of contemporary answers to the constellation of questions in the philosophy of mind that constitute ‘the mind-body problem’.  What is the relation between the mind and the brain? What is the relation between the mind and behavior?  Can talk about mental phenomena be reduced to talk about purely physical happenings?  To what extent does the computer provide a useful analogy for thinking about mental processes?  Are the contents of our thoughts and experiences determined just by what is going on inside us or by the physical and social environment as well?  Are there reasons for doubting the commonsense belief that our thoughts and intentions can causally influence events in the physical world?  What is the role of the concept of rationality in shaping our understanding of mental life? Readings will draw on an array of contemporary sources including: Burge, Davidson, Dennett, Evans, Kripke, Kim, McDowell, Nagel and Putnam.


Prerequisites: at least one previous course in philosophy.  If you do not meet this requirement and still wish to take the course, you must get permission from the course instructor.





There is one required text for the course, available for purchase at the Seminary Coop Bookstore (in the basement of 5757 University Ave.):


            Rosenthal (ed.), The Nature of Mind (Oxford University Press)


The remaining course readings are collected in a reading packet, available for purchase at the Humanities Copy Center (on the first floor of Classics). 



Course Requirements


First paper:       5 pages         due October 23rd in class                worth 30% of course grade

Second paper:  5 pages         due November 20th in class             worth 30%

Final paper:      7-10 pages    due December 5th, location TBA     worth 40%

There is no final exam.


Paper topics will be distributed roughly two weeks before the due dates.

Late papers will be docked a grade per day (e.g., B+ to B) unless you have received approval ahead of time from one of the course instructors.  No papers will be accepted after December 7th.

Schedule of Topics

(Dates are tentative.)


All readings in the Rosenthal volume are indicated by the abbreviation “ROS”.  All readings not so indicated are in the reading packet.


Week 1




Tu 9/25

Course overview



Th 9/27

Setting the stage: the ‘mind-body problem’

McGinn, from The Mysterious Flame




Part I: Dualism

Week 2

Tu 10/2

Descartes on the self

Descartes, Meditations II and VI and fourth replies (ROS pp. 21-29)

Th 10/4

Introspection and the self, part one

Wittgenstein, from The Blue Book

Strawson, from The Bounds of Sense

Nagel, from The View from Nowhere


Week 3

Tu 10/9

Introspection and the self, part two



Th 10/11  

Introspection and the self, part three

Evans, from The Varieties of Reference




Part II: Materialism

Week 4:

Tu 10/16




Th 10/18


Putnam, “Brains and Behavior”
(ROS chap. 16)


Week 5:

Tu 10/23

The identity theory

Smart, “Sensations and Brain Processes” (ROS chap. 17)

Th 10/25


Putnam, “The Nature of Mental States” (ROS chap. 21)


Week 6:

Tu 10/30

Functionalism and normativity

Kripke, from Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language

Horwich, from Meaning

Th: 11/1

The anomalousness of the mental

Davidson, “Philosophy as Psychology”




Week 7:

Tu 11/6

Explanation and causation, part one

Kim, “Mechanism, Purpose and Explanatory Exclusion”

Th 11/8

Explanation and causation, part two




Week 8:

Tu 11/13

Cognitive science and mental life, part one

Dennett, “Towards a Cognitive Theory of Consciousness”

Th 11/15

Cognitive science and mental life, part two

McDowell, “The Content of Perceptual Experience”



Part III: Externalism

Week 9:   

Tu 11/20

Arguments for externalism

Putnam, from “The Meaning of ‘Meaning’”

Burge, “Individualism and the Mental” (ROS chap. 57, pp. 536-559 only)

Th 11/22





Week 10:

Tu 11/27

Externalism and mental causation

Loar, “Social Content and Psychological Content” (ROS chap. 58)

Th 11/29

Externalism and the mind-body problem

McDowell, “Putnam on Mind and Meaning”